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  • Writer's pictureAdrian Hobart

The great AI debate - what does it mean for publishing?

Human holding holographic images with AI in centre
Artificial Intelligence - a friend or foe?

One half of the Arch Publishing team had the good fortune to attend the Independent Publishers Guild's Autumn Conference at the Shaw Theatre in Euston this week. Apart from a world of excellent food options, Rebecca enjoyed the chance to reunite with friends and colleagues from the industry, and make new contacts within the industry.

The overwhelming issue that delegates discussed was the growing impact of Artificial Intelligence, (AI), on the publishing industry in recent months. AImost every facet of publishing can now be replaced or enhanced by AI. Editing was one of the first areas where AI was adopted. You've probably encountered services such as Grammarly or Pro Writing Aid. We've used both in the past, mainly by way of experimentation and out of curiosity, and they certainly have their merits. They're great at highlighting potential issues with things like passive voice, or repetitive phrases and words in your prose. There's no doubt too that writers with dyslexia or gaps in their knowledge of grammar can greatly benefit - these services can help add a layer or polish to your work before they reach a human editor.

Now though, AI is altogether more powerful. Services like Chat GPT and Jasper AI can create whole reams of text at the click of a button, and to the untrained eye or regular reader, the results can be impressive. The text is technically sound, and if you ask these systems to ape the style of an established author, they do a reasonable job. In fact, they'll only become better as time goes on, and more people use them. These AI systems are constantly learning from the demands made on them, and it's clear that they will become ever more sophisticated.

Many people in publishing see this as an exciting development, while others argue that the 'end is nigh.' For those who see AI's potential, the opportunities are limitless. For them it's about productivity. Can you speed up the rate at which you can produce books using AI? Absolutely, yes. From plot development, to character suggestions, to writing whole sections or even complete books, AI can do that. Need a cover? No worries. A few words in a dialogue box, hit generate and off you go. We've played with Adobe's new Adobe Express AI system and the results are remarkable, and worrying at the same time. Here's an example:

Woman in a red coat in graveyard sample book cover
A few words and a couple of clicks - hey presto - a cover

This cover took me about 30 seconds to create in Adobe Express. I asked it to design a book cover with 'a young woman in a red coat, back to camera, walking in a graveyard.' I added an artistic filter, and here's the result. Not perfect, but it illustrates my point - AI has the potential to replace roles traditionally performed by human creatives.

What about writing itself? I recently used another service called Sudowrite to see what it could offer. I've heard of a number of leading independent authors using it to speed up their writing process, whether it be plot creation, character development, or using it to generate prompts when authors get stuck. It even allows you to upload samples of your work, learns your style, and can generate whole swathes of text in that style. I tested its potential as a synopsis generator. I gave the Sudowrite a few details of the setting, the characters and the style of book I wanted to write, and in around 30 seconds it had produced a synopsis spookily close to the book I'm currently writing. I was impressed and terrified in equal measure.

Back to the IPG conference, and the implications of this tech was an area of much discussion. For instance, Amazon are increasingly concerned about the flood of AI generated books on their site. They announced this week that they are limiting KDP account holders to publishing three books a day. Three books a day? How is that humanly possible? Well, the answer is of course, it's not. AI is clearly being used to achieve that level of output.

The UK's Copyright Licensing Agency spoke at the conference about the legal minefield created by AI generated content. Who own's the copyright? The AI companies or the people who asked their systems to create content to their specification? Will creators be paid by these AI companies if their work has been used to teach these large language models? All questions the CLA are asking and demanding answers to, but as yet these areas are unregulated.

This is all new territory, and is sure to dominate publishing thought and practice for years to come. We at Arch Publishing Services are great believers in human input and creativity. After all, the true value of a book is communicating ideas and stories from writer to reader. A good book, either fiction or non-fiction, has soul. No amount of computer generated content can really replace that. At least, not yet. We hope.

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