SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Brett Schickler never saw himself as a published novelist until lately, but he had fantasised about it. But after learning about the ChatGPT artificial intelligence software, Schickler realised he had a golden chance.
“It now appeared conceivable to write a book,” said Schickler, a salesperson in Rochester, New York. “I told myself, ‘I can do this.'”
Schickler built a 30-page illustrated children’s e-book in a couple of hours using AI software, which can generate blocks of text from basic cues, and offered it for sale in January via Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) self-publishing business.
In the version, Sammy the Squirrel, poorly portrayed utilising AI as well, learns about conserving money from his woodland pals after discovering a gold coin. He makes an acorn-shaped piggy bank, invests in an acorn trading company, and dreams of one day purchasing an acorn grinding stone.
Sammy becomes the richest squirrel in the forest, the envy of his companions and “the woodland began thriving,” according to the book.
The Wise Little Squirrel: A Story of Saving and Investing,” which is available for $2.99 in the Amazon Kindle store or $9.99 in print, has earned Schickler less than $100, he claims. Although this may not seem like much, it is enough to motivate him to write more books utilising the programme.
“I could imagine individuals earning a living off of this,” said Schickler, who utilised ChatGPT topics such as “create a tale about a father educating his kid about financial literacy.”
Schickler is at the forefront of a movement exploring the potential and limits of ChatGPT, which launched in November and has shocked Silicon Valley and beyond with its astonishing ability to generate coherent blocks of text in real time.
As of mid-February, there were over 200 e-books in Amazon’s Kindle store with ChatGPT listed as an author or co-author, including “How to Write and Generate Content Using ChatGPT,” “The Power of Homework,” and the poetry collection “Echoes of the Cosmos.” And the figure is growing by the day. On Amazon, there is even a new sub-genre: books on using ChatGPT that are fully authored by ChatGPT.
Yet, because to the nature of ChatGPT and many writers’ refusal to reveal their use of it, it is practically hard to get an accurate tally of how many e-books may have been authored by AI.
The software’s rise has already rattled some of the largest technological companies, leading Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) to rush out new AI-infused services in Google and Bing, respectively.
The quick consumer acceptance of ChatGPT has sparked frenzy in industry circles, with investors pouring money into AI-focused businesses and giving technology corporations new purpose in the midst of significant layoffs. Microsoft, for example, earned glowing attention for its normally dormant Bing search engine last month after showcasing a connection with ChatGPT.
Yet, there are already doubts about the legitimacy of ChatGPT, which learns to write by scanning millions of pages of previous content. CNET’s AI experiment resulted in many corrections and obvious plagiarism before the tech news site halted its usage.
ARE ‘REAL’ AUTHORS AT RISK?
Today, ChatGPT is poised to upend the traditional book business, as aspiring writers and self-help gurus eager to make a fast profit are turning to the software to help them build bot-made e-books and publish them via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing arm. Illustrated children’s books are popular among first-time writers. Hundreds of instructions detailing how to write a book in a few hours have sprung up on YouTube, TikTok, and Reddit. Get-rich-quick scams, nutrition advice, software development instructions, and recipes are among the topics covered.
“This is something we should be concerned about; these publications will flood the market, and a lot of authors will be out of work,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Writers Guild. Human ghostwriting has a long history, she says, but the potential to automate via AI might change book writing from a talent to a commodity.
“Authors and platforms must be transparent about how these books are made, otherwise you’ll wind up with a lot of low-quality publications,” she added.
One author, under by the pen name Frank White, demonstrated in a YouTube video how he authored a 119-page novella called “Galactic Pimp: Vol. 1” in less than a day about alien groups in a far-off galaxy fighting for a human-staffed brothel. The book is available for $1 on Amazon’s Kindle e-book store. In the video, White claims that anybody with the means and time could produce 300 such books every year using AI.
Several writers, like White, believe they have no need to declare in the Kindle store that their great American work was written entirely by a machine, partly because Amazon’s regulations do not demand it.
When contacted by Reuters, Amazon declined to comment on whether it planned to amend or evaluate its Kindle store regulations regarding writers’ use of AI or other automated writing tools. All books in the shop must conform with our content rules, including intellectual property rights and any other relevant laws,” Amazon spokesperson Lindsay Hamilton said in an email.
A representative for ChatGPT creator OpenAI refused to comment.
IN JUST HOURS, FROM CONCEPTION TO PUBLICATION
Amazon is by far the biggest seller of both physical and electronic books, accounting for well over half of all sales in the United States and, according to some estimates, more than 80% of the e-book industry. The Kindle Direct Publishing service has generated a cottage industry of self-published novels, carving out specific niches for erotica and self-help books fans.
Amazon launched Kindle Direct Publishing in 2007 to enable anybody to sell and advertise a book from the comfort of their own home, without the effort or cost of contacting literary agencies or publishing firms. In general, Amazon lets writers to publish instantaneously via the unit with little monitoring, dividing any profits.
This has attracted new AI-assisted writers, such as Kamil Banc, whose main profession is selling perfumes online and who bet his wife that he could complete a book from conception to publishing in less than a day. Banc used ChatGPT, an AI picture maker, with suggestions such as “write a bedtime tale about a pink dolphin that teaches youngsters how to be honest” to create an illustrated 27-page book in December. “Bedtime Stories: Brief and Sweet, For a Good Night’s Sleep,” which is available on Amazon, took Only around four hours to write.
Customer enthusiasm has been relatively sluggish thus far, with Bank reporting just a dozen copies sold. Nonetheless, readers gave it five stars, with one praising its “great and unforgettable characters.”
Bank has since released two additional AI-generated books, one of which is an adult colouring book, with more on the way. “It’s really rather straightforward,” he said. “I was shocked at how quickly it progressed from idea to publication.”
The programme does not impress everyone. Mark Dawson, who has purportedly sold millions of copies of books he created himself through Kindle Direct Publishing, was quick to dismiss ChatGPT-assisted works as “dull” in an email to Reuters.
“The merit of a book influences how it is recommended to other readers. If a book receives negative feedback because the writing is uninteresting, it will swiftly fall to the bottom of the list.”