How to find and listen to Apple Books audiobooks with digital narration

We’re teaching you how to browse Apple Books audiobooks that offer digital narration based on speech synthesis versus one voiced by human actors.

Apple brings AI-narrated audiobooks

Closeup of a podcasting microphone suspended from above, set against a black gradient background
Apple offers audiobooks with human or AI voices | Image: Jukka Aalho/Unsplash

Apple’s Books Store offers audiobooks read aloud by humans. But only some authors can create these types of audiobooks due to the cost and complexity of production.

To help with that, Apple in January 2023 began offering independent writers and small publishers a digital narration service. The system uses AI-powered speech synthesis similar to Siri to convert written e-books into audiobooks.

Follow along with our quick tutorial right ahead to learn how to identify audiobooks with digital narration on the Books Store, plus download and listen to them.

How to find Apple Books audiobooks with digital narration

iPhone screenshot showing an audiobook with digital narration in Apple's Books Store
Audiobooks with AI voices show “Narrated by Apple Books” | Image: Christian Zibreg/iDB

You can use the Books Store in Apple’s Books app to find digitally-narrated audiobook titles listed in the store as “Narrated by Apple Books.”

  1. Open the Books app on your iPhone, iPad or Mac
  2. Hit Audiobooks (iOS, iPadOS) or Audiobook Store (macOS)
  3. Find and download any audiobook labeled as Narrated by Apple Books

Touching a book’s subtitle (below the title and author) pulls up a message saying the audiobook uses a digital voice based on a human narrator.

How to listen to your downloaded Apple Books audiobooks

Choose Library (iOS, iPadOS) or click All underneath the Library heading in the sidebar (macOS) to find your downloaded audiobook.

While the audiobook is playing, you can skip forward or back (adjust this in Settings → Books → Audiobooks, then choose Skip Forward or Skip Back), speed it up or slow it down, jump to a specific time or chapter and more. Swipe down anywhere on the screen to switch between the audiobook mini-player and the fullscreen view.

How to hear samples of AI voices for audiobooks

Apple provides several genre-specific synthetic voices that publishers can use for digital narration. You don’t need to download an AI-narrated audiobook just to hear what those artificial voices sound like. Instead, point your browser at the Apple Books for Authors webpage and scroll to the Voice section, where you can listen to samples of the digital voices available to book authors.

How to report issues with digitally-narrated audiobooks

Apple Books with digital narration are produced from an e-book file, but speech synthesis isn’t perfect. That’s why Apple enables you to report any problems with digitally-narrated titles, which helps the company improve the system.

To report narration issues while listening to a digitally-narrated audiobook, touch the mini-player to expand the audio controls, then hit the … (ellipsis) icon and select Report a Narration Issue from the menu. Finally, select one of the listed problems or report a different issue with the narration, then hit the Send button.

Countries where Apple Books is available

To verify whether Apple Books offers audiobooks in your country, visit a support document on the Apple website that covers the availability of Apple Media Services.

Will voice synthesis replace professional voice actors?

Don’t worry, human-narrated audiobooks won’t be going away anytime soon—Apple says it remains “committed to celebrating and showcasing the magic of human narration and will continue to grow the human-narrated audiobook catalog.”

Artificial intelligence and machine learning advancements have helped dramatically improve voice synthesis over the years. These Siri-like voices sound believable though one can still tell the difference between an AI-powered voice generated on the device and a professional human voice actor recording.

How book authors can sign up for digital narration

Audiobooks carried on the Books Store don’t automatically get digital narration. It’s up to the writer to decide whether to use recordings of human voices or AI ones.

Apple provides several genre-specific synthetic voices. Fiction titles and romance books are narrated by AI voices dubbed “Madison” and “Jackson.” Books in the non-fiction and self-development categories are narrated by “Helena” and “Mitchell.”

AI voices are currently unavailable for mysteries and thrillers, as well as science fiction and fantasy. To pass synthesis, authors should refrain from using complex formatting elements and limit foreign-language words and phrases.

Only English-language titles are accepted. Another requirement is that the author must own the rights to produce an audiobook version.

It takes one to two months to process submissions and conduct quality checks before a digitally narrated audiobook is ready for publication in the Books Store.

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