The main news
It’s remarkable because it would appear Google no longer accepts narration outside of their AI narration service. Perhaps I’m mistaken and completely missed where I’d be able to upload my own files. But no matter at this point, because I took another deep dive into Google’s AI narration, and goodness me they have expanded that creative service. Now, not only are you able to choose gender and age range in English-speaking American, British, Australian and Indian accents, but you’re also able to choose a different narrator for every voice in your work.
As much as I’ve been railing against the proliferation of every new intrusion of AI into the arts, I do have to admit with some chagrin AI is here to stay, will develop, grow, and become more intuitive. Just look what Google’s been able to do with their AI narration in a very few months.
Is the narration as good as a human voice?
For now, I have to say no, Google’s AI narration isn’t as good as a human voice, and that’s because their AI program hasn’t yet learned how to inflect emotion, or interpret the author’s clues as to whether a person is upset, angry, joyous, or if the character is whispering, growling, yelling, or any of the gamut of human emotions a good writer conveys in their prose.
But I do also have to say AI narration is perfectly acceptable. It’s clear, if flat. And the program is teachable, in that you are able to correct pronunciation, to a certain degree. There was an instance regarding the word tear, which can be to cry, or to rip. I was on about the tenth audio correction when I finally gave up, because the AI program wasn’t picking up the clues in my voice.
At this point Google is offering their AI narration services free of charge. You will forgive me for some skepticism. It’s just that I remember when Google’s Business Suite was free back some 12 or so years ago. Last year the tech and media giant decided to monetize that feature, and all of us who were using the free version of Google Business Suite were now faced with either paying for some level of subscription, or lose not only access to all of Google’s feature like Maps, Calendar and such, but you also were unable to access your Gmail account. For me, that was a knife to the throat and I reluctantly, and with some anger, had to choose a subscription which would serve my needs, while still not have me shilling out trailer-loads of cash.
So, indeed, Google’s AI service is free for the moment. But I am pretty certain in a few years it won’t be. And then we’ll all face the choice of paying the giant some form of subscription for the use of their AI voices in previously published work, or have that work disappear.
Cynical? Very definitely. But not without cause.
the choice is yours
So the choice is yours, dear reader, whether you choose to purchase the audiobook of Caliban from Audible, Amazon, Kobo, Apple, or Google. The first four retailers offer my narration of Caliban. Google’s audiobook is all AI, in a cast of voices. Of course, Google has discounted the audiobook of Caliban to $16.95CA, as compared the competition at $25.00.
Whichever you choose, I’d really love to hear what you think of not only the novel, but the narration. You can leave a comment on this blog post, through Facebook, review through the retailer, Goodreads, or LibraryThing.