Will artificial intelligence kill book industry?

The life of books in the world of hybrid technologies was discussed at the Forum of the New Book Industry

It has been almost a year and a half since the launch of the ChatGPT language neural network. During this time, all neural networks, not only OpenAI products, have been actively developing and even partially integrated into everyday life. It is possible to say for sure that businesses use or try to use the power of neural networks. The book industry is no exception here. Moreover, neural networks influence and even shape the book business to some extent. Therefore, this year's Forum of the New Book Industry, which was held in St. Petersburg, was dedicated to artificial intelligence.

Will the writers survive?

Before the advent of ChatGPT, many thought that “machines” would replace only the labour which required human mechanical repetitive actions. So, in fact, the automation of production in factories and plants took place. But the emergence and dramatic development of language models of artificial intelligence made people of creative professions, who seemed irreplaceable, tense up. Neural networks write letters (sometimes better than a human), texts for social networks and websites, make commercial offers and even come up with fairy tales. Writers picked up on this trend pretty quickly, and today there are thousands of books in the world, if not more, written in conjunction with artificial intelligence.

The alarm was sounded after the case of the American science fiction magazine Clarkesworld, which became a victim of artificial intelligence last February. Clarkesworld posted amateur science fiction stories on its resources. The publication was forced to stop accepting new works because the editorial office was flooded with texts written not by people, but by the ChatGPT neural network.

Writer Vera Bogdanova. Скриншот онлайн-трансляции Форума новой книжной индустрии

“As for writing fiction, GPT cannot yet be compared to a human being, to a writer. Because the text from artificial intelligence is immediately visible, this text is flat. GPT has a very large “hole”, it does not distinguish odours. As a writer, I can describe the smells. But if you ask GPT to distinguish one smell from another, it will not be able to. It can gather information on the Internet and deduce how milk, leather, or plastic might smell. But it will be a fiction. GPT also doesn't feel emotions. It doesn't have the experience that writers have and that they put into books. Can GPT displace writers? Only to the extent that Midjourney can displace the cartoonists who paint in Moscow on the Arbat. These are artisans of the average class, but not great artists," said writer Vera Bogdanova, who not only works with the neural network, but also trains it.

Konstantin Antipov, the head of the information office of the Saint Petersburg State University of Industrial Technologies and Design, and Svetlana Zorina, the editor-in-chief of Book Industry magazine. Скриншот онлайн-трансляции Форума новой книжной индустрии

Bogdanova believes that it is possible to get a good story from the neural network. But for this it is necessary to register a very long and complex technical design specification. However, in the time that the writer will spend on prescribing this task, it is easier to write a story yourself. At the same time, the neural network will still lose in quality. The situation is similar with writing genre literature, Bogdanova believes.

“A book becomes popular with the reader if it offers an unexpected turn. GPT can't offer that. Therefore, I do not think that a neural network can compete with writers. Rather, artificial intelligence can be used for rewriting or writing marketing texts, but there is no need to talk about artistic texts yet," Vera Bogdanova summed up.

AI in the service of publishers

Publishers are not faced with the question of whether to use artificial intelligence or not. They are thinking exactly how to use it. For example, artificial intelligence is now actively used in recommendation services. But even here, the result is far from perfect. However, the general director of Eksmo publishing house, Evgeny Kapyev, believes that it is a matter of time. He also noted that the industry now faces the question of how to effectively, quickly and safely implement artificial intelligence for the industry.

“I've seen a service that can replace reviewers. It makes sammari itself, shows which characters, characteristics, settings. It also displays hackneyed phrases, notes the dynamics of the plot. That is, the machine can already do this. It is clear that many useful startups have appeared in the publishing industry," said Yevgeny Kapyev.

Evgeny Kapyev, CEO of Eksmo Publishing House, joined the forum in an online format. . Скриншот онлайн-трансляции Форума новой книжной индустрии

Besides, Kapyev proposed to create an award for the best implementation of artificial intelligence in book publishing, to celebrate the best teams and startups. He also added that it would be nice to provide tax incentives for employees or companies that are engaged in and implement artificial intelligence in business processes.

Pavel Podkosov, the director general of Alpina Non-Fiction, told how neural networks are already used in their publishing house. For example, they are currently testing translations of texts and trying to understand whether it is possible to exclude a translator from this process at all. “I can't say that the results are very encouraging. By excluding the translator, we are seriously increasing the time and resources of the literary editor. There is no such shortage of staff with translators as with literary editors. This profession is more rare. It is not so easy to find a good literary editor. If we also load them with the work of a translator, then it is not very clear what kind of cost reduction is here," Pavel Podkosov said.

Another experiment is currently being conducted at Alpina. Proza publishing house. . Fifteen modern authors have gained access to an experimental neural network from a Russian IT company. The authors were tasked with writing stories together with GPT, and then their joint works would be compiled into a single collection.

Pavel Podkosov, the director general of Alpina Non-Fiction. Скриншот онлайн-трансляции Форума новой книжной индустрии

But neural networks are most in demand in the dubbing of audiobooks. “Literally a year and a half ago, we tried to voice audiobooks with the robot Ivan, and it was terrible. Now the quality of voice acting has increased significantly," Pavel Podkosov summed up.

Templates kill creativity

No matter how optimistic the CEO of Eksmo, Evgeny Kapyev, is about the possibilities of artificial intelligence, art historian Anna Voronkova still sees many limitations.

“Artificial intelligence can only work with pre-existing data and templates. It cannot generate new ideas and concepts on his own. This means that artificial intelligence does an excellent job with tasks that have repetitive and predictable patterns. Artificial intelligence will definitely become an assistant to a creative person, but it will not replace him. One of the advantages of human creativity is that it allows you to think outside the box," said art critic Anna Voronkova.

Art specialist Anna Voronkova. Скриншот онлайн-трансляции Форума новой книжной индустрии

Voronkova also noted that any kind of art is often based on breaking the rules. Many postmodern artists or writers created their masterpieces precisely through the denial of traditions. While the essence of artificial intelligence is just following the rules. This means, according to Voronkova, it is not characterized by human impulsivity. In her opinion, this is the main and significant difference.

All experts have different attitudes towards neural networks and artificial intelligence. But they all agreed that this is our new reality, we need to come to terms with it, learn to live together, interact and get the maximum benefit for the development of the book industry.

Ekaterina Petrova — literary reviewer of Realnoe Vremya online newsppaer, author of Poppy Seed Muffins (Булочки с маком) telegram channel, and founder of the first online subscription book club Makulatura.

Ekaterina Petrova

Подписывайтесь на телеграм-канал, группу «ВКонтакте» и страницу в «Одноклассниках» «Реального времени». Ежедневные видео на Rutube, «Дзене» и Youtube.