HarperCollins embraces AI to create audiobooks for foreign titles – The Bookseller

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HarperCollins is partnering with audio AI company ElevenLabs to create audiobooks for its foreign language business.

The agreement will lead to the production of audio versions of select deep backlist series books that would not otherwise have been created, using ElevenLabs’s text-to-speech technology.

According to HarperCollins, the tech firm has developed an AI-based tool that can transform text into speech using artificial intelligence and makes it possible to “reflect the emotion, intonation, and pacing of the written word in audio, delivering a high-quality experience that sounds human”.

The company was founded in 2022 by Piotr Dabkowski, an ex-Google machine learning engineer, and Mati Staniszewski, a former strategist from software company Palantir. ElevenLabs’ long-term goal is to make spoken content universally accessible in any language and in any voice.

Chief executive Staniszewski said: “We’re thrilled to collaborate with HarperCollins and delighted that our technology is making it possible for more books in their incredible catalogue of works to become an audiobook. Without AI, there simply wouldn’t be the time or resources to make this happen. Now, every author can see their work come to life in audio, readers can be offered more choice, and the linguistic barriers of content can be dissolved.”

The ElevenLabs Projects tool, designed for publishers and independent authors, can create an audiobook in around one hour “via its intuitive interface”, the company said. “Creators can select or design the voices they want to use, easily assign specific text fragments to particular speakers, and adjust pause lengths between text segments, all while maintaining contextual cohesion.”

The software company, which is based in New York, added: “This technology represents a seismic leap forward in the quality of audio that AI-assisted tools can create. It also significantly reduces the costs and operational challenges associated with full-scale audiobook production.”

Meanwhile HarperCollins said it “will continue to devote time and resources to voice actor-led productions which are intrinsic to its current audiobook creation strategy”. The publisher added: “Text to speech will be leveraged as a complementary tool to enable a broader number of audiobooks for backlist series books in non-English markets, leading to a more diverse selection of titles in the format and driving growth in the audiobook markets.”

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