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BooookScore: A systematic exploration of book-length summarization in the era of LLMs

Yapei Chang · Kyle Lo · Tanya Goyal · Mohit Iyyer

Halle A 3
[ ] [ Visit Oral 8D ]
Fri 10 May 7:15 a.m. — 7:30 a.m. PDT

Abstract: Summarizing book-length documents ($>$100K tokens) that exceed the context window size of large language models (LLMs) requires first breaking the input document into smaller chunks and then prompting an LLM to merge, update, and compress chunk-level summaries. Despite the complexity and importance of this task, it has yet to be meaningfully studied due to the challenges of evaluation: existing book-length summarization datasets (e.g., BookSum) are in the pretraining data of most public LLMs, and existing evaluation methods struggle to capture errors made by modern LLM summarizers. In this paper, we present the first study of the coherence of LLM-based book-length summarizers implemented via two prompting workflows: (1) hierarchically merging chunk-level summaries, and (2) incrementally updating a running summary. We obtain 1193 fine-grained human annotations on GPT-4 generated summaries of 100 recently-published books and identify eight common types of coherence errors made by LLMs. Because human evaluation is expensive and time-consuming, we develop an automatic metric, BooookScore, that measures the proportion of sentences in a summary that do not contain any of the identified error types. BooookScore has high agreement with human annotations and allows us to systematically evaluate the impact of many other critical parameters (e.g., chunk size, base LLM) while saving \$15K USD and 500 hours in human evaluation costs. We find that closed-source LLMs such as GPT-4 and Claude 2 produce summaries with higher BooookScore than those generated by open-source models. While LLaMA 2 falls behind other models, Mixtral achieves performance on par with GPT-3.5-Turbo. Incremental updating yields lower BooookScore but higher level of detail than hierarchical merging, a trade-off sometimes preferred by annotators. We release code and annotations to spur more principled research on book-length summarization.

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