A growing number of people are using ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence program, to create books for sale. Although sales have so far been slow, human writers are worried that ChatGPT-created books might hurt the writing and publishing industry.
ChatGPT helps create a children’s book
Until recently, Brett Schickler never imagined he could be a published author. But after learning about the ChatGPT artificial intelligence program, Schickler decided that he had a good chance.
"The idea of writing a book finally seemed possible," said Schickler, a salesman in Rochester, New York. "I thought 'I can do this.'"
Using the AI software, Schickler created a 30-page illustrated children’s e-book in a few hours. He offered it for sale in January through Amazon’s self-publishing section.
The e-book, which is named The Wise Little Squirrel: A Tale of Saving and Investing, has made Schickler less than $100, he said. While that may not sound like much, it is enough to make him want to create other books using the software.
"I could see people making a whole career out of this," said Schickler.
There were over 200 e-books in Amazon’s Kindle store as of mid-February that say ChatGPT is a writer or co-writer. And the number is rising daily.
But due to the nature of ChatGPT and many writers' failure to admit that they have used it, it is nearly impossible to get a full count of how many e-books may be written by AI.
Some professional writers are becoming worried about the effects that ChatGPT could have on the book publishing industry.
Mary Rasenberger is the executive director of the Authors Guild, a writer’s group. She said, “This is something we really need to be worried about, these books will flood the market and a lot of authors are going to be out of work.”
Rasenberger noted that the industry has a long tradition of ghostwriting - an accepted practice of paying someone to write books or speeches under another author’s name. But she is worried that the ability to create with AI could turn book writing from an art into a commodity – a kind of simple raw material that is bought and sold.
“There needs to be transparency from the authors and the platforms about how these books are created or you’re going to end up with a lot of low-quality books,” she said.
When asked for comment by Reuters, Amazon did not say whether it has plans to change or look at policies around authors’ use of AI or other automated writing tools. Amazon spokeswoman Lindsay Hamilton said via email that books in the store must meet its guidelines regarding “intellectual property rights” and other laws.
Amazon is by far the largest seller of both physical and e-books. It has well over half of the sales in the United States and, by some estimates, over 80 percent of the e-book market.
In 2007, Amazon created Kindle Direct Publishing to enable anyone to sell and market a book without the expense of seeking out book agents or publishing houses. Generally, Amazon lets authors publish without any oversight. The company then splits whatever money is made with the writer.
This service has drawn new AI-assisted writers like Kamil Banc to Amazon. He told his wife that he could make a book in less than one day. Using ChatGPT, an AI image creator and instructions like "write a bedtime story about a pink dolphin that teaches children how to be honest," Banc published an illustrated 27-page book in December.
Banc has since published two more AI-generated books, including an adult coloring book, with more in the works. "It actually is really simple," he said. "I was surprised at how fast it went from concept to publishing."
Not everyone is impressed by the software. Mark Dawson, who has reportedly sold millions of copies of books he wrote himself through Kindle Direct Publishing, was quick to call ChatGPT-assisted novels "dull" in an email to Reuters. Dull means not interesting.
Dawson said that merit – a good quality that deserves to be praised - is important in the book business. "Merit plays a part in how books are recommended to other readers. If a book gets bad reviews because the writing is dull then it’s quickly going to sink to the bottom."
I’m John Russell.