Hundreds of books created by artificial intelligence (AI) tool ChatGPT are flooding Amazon, showing the way the technology can be adopted to produce books at scale.
Nearly 300 titles that claim to be written solely by or in collaboration with ChatGPT are listed on the online bookseller’s website, across a range of genres including non-fiction, fantasy and self-help.
Many of the books appear to be published using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing tool, which allows users to quickly create, publish and promote their work using a modern-day equivalent of the self-publishing model.
It’s likely that more than the 300 or so books with ChatGPT listed as an author have been penned with the help of the generative AI tool, which uses a large language model [LLM] to mimic the way humans write, but have not been listed as using the tool.
An Amazon spokesperson said: “All books in the store must adhere to our content guidelines, including by complying with intellectual property rights and all other applicable laws.”
ChatGPT was released by San Francisco AI firm OpenAI in November 2022. Investment bank UBS estimates that 13 million people use the tool every day. It works by prompting the reader to ask it questions or set it tasks that are typed into a chat window, then responding in kind using natural language.
People have previously used ChatGPT and other generative AI tools that create images, rather than text, to produce children’s books. American tech worker Ammaar Reshi, 28, self-published a book on Amazon called Alice & Sparkle, which was solely generated using tools like ChatGPT based on his prompts. Reshi did not cite the technology as his co-authors when the book was published.
Reshi sold around 70 copies of Alice & Sparkle in the first 10 days it was on sale.
AI-generated text is becoming a significant issue for publishers as well as retailers. American science fiction magazine Clarkesworld has barred new story submissions after being deluged with AI-generated text. The magazine’s founding editor, Neil Clarke, decided to halt the ability to send in new work after he received 50 submissions he believes were generated using AI in a single day.
Clarke lambasted the low quality of the AI-produced work – something that other authors believe will continue to separate human-generated work from that produced by computers and AI tools.
“I think that bad writing that hedges its bets and tries to bamboozle the reader with high-end generalities – whether it’s machine-written or by humans – is still bad writing,” said Karl Whitney, author of two non-fiction books and an editor at Penguin Classics.
Earlier this month, Reshi, the author of Alice & Sparkle, asked Bing, the AI-powered search engine developed by Microsoft, what it thought of his work. The AI behind the search engine said: “I think it would be more of a novelty than a literary masterpiece.
The AI continued: “A book created with AI might be technically impressive, but it would not have the soul or depth of a book created by a human author.”
Whitney said the continued submission of low-quality AI work could ultimately cause publishers to raise the drawbridge on new submissions in the same way Clarkesworld did, ultimately shutting off a route into the publishing world to new authors.
“The slush pile [where unsolicited manuscripts end up] is an extremely useful way for unknown writers to get published and get noticed,” said Whitney. “If AI-generated texts crop up amongst those submissions in large volumes then trust could evaporate, editors have to sift this material for machine-generated material – or might just give up on this form of submission – and we potentially lose valuable new voices who might get lost in the mix.”
“Like with all of the potential changes generative creative AI brings, one of the big shifts I think will be to value human craftsmanship even more,” said Dr Catherine Flick, reader in computing and social responsibility at De Montfort University in Leicester. Flick has researched the rise of AI and how we use it.
“Ultimately, I suspect the low-quality books will join the other existing low-quality books that are currently ghost written, but there will be an increased quantity of them due to the lack of work required to publish an AI written book,” Flick added. “Unfortunately, this may well drown out good quality books that need to be self-published.”
Flick can foresee a future where AI tools can help authors write their books quicker, though they’ll struggle with the nuances required for plotting a well-written story or series of books.
“I foresee a big push to advertising that a book is human-written, with potentially a premium attached to that,” she said. “Whether this is a good shift or not is hard to tell at this stage, though I fully expect the first famous author to admit to using LLMs to be pilloried on social media as a cheat or a fraud.”
As to whether bookshops will stock them, Tom Rowley of Backstory, a London-based bookseller, said: “Not in a million years. I’d rather stock Jeff Bezos’s memoirs.”