AI Threatens Book Illustrators’ Livelihoods, Sparks Industry Concerns

The field of book illustration is being disrupted by the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI), causing distress among professionals already facing challenges of low profit margins and intense competition. A recent survey reveals that approximately 25% of workers, particularly individuals from minority backgrounds, younger age groups, and lower-income brackets, fear that AI will render their jobs obsolete.

Kelley Donner, a children’s book author and illustrator based in Munich, Germany, recognizes both the potential and dangers of AI. However, she has experienced more of the negative consequences lately, leading her to worry about the future of her profession. Donner asserts that AI is wreaking havoc on the illustration industry, with many self-proclaimed professionals utilizing AI-generated illustrations to flood the market. She predicts that numerous individuals will lose their jobs, exacerbating an already saturated and fiercely competitive industry.

The impact of AI on the illustration profession is becoming a prominent concern. The Association of Illustrators has made it clear that AI-generated artwork is not currently eligible for entry into prestigious awards, emphasizing their reluctance to promote such works. In online communities like the Facebook group “Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators: Publishing, Marketing, and Selling,” discussions surrounding anti-AI sentiment dominate, with artists advocating for a ban on any AI-related illustrations or manuscripts. The fear is that AI will further marginalize a profession already struggling with low profitability, making it increasingly difficult to earn a living.

The apprehension surrounding AI’s potential to disrupt various industries extends beyond book illustration. Professionals across white-collar fields, including writers, human resource officers, lawyers, artists, and coders, are increasingly worried about being replaced by AI. May’s job loss data revealed that AI was responsible for nearly 4,000 job cuts, marking the first inclusion of AI-related statistics in the Challenger report. The adoption of advanced AI technology by businesses is swiftly automating tasks in creative, administrative, and clerical work. According to a Goldman Sachs report, AI has the potential to replace around 300 million full-time jobs. The CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey indicates that 24% of workers, especially those in advertising, marketing, business support, and logistics, fear job obsolescence due to AI, with workers of color, younger employees, and lower-salaried workers expressing the highest levels of concern.

As AI evolves into a more than $1 trillion industry driven by technological progress, it appears inevitable that workers from all fields will need to acquire AI skills to adapt. OpenAI’s ChatGPT bot, for example, has already gained significant attention and usage. However, the CNBC survey reveals that a majority of workers have not yet embraced ChatGPT. Some book illustrators, like Tita Berredo, acknowledge the pros and cons of AI but compare its role to that of a digital slave, emphasizing that a human touch is still necessary for creating meaningful artwork. However, there is a growing consensus among illustrators that publishers may opt for AI-generated illustrations, putting their livelihoods at risk.

While fear is a justifiable initial reaction, illustrator Christian Darkin urges his peers to embrace the upcoming changes. As creatives, he believes it is their responsibility to shape the future. However, book author Clay Anderson dismisses AI-generated illustrations as consistently inferior, lacking in composition, storytelling ability, and artistic style. Despite differing opinions, it is clear that AI’s impact on the book illustration industry is stirring significant concern and raising important questions about the future of the profession.