Today, only the top books get audio versions narrated by professionals given that recording is a time-consuming process that doesn’t necessarily scale to every published work. Google is now working on auto-generated narrators that can turn more books into audiobooks. 

This feature is intended to benefit the Google Play Books store by making many more audio titles, with their inherent convenience, available. The company points out how “not all books, like the one written by your favorite indie author, are converted into an audiobook.”

Google’s solution is to automate the process and it’s working with US and UK publishing houses that own the rights to books. A number of existing Google technologies can be tapped to power this feature.

For the past several years, Google has been working on improving text-to-speech (TTS). The key advancement dates back to Alphabet AI research lab DeepMind and the WaveNet-based natural voices that can handle complex names, dates, times, and other text authentically.  Customizations that range from pitch to speaking rate and volume gain are available in the Cloud TTS service offered to all developers today.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, Assistant on phones gained a “read this page” feature with voices especially suited for long-form content. Google looked at prosody — stress, intonation, and rhythm — for that implementation.

Google’s audiobook store launched in 2018. One graphic today shows the existing player within Play Books for Android and iOS using a standard cover image — where the four-color Google light bar appears on the left edge — for auto audiobooks.

This publisher tool is “currently in beta” and will be available to all publishers early next year. 

Google today also announced five other features as part of Android’s Winter 2020 update:

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