In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway takes a look at the implications of a children's book written and illustrated using artificial intelligence.
Do listen to November's Self-publishing News podcast here. Howard and I are talking about the question everyone's asking: should we leave Twitter and if we do, where do we go?
Waterstones Asks for 85% Discount
One of the reasons many indie authors steer away from trying to get their books in bookstores is the substantial discount stores want to take from our cover price. Through Ingram Spark, we are used to bookstores wanting a 55% discount. That means if the retail price for our book is £10, the bookshop will pay £4.50 for it. Print costs will also be subtracted, and that will leave us with… not very much at all.
In preparation for its New Year sales, Waterstones has demanded that publishers give it a whopping 85% discount on the most hotly anticipated titles to allow it to compete with Amazon. That means they pay £1.50 for the same £10 book. Yes, “hotly anticipated titles”. Remember that term from last year? Those are the books the US Department of Justice was interested in that had £250,000 advances, and have long print runs, requiring economies of scale. But that’s still going to leave publishers struggling to recoup those quarter of a million pound advances! As for us indie authors – it all just feels like another world.
Someone has Written a Children's Book Using ChatGPT and Midjourney AI
If there was a theme to last year, it was as you will have seen from my summary, the incursion of AI into our creative territory. I anticipated that the increased capabilities and the threats and opportunities that came with them would continue this year. I’m not sure I thought I would be starting the year contemplating whether we’d all still be in business this time next year.
Several AI stories slipped out while we were doing our end-of-year round-ups. First, a really interesting US ruling. Comics generated by AI are not eligible for copyright protection. This has a lot of implications. The main one is a reminder of how quickly technology renders law outdated. Our conversations as a society can’t keep up. And the law follows those already slow conversations. The result is what I believe is technically termed a hot mess.
But the story that will eclipse all others for writers is ChatGPT, the open source AI text generator. I mentioned this at the tail end of last year when Open AI, who developed it, sought unsuccessfully to watermark all the content it produces. Google has now apparently declared a “code red” in response to ChatGPT. This is pretty much what it sounds like. Google is worried that a chatbot that can deliver answers to questions (search questions, for example) in a fluent, clear, fully grammatical fashion might spell the end of its online search as a business model. In short, they worry where Google as an advertising platform might fit in this new world.
Sam Missingham has written a comprehensive summary of the worries around AI authorship, prompted by an inevitable story. Tech engineer and entrepreneur Ammar Reshi has used ChatGPT and Midjourney to create an entirely AI-written children’s book. This has, of course, provoked widespread anger among creatives. I recommend you read Sam’s post in full. She concludes, much as I do and ALLi as an association does, by accepting the inevitability of tools like ChatGPT.
And with a call for publishers, for once, not to be quite so far behind the curve when it comes to understanding and taking a stand. That seems like an excellent aim all-round. (Perhaps they could start by issuing a code red?)
Our Campaigns Manager, Melissa Addey, said, “I used ChatGPT the other day to generate a list of book marketing suggestions. They were good suggestions, but it neglected to say where it had gone to get its information. I wasn’t told where I might find a good ongoing source of information, nor a community that might support my writing and publishing business. Some of that information might have come from ALLi, but I wasn't being told about the world's only global self-publishing organization. If I'd been asked for such a list, I would have provided good sources of information ongoing. Sometimes you should receive more than what you asked for. AI could be fascinating to work ‘with' but there are ethical issues to watch out for here. ALLi has always been at the forefront of ethics in self-publishing, so we'll be there for this too.”
We may be scared, excited, or confused by it, but AI is not going away. It will keep getting better. It will write books that readers will enjoy, whether we like it or not. Ignoring it is not an option.
We should approach AI as something that, ultimately, we can use to help us. And the reason we should take that approach is simple. If we don’t, we might as well throw in the towel now.
For more, see ALLi’s post about the practical and ethical implications of AI for indie authors.
How Might Subscription Evolve in 2023?
For several years, we have seen the increasing popularity of the subscription model for consuming content. But last year, we started to notice the way companies offered subscription change. It was no longer “obvious” that in the future our subscriptions would be all you can eat packages. Audible slowed its rollout of this kind of deal, in many ways reflecting the fact that audiobooks aren’t really a medium where all you can eat makes the most sense – most people can’t listen to hundreds of audiobooks a month. Spotify’s audiobook launch as an a la carte service surprised many but confirmed the trend. Netflix also announced plans to modify its offering, which it is now rolling out.
This fascinating article suggests that streaming's move away from subscription is unlikely to stop with Netflix's cheaper ad-supported model. Content streaming, in video at least, is moving more towards the “FAST” model, it seems. That is, “free, ad-supported, streaming TV.” This may be in a different part of the media world, but it's interesting because it seems to suggest we are coming full circle. Paid subscription emerged, in part, so people didn't have to have content interrupted by adverts. Now it seems some at least are going back to preferring advert-interrupted streaming, provided it's free. I wonder if worried Google execs looking for places to sell their ads are paying attention.Self-publishing News: Now Someone Has Written and Illustrated a Complete Children's Book with AI Click To Tweet