Project Gutenberg's Emotionless AI Audiobooks

Project Gutenberg used AI technology to produce 5,000 audiobooks, showing how AI is increasingly being integrated into book publishing. However, the AI-produced audiobooks lack emotion and variation compared to human-narrated audiobooks.


  • Project Gutenberg collaborated with Microsoft and MIT to produce 5,000 AI audiobooks using neural text-to-speech and other AI technologies to automate audiobook production.
  • The typical audiobook production process is lengthy and labor-intensive. AI automation greatly sped up the process for Project Gutenberg.
  • The AI cloned and recreated voices from samples to narrate the books. It added emotions to the words.
  • Project Gutenberg produced more audiobooks in a short time than a major audiobook producer does per year.
  • The AI voices sound human-like but are flat, emotionless, and lack variation. There is no differentiation based on genre or characterization.
  • The lack of good narration and dramatic elements makes the listening experience unstimulating compared to human-narrated audiobooks.
  • The catalog includes many classics by white authors. More diversity is needed.
  • AI audiobooks can benefit those unable to afford regular audiobooks, which are expensive.
  • AI narration could help disabled people access more books if developed considerately.
  • AI narrators may threaten jobs, but human narrators likely still have some time before AI matches their quality.
  • AI voice technology will continue improving over time. Safeguards may be needed for commercial use.