A German company that offers digital book distribution and marketing services to publishers has recently announced its plan to integrate ChatGPT, a chatbot that utilizes publicly available internet data to answer questions, into its software. Bookwire, the said company, stated that publishers can test the benefits of this artificial intelligence tool for their digital book marketing during the beta phase. However, Bookwire will only use ChatGPT if a publisher agrees, and the company does not assume any responsibility for the content created by ChatGPT.
While this may seem like a significant breakthrough in the digital marketing industry, it raises ethical concerns, particularly for those in the book industry. Recently, the Bradford literature festival received backlash on social media for using an AI-generated promotional image. In the beginning of May, the Society of Authors published a paper warning the industry about the need to protect copyright and creative careers in the face of new technology.
To test the limits of ChatGPT’s “imagination,” we asked it to write blurbs and endorsements for a range of well-known titles, from a heroic poem to a modern romance novel. After playing around with a variety of commands, here are some of the highlights:
A juicy blurb of a George Eliot classic: Middlemarch is the ultimate “Real Housewives” of 19th century England. Follow the lives of wealthy aristocrats as they navigate love, lust, and gossip in a society that’s more cutthroat than the latest reality TV show. With scandalous affairs, juicy secrets, and plenty of backstabbing, this book has more drama than a season of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” So grab your popcorn and get ready for a wild ride!
A blurb of an Old English epic poem that would appeal to Gen Z: Yo, have you checked out Beowulf? This dude’s a total savage, taking down monsters left and right like it’s NBD [no big deal]. His skills are on point, and he’s got a fearless attitude that’s straight-up inspiring. Plus, his adventures are full of epic battles and drama that’ll have you shook. And you know what’s even better? Beowulf’s got plenty of admirers, so the romance is totally on point too. Trust me, this story is the lit AF, and you won’t wanna miss it.
A blurb for the Bible, for those looking for their next self-help read: The ultimate guide to life, love, and eternal salvation! With enough drama and plot twists to rival Game of Thrones, it’s sure to keep you entertained for thousands of years to come. Laugh, cry, and gasp in awe at the epic stories of Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, and Jesus and his miracles. Don’t miss out on this divine masterpiece!
A tweet promoting an Irish classic: OH MY GOSH, have you read Ulysses yet?! It’s the most mind-blowing, soul-stirring, literary masterpiece I’ve ever laid my eyes on! James Joyce is an absolute genius, and this book will take you on a journey that will leave you breathless! #Ulysses #JamesJoyce #MindBlowing #LiteraryGenius #LifeChanging
Publishers love enthusiastic one-line endorsements to slap on the front of book jackets too. We asked ChatGPT to come up with some candidates.
Beloved by Toni Morrison in the style of Shakespeare: Oh, wondrous and magnificent Beloved, whose words doth pierce through the heart like a thousand arrows of truth, leaving one awestruck and enraptured in its devastatingly beautiful tale of love, loss, and redemption.
Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us in the style of Stephen Fry: If you’re looking for a book that will make you ugly-cry in public, It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover is your golden ticket – just make sure to pack plenty of tissues and a disguise.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez in the style of Rishi Sunak: Reading One Hundred Years of Solitude is like investing in a cultural masterpiece that will appreciate in value with every page turned.
In general, ChatGPT produces near-passable blurbs when fed the right commands. Descriptions of books are generally accurate. However, the biggest flaw is that the blurbs are full of cliches – every book is a “masterpiece” or “tapestry.” It recalls George Orwell’s overworked book reviewer, who sits down to write, and “All the stale old phrases […] jump into their places like iron filings obeying the magnet.” With ChatGPT, that metaphor becomes literal, the cringeworthy phrases spat out one-by-one on the screen in real-time.
In conclusion, while ChatGPT may be a useful tool for digital book marketing, it is far from perfect. The use of AI-generated content raises ethical concerns and threatens creative careers and copyright. As of now, blurb writers and reviewers are still needed in the industry.