As spotted by Reuters, there are already 200 e-books on Amazon's Kindle store that list ChatGPT as the author or co-author. But because Amazon doesn't require that authors disclose whether or not they've used AI, that's likely a huge underestimation of the number of titles that AI tools have either written or co-created.
The ChatGPT-created books are published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct publishing arm, which releases over 1.4 million self-published books every year and sells them alongside ones written by big-name authors.
With no mention of AI tools like ChatGPT in Amazon's Kindle Publishing Guidelines, or any need for self-publishers to disclose using them, that number could well sky-rocket given the popularity of 'large language models' that are particularly skilled at generating text from prompts.
This is great news for 'authors' looking to radically boost their output by funneling ideas through the increasingly popular ChatGPT, which is also now available in Bing. In one example highlighted by Reuters, a New York-based salesman with no previous writing experience created a 30-page illustrated children's book in hours and sold it through Amazon's self-publishing arm.
But it's also a potential bombshell for both authors and readers alike, considering Amazon's virtual shelves could soon be flooded with AI-created books. We've asked Amazon for comment on how it plans to tackle this issue and will update this story when we hear back.
For now, Amazon has simply told us that “all books in the store must adhere to our content guidelines, including by complying with intellectual property rights and all other applicable laws." But it seems clear that it'll need to go further than that if its Kindle store is to retain a sense of order and help readers distinguish between robo-written books and real authors.
Analysis: Amazon will need to rein in robo-authors
The rapid rise of AI tools like ChatGPT is both a blessing and a curse for self-publishers, depending on how you view the technology. Their text-generating skills are ideal for quickly making first drafts, but authors also risk being drowned in a sea of homogenous look-a-likes.
Given that 'large language models' like ChatGPT and Google's incoming Bard are trained on human-made content, there are also potentially huge copyright issues ahead for works that are predominantly generated using the AI tools.
On the surface, the amount of AI-generated works in Amazon's Kindle store remains a drop in the ocean of its entire range. But that picture could change quite rapidly, given the sheer number of tutorials on YouTube and Reddit that show how easy it is to create and sell a new book in only a few hours.
Amazon's aim for Kindle Direct has always been to remove any barriers to entry for fledgling authors and fast-track the creation of new titles. Its own Kindle Direct tips page proudly states that "there are no gatekeepers deciding which books are published".
While that policy is unlikely to change overnight, it may well need to employ some AI detection tools to at least label ChatGPT-generated books for readers. Without some moderation, the best Kindle ereaders could soon see their virtual shelves buckling under the weight of some incredibly prolific new AI authors.
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Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at both TechRadar and Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.