Ammaar Reshi, a product design manager at a San Francisco-based financial-tech company, said he didn’t have much experience in creative writing or illustration, so he switched to AI tools. He used OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot to create “Alice and Sparkle,” a story about Alice, a little girl who wants to learn more about tech, and her robot friend Sparkle. To illustrate the story, he used Midjourney (an AI art generator).
Reshi published his book online on Amazon’s digital store within 72 hours. The next day, he received the paperback from another Amazon service, KDP. Although he claimed he did not pay anything to publish the book, he still paid $30 per month for Midjourney.
Reshi was impressed by the speed and effectiveness of the project and shared it in a thread on Twitter that received more than 2,000 comments, 5,800 retweets, and over 3,000 likes.
Reshi said he received initial positive feedback from users praising his creativity. Then, the comments became abuse. Reshi stated, “There was an incredibly passionate response.” “At 4 a.m., I woke up and my phone exploding every 2 minutes with a new Tweet saying, ‘You are scum’ or ‘We hate you.'”
Reshi stated that he was stunned by the intense responses to what was supposed be a gift for some children. He only realized he was in the middle of a much bigger debate when he began to read through them.
Anupa Roper (a UK-based author of children’s books) was one of the critics. She said she felt a “sinking sensation in [her] stomach” after seeing Reshi’s tweet. “I was thinking, is it that simple to create something that required me to put my heart and soul into it?” Roper stated.
Josie Dom, a fellow UK author of children’s books, refused to download Reshi’s book. She said that Reshi didn’t deserve to make any money because he didn’t put in much effort. Dom stated that she was “concerned about the proliferation of low-quality stories created by AI, both in the writing and illustration, after reading sample pages from Amazon.”
Corey Brickley, an artist who illustrates book covers, took issue with Reshi’s AI-generated artwork via this tweet:
Artists Accused Him Of Theft
Reshi’s book struck a chord with artists who feel that AI art generators are taking their work. Artists claim their artwork has been used without permission to train AI image generators such as Midjourney. You can use artist names to prompt users to create art in your style.
Lensa AI, a photo editing tool, became viral last year when it released an update that used AI for users’ selfies to create art. This led artists to voice their concerns about AI programs drawing inspiration from their work without payment or permission.
Reshi stated that he had not done any research on the issue. I realized that Lensa was the one who had caused all of this, as it is a popular app. It had sparked that debate, and I was getting a lot of hate for it.”
He said, “I was shocked and didn’t know how to handle it.” Reshi stated that he could find people with valid and reasonable concerns among the negative messages.
He said, “Those were the people I wanted to engage with.” I wanted a different perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, where everything is going great. But I wanted to hear other perspectives.
He learned more and added to his thread on Twitter, saying that artists should participate in creating AI image generators and that they must be respected for their “talent, skills, and hard work to get there.”
He stated that he believes some hate was misdirected to his one-off project, Midjourney, which allows users to create as much art or as little as they like.
Reshi’s book was temporarily removed from Amazon. He claimed that Amazon had halted sales between January 6 and January 14 due to “suspicious reviews activity.” Before it was taken down, he had already sold 841 copies.
David Holz, the founder of Midjourney, stated that very few images from the service are commercially used. It is almost exclusively for personal use.” He stated that all data for AI systems is “sourced from broadly browsing the internet.” Most of Midjourney’s data are “just photographs.”
Reshi stated that the project was not about authorship. He said, “I wouldn’t even consider myself the author.” “The AI is a ghostwriter, and the other AI is the illustrator.”
He did, however, think that the process was creative. He claimed he spent hours tweaking Midjourney’s prompts to ensure consistent illustrations.
Although he could create an image of Alice, his heroine, for the book, he couldn’t do the same with her robot friend. Each time it appeared, he had to use a different picture.
He said that Sparkle, the robot was difficult to make look identical. “It reached a point when I had to add a line in my book that Sparkle can transform into any kind of robot shape.”
Some also criticized the book’s quality in writing and illustration.
One Amazon reviewer stated that the writing was stiff and lacked a voice. “And the artwork — wow! It hurts so much. There are tangents all over, strange pages, and inconsistent images to the point that it feels like the images are just a little bit more random than they are.
Reshi stated that he would hesitate to publish an illustrated book again but would love to explore other projects using AI.
ChatGPT would be an option, he stated. ChatGPT has fewer concerns about content ownership than AI image generators. Reshi said the project’s goal was to give the book to his two friends’ children, who both enjoyed it. He said, “It worked for the people I wanted, which was fantastic.”