Will publishers embrace AI chatbot reading companions?

Will publishers embrace AI chatbot reading companions?

Interactive reading: the rise of chatbot companions in publishing

by Suswati Basu
1 comment

The future of reading may now come with a “conversational companion.” As the digital landscape shifts, book publishers are now experimenting with chatbot versions of new titles to offer readers an enhanced and interactive experience.

YouAI’s vision: transforming books with AI companions

A tech startup, YouAI, is at the forefront of this evolution, believing that human-written books could be enriched with AI companions. They’ve developed an application, named “Book AI,” which transforms any book into an AI conversationalist. Imagine a knowledgeable entity, reminiscent of a tech-savvy book club member, discussing a book’s contents in-depth.

YouAI’s CEO, Dmitry Shapiro, is in discussions with multiple publishing houses about incorporating chatbots with their fresh releases. Notably, Solution Tree, renowned for its expansive collection on continuing education, is set to launch these “conversational companions” alongside their titles.

Shapiro highlights the utility of such chatbot editions for textbooks, facilitating clarification for users and answering specific queries. Leveraging the vast knowledge of large language models like ChatGPT, these chatbots can sometimes even translate book content into actionable insights. For instance, a chatbot trained on a website optimisation book could provide design suggestions based on the key takeaways.

YouAI employs the “retrieval augmented generation” or RAG technique, ensuring chatbots align closely with the source material. This method, akin to those used by search engines, maintains the authenticity of the chatbot’s information, preventing misinformation.

Pros and cons: testing the book AI system with classics

Testing the system, a run with Plato’s “The Republic” showcased accurate results, such as detailing the intricate teacher-student relationship between Plato and Aristotle, as well as highlighting the philosophical distinctions between the two. The AI also offered insights into Raphael’s painting, “The School of Athens,” illustrating the contrasting philosophies of the two thinkers.

Read: Jane Austen Meta AI: celebrities used in social interactions

However, due to copyright restrictions, the chatbot’s scope can be limited. Queries about Socrates’ primary argument or the character Polemarchus weren’t answered effectively. Yet, the bot did discuss the central theme of “justice” from Plato’s perspective, emphasising its importance in both personal and societal contexts.

“Plato argues that justice exists in both the individual soul and the ideal state. There is an analogy between inner justice in a person and justice in society.”

While this tool offers a convenient summary for students, there’s an underlying apprehension about bypassing the reading of foundational philosophical works that have shaped Western ideologies. The essence of philosophy, which fosters human critical thinking, seems diminished when condensed into AI chatbot responses.

When I asked the chatbot what it thought justice is, it was unable to answer, regurgitating the previous response regarding Plato’s thoughts on the matter. Just to irritate the machine, I finally asked whether it preferred Plato or Aristotle. It responded that it could not make a judgement call, as “assessing one as definitively superior is difficult and subjective. But each was highly influential in their respective strengths and approaches.”

Read: Likewise: Bill Gates-backed Pix AI chatbot recommends books

I even played around with the Communist Manifesto and it greeted me as “comrade.” Meta is obviously also experimenting in this arena with its Jane Austen AI, however, it is an entire profile and avatar rather than just a chatbot.

Further testing revealed the chatbot’s limitations in offering personal insights or preferences, merely reiterating known facts. YouAI’s “book recommender” feature also stumbled when it misrecommended fiction titles to a non-fiction enthusiast. This misstep suggests room for improvement, particularly when compared to other AI chatbots like Microsoft-backed Likewise Pix AI.

The future landscape: publishers and chatbot integration

Nevertheless, the prospect of chatbot editions offers an intriguing future for publishers, especially for textbooks, self-help guides, and business manuals, potentially profiting from the way we consume literature.

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1 comment

Who Wrote This? author Naomi Baron: AI's threat to language - How To Be Books November 2, 2023 - 1:57 pm

[…] Read: Will publishers embrace AI chatbot reading companions? […]


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