Apple has quietly launched a catalog of books narrated by artificial intelligence in a move with potentially huge implications for the multi-billion dollar audiobook industry.

The feature represents a major shift in audiobook publishing, which involves authors narrating their own books, a process that can take weeks and cost a publisher thousands of dollars, reports The Verge.

According to Apple’s website, the feature is currently only available for romance and fiction books, with two available digital voices – Madison and Jackson – and two more voices – Helena and Mitchell – on the way for non-fiction books.

“We’re starting with fiction and romance, and are accepting ebook submissions in these genres,” said the company.

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At the moment, the service is only available in English, and Apple is unusually picky about the types of books its digital narrators can read, said the report.

“Primary category must be romance or fiction (literary, historical, and women’s fiction are eligible; mysteries and thrillers, and science fiction and fantasy are not currently supported),” reads the website.

If users search for “AI narration” in the Books app, they will find a series of romance novels with a small notice saying they’re “Narrated by Apple Books”.

“This is an Apple Books audiobook narrated by a digital voice based on a human narrator,” reads each audiobook listing that uses the company’s digital narration service.

Listings include a mix of free and paid audiobooks available, and the artificial voices are about as good as users would expect — perfectly intelligible but with an unmistakably artificial edge that lacks the warmth of a human storyteller, the report added.

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