Elon Musk thinks artificial intelligence can be very dangerous, such as when it’s applied to warfare. How about when it’s used in publishing? There’s no doubt AI could open doors for authors if it means easy and cheap conversion of print books into audio books, as well as foreign translations. On the flipside, AI could be used to aid and abet book piracy.
Glenn Miller, digital strategist and author consultant, thinks AI would help authors find a global audience by making audio books and foreign translations more widespread. “The future is coming, and eight billion people are waiting for your best work,” wrote Miller in an article on Career Authors, an online resource for writers.
Most books today are inaccessible to illiterate people in many parts of the world, but AI would soon remedy the situation, according to Miller. He cited the text-to-speech technology, which is getting better and better. For people who can’t read, audio books could be the answer.
Another challenge is foreign translation. “An average human translator can translate around 2,000 words per day for something like 20 cents per word. For virtually all authors, manual translation is impractical and unscalable and soon to be unnecessary,” wrote Miller. Again, AI could solve the problem. He cited Facebook, which uses AI for translations. The technology is far from perfect, but it’s bound to get better.
Would AI Worsen Copyright Issues?
What Miller failed to discuss in his article is the copyright issue. If the technology for foreign translations and for converting print books into audio books becomes cheap and accessible, would it encourage even more copyright violations?
In a separate article about how hard it is for authors to earn a living today, best-selling author Douglas Preston criticized the software coding community’s belief that information, including creative content, should be available to everyone for free or at the lowest price possible.
Such view implied that it's unethical for writers, artists, musicians, and other creative people to make money off their work. “As a corollary, the movement encouraged piracy as a socially enlightened response to the greed of copyright owners, who were trying to make money from their intellectual property,” said Preston in an article published on the Authors Guild website.
Preston lambasted Google’s scanning of four million books in the guise of “fair use” without getting permission from copyright owners and without paying a dime, even though Google generated billions of dollars from those books.
Throughout history, technology has always been a double-edged sword. Just think of nuclear fission, which led to nuclear medicine, but also the atomic bomb. The impact of AI in book publishing, both good and bad, remains to be seen.
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