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Here’s the million-dollar question: will AI replace book publishing?

The world of publishing is undergoing a profound transformation, thanks to the introduction of advanced artificial intelligence tools like Chat GPT. Recent arguments have surfaced about how much of a threat AI is to the publishing industry, prompting Thad McIlroy’s “AI Is About to Turn Book Publishing Upside-Down” article on Publishers Weekly.

Some fear that these technologies might eventually replace book publishers and take over their many roles, such as editorial, production, and marketing; however, we encourage you not to fear these developments, but rather embrace them as powerful tools that can enhance your capabilities.

“Part of me wants to say the impending death of publishing is a little overrated and a part of me wants to say there’s still a lot of value to be gained from the potential of AI,” says Joshua Tallent, Firebrand’s Director of Sales & Education.

Take the invention of the ebook, for example. Even if you weren’t in the publishing industry at its introduction, you remember people worrying about ebooks upending print book publishing. In fact, some people are STILL talking about it.

“Everybody thought ebooks were the future, print books were going away for good, and 90% of all books sold would be ebooks. And we saw that that didn’t happen.” – Joshua

The year before the Kindle was released in 2007, print books had sold 721 million copies in the United States, according to wordsrated.com. Fast forward over ten years later – 2020 and 2021 were some of the biggest years for print book sales, reaching 843 million copies sold. So, not only did ebooks NOT destroy print books but they still jumped 17% in sales.

Ebooks introduced tremendous benefits for readers and allowed publishers to make their books accessible to everyone. They expanded the reading community because ebooks were more affordable, could easily be distributed globally, and were more accessible to readers of all ages, languages, and abilities.

We are likely to see many benefits from this new AI technology, as we have with countless other technological inventions in the past. Typewriters made it easier to write books. Computers made it easier to edit them. Desktop publishing software helped create book layouts and designs in-house. Digital printing technology enabled on-demand book production.

We’ve already seen publishers utilizing Chat GPT to generate keywords for their backlist titles and help create book descriptions. In fact, you may have already found several other ways that artificial intelligence benefits your specific department. If you’re involved with Marketing in any capacity, artificial intelligence is an incredibly beneficial tool that can assist with many necessary but time-consuming tasks, such as metadata and social media verbiage.

Technology isn’t scary! It’s a natural and necessary evil.

Imagine having to manage ALL of your titles without a Title Management system in place (…or a spreadsheet, I guess. Maybe we’re biased), or monitoring your titles without a tool like Eloquence on Alert. Imagine doing your job effectively without email, phones, or computers. Talk about scary!

Sure, it was possible. Book publishers still existed well before our so-called Digital Revolution. Cambridge University Press was founded by Henry VIII in 1534 and released its first print book in 1584. But modern-day technology helped streamline that process and made it possible to fill our world with all the many amazing pieces of literature that we have today.

If you’d like to hear more perspectives and discussions about the future of AI in book publishing, tune into the Digital Book World’s Publisher Nation podcast. For Season 3, they’re doing a deep dive of new technology in the publishing world, particularly focusing on the ever popular and ‘scary’ artificial intelligence. Tune into Episode 4 to hear more of Joshua Tallent’s perspective!