AI or digitally authored audiobooks may have limited retail outlets for the moment, but that's likely to change very soon. With Google backing the use of the technology, Spotify recently completing its purchase of FindawayVoices (thereby creating a new major player in the market), and more and more authors taking advantage of this new opportunity, it's inevitable that AI narrated audiobooks will become mainstream. With any new technology, there's bound to be confusion amongst consumers. That's why it's so important for authors who use AI narration to disclose this to consumers in as clear a way as possible so they know exactly what they are buying.
As an author, I'm experimenting with this new format. I certainly don't want to trick anyone or hide that I'm using digital narration to produce my audiobooks. Believe me, I've listened to both AI and human narration and I'm here to say that, right now, human narrators have nothing to worry about. But there are people out there who find digital narration completely acceptable (or so I hope), especially if they can purchase an audiobook from one of their favorite authors at a steep discount relative to the human-narrated version.
But a potential listener has to know upfront what they're getting before they make a purchase, which is why it's so important to clearly label digitally produced works as such. Me and many other authors are placing a sticker on our audiobook covers stating, "Digitally Narrated" or "AI Narrated." Also, I put a short sentence at the bottom of my audiobook's description that states, "This audiobook was digitally narrated. Please listen to a sample to make sure this style of narration works for you." For example, here's the description for The Five Elements audiobook as it appears on Google Play:
Others are going to even more extremes with text that runs up the side clearly stating that the book is an audiobook produced with AI narration. There's really no standard right now amongst the few retailers that allow authors to sell AI narrated audiobooks, but I expect that will change as they become more mainstream. In the meanwhile, though, those of us taking advantage of this new technology have a moral responsibility to maintain a level of full disclosure. If you've listened to AI vs human narration, then you know it's not that hard to spot the difference. But that will change over time as AI narration continues to improve. Just as deepfakes are becoming harder and harder to spot, at some point in the future, it will be very difficult to tell the difference between AI and human narration.
Irregardless of quality, though, no one wants to deceive consumers. At least I don't. Going down that route will only create ill will and most likely lead to bad reviews. That's not a road worth going down.