Human writers probably shouldn't be too concerned... yet.
A man says he's written almost 100 books using AI since August 2022 and made around $2,000, according to a first-hand account he wrote for Newsweek.
While a perusal of the books in question reveals the barest of plots and character development, they serve as curious AI-generated novelties that tantalizingly suggest the technology's potential — or, depending on your point of view, entrepreneurs' willingness to exploit the novelty of new tech for a handful of sales.
To generate ideas and text, Tim Boucher wrote in Newsweek that he harnessed OpenAI's ChatGPT and Anthropic's Claude — a rival text generator started by ex-OpenAI employees — and used Midjourney to create images to go along with his stories. Boucher's books, all available on the market place Gumroad, range from about 2,000 to more than 83,000 words and are priced from $1.99 to $5.99.
Boucher said it takes him about six to eight hours to produce a book, from start to finish.
"In some instances, I've been able to produce a volume in as little as three hours, everything included," he wrote.
AI on the Prize
At the time of the publication of his Newsweek article, which he admitted was itself 60 percent generated by ChatGPT, Boucher said he was about ready to release his 97th book.
The books feature esoteric-sounding titles like Mysterious Hum and The Zalachete Fairy. A quick read of one of them, Inside the Hypogeum, a story about an underground cave temple, reveals a meandering explainer of the fictional locale and legends — but no discernible plot or developed characters to sustain reader interest.
"It's very difficult, for example, to have longer written pieces that maintain a coherent single storyline or character arc," Boucher wrote for Newsweek. "So instead, I've tended to lean into short 'flash' fiction slice-of-life collections, interspersed with fictional encyclopedia entries that deliver world-building and backstory."
The overwhelming majority of Boucher's books have no reviews at all, and the handful that do have scored just two and three stars out of five. Most damningly, Boucher's book with highest rating, Conspiratopia: A Utopian Satire, was published in November 2021, well before he started using AI to generate text.
Updated to remove speculation about the existence of repeat buyers.
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