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ChatGPT behind influx of AI-written books on Amazon

Wannabe novelists who don’t want to put in the time or effort to create their literary masterpiece are turning to ChatGPT for help.

A number of recent reports reveal how OpenAI’s AI-powered chatbot is already showing up as co-author for more than 200 books in the self-published section of Amazon’s online bookstore. And they’re only the ones where ChatGPT is credited.

New York-based Brett Schickler, for example, recently used ChatGPT to help him create a 30-page book called The Wise Little Squirrel that teaches children about saving and investing.

“The idea of writing a book finally seemed possible,” Schickler, a salesman by day, told Reuters. “I thought ‘I can do this.'”

While Schickler used text prompts to get ChatGPT to create blocks of text that he used to build the story, he also used AI-powered text-to-image generators to create the pictures, though Reuters describes the images as “crudely rendered.”

After just several hours of work, Schickler made his book available in Amazon’s Kindle store for $2.99 (e-book) or $9.99 (printed). However, it’s yet to turn into a bestseller, having so far generated a mere $100 for the book’s creator.

The apparent ease with which ChatGPT can be commandeered to create books has already led to numerous instructional videos showing up on YouTube explaining how to do it. Getting published is easy, too, with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) service offering all of the necessary tools to get started, with pretty much zero financial outlay.

AI-powered technology like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard clearly has huge ramifications for the creative industries, among others. While the quality of the chatbot’s output may be questionable when it comes to creating a complex novel, it will only improve over time, a prospect that will alarm authors and illustrators who expend huge effort in trying to create works of value.

At the current time, however, those using ChatGPTs to create books are having to tread carefully, as plagiarism can be an issue. This is because OpenAI’s chatbot learns from scanning millions of pages of text on the web, some of which could end up in the books that it’s being called on to create.

The situation is already causing issues for established industry players too, with sci-fi magazine Clarkesworld experiencing a rapid increase in submissions written by AI. According to a Guardian report, while Clarkesworld would usually receive around 10 submissions per month that it considered as containing plagiarized content, the arrival of ChatGPT has seen that figure jump to 100 submissions per month.

“It’s clear that business as usual won’t be sustainable, and I worry that this path will lead to an increased number of barriers for new and international authors; short fiction needs these people,” founding editor Neil Clarke wrote in a blog post, adding: “It’s not just going to go away on its own, and I don’t have a solution.”

The situation has become so challenging for Clarkesworld that on Monday, it stopped taking story submissions until further notice.

As for Amazon, KDP’s terms of use make no reference to the use of AI-generated content, so for now at least, we can expect to see more of its book listings filling up with such material.

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Trevor Mogg
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