Abridged vs. Unabridged Audiobooks: Which Is Better?

Quality reading sessions require enough spare time—and with so much to read and too much to do, time is often not a luxury that we have.

But… we still recognize the fact that we need to read, even within the chaos of our busy schedules, and we have audiobooks to turn to when we are too busy to read a book. Audiobooks allow us to multitask and if you use Audiobooks, you’ve probably come across the terms “abridged” and “unabridged.”

But what do these terms actually mean, and what are the differences between these types of audiobooks?

If you’re looking for questions to these answers, you’ve landed on the right post. This post will define and explain the differences between abridged vs unabridged audiobooks, providing you with much-needed information before you decide which one is right for you.

Let’s get started!

abridged vs. unabridged audiobooks

Unabridged Audiobooks

An unabridged audiobook is an audio version of a book in its full length, a book that has not been shortened or modified in any way. Unabridged audiobooks contain the original content, they are reproduced in an audio format exactly how the author published it.

This means that unabridged audiobooks are always lengthier than abridged audiobooks and thus, they require more time to finish.

Abridged Audiobooks

An abridged audiobook is a shortened version of the original book—it’s shorter, more compact, and more concise than the unabridged version of the original book.

Abridged books are condensed by taking out some ‘irrelevant’ words and sentences. Usually, some sentences will be missing, but the overall context, message, and overall meaning of the book are maintained.

It’s not just audiobooks that are published in an abridged version, some print versions also get published in abridged format.

When we talk about abridged versions, we’re not only talking about audiobooks because some traditional print publications also publish abridged versions too. In certain cases, print abridged versions are made with a different touch and deviate a little from the original work. The message might be extended or they make it read like a parody of the original text.

But, usually, abridged audiobooks have the same core content as the original book compacted into a more concise version.

abridged vs. unabridged audiobook

Differences between Abridged and Unabridged Books

Here are some differences between unabridged and abridged books (audiobooks and print versions)

Length

This is the obvious difference between abridged and unabridged books. Abridged books are shortened versions of the original book, a condensed version which attempts to retain as much information as possible.

Content

By removing some irrelevant words and long descriptions, abridged books are made to contain reduced information.  The content that is cut out from the unabridged version may not change the essence of the abridged book, but there might be some words that the author intentionally and artistically put in the original book that don’t survive the chop.

Listening Time

An unabridged book retains every word from the original book and thus has more listening time than abridged audiobooks. Since unabridged books are longer and require more time, they’re not ideal when one has less time at hand. Abridged books, however, are ideal for use cases that require less time—with abridged audiobooks, time is not necessarily a matter of concern.

Place

Another difference between the formats is where they are frequently used. On the one hand, abridged books are usually used in places like schools and offices because they are concise and ‘straight to the point.’ On the other hand, unabridged books are broader, fatter, and are as comprehensive as the original book, so they’re ideal for personal use and book clubs.

The difference between abridged vs unabridged book.

Why Abridge an Audiobook?

It’s Time Saving

Abridged audiobooks give you the exact content you need from a book. This makes it ideal for any reader who wants to understand the key message or essence without spending a lot of time listening to the book. It’s also perfect for anyone who wants to listen to as many books as possible in a short period.

Production Costs

Unabridged audiobooks are lengthy, good for the reader’s hunger for knowledge and amusement but bad for your pockets as a creator. The long length translates to high production costs for making that audiobook. If, for example, you’re paying a narrator for your audiobook, the more the words or minutes, the higher their charge.

Therefore, an abridged version makes a lot of economic sense.

A cheaper alternative

Usually, abridged audiobooks are cheaper than unabridged versions. This is good for those who purchase your books and profitable for you because this might mean that more customers will purchase the audiobook because of the low price.

Who doesn’t want to turn a nice penny?

Offers a Burdenless Read

We usually turn to audiobooks when we feel like we don’t have the time or energy to read a book, but in many cases, unabridged audiobooks tend to defeat that purpose—they’re longer and take a lot of time to finish.

An abridged audiobook, on the other hand, is shorter and takes less time to listen to, making them easier to absorb and more enjoyable than unabridged audiobooks. The audiobook has the same flow, style, and substance. And… You still get the essence of the original content.

why abridge an audiobook

Should I Abridge?

Should you abridge or produce an unabridged version of your book?

If we consider the advantages and disadvantages of both these formats, we see that it’s a close contest regardless of which version you choose to produce.

We have audiobook fans split between the two versions.

Some audiobook lovers vouch for unabridged versions of an audiobook only. The main point in their argument is that an audiobook should be made exactly as the author wrote the original book. For them, the author’s exact words have to be in the audiobook and it should sound like the author intended in the text. 

On the other hand, other audiobook fans argue that abridged audiobooks’ conciseness and time-saving elements are what makes them better than unabridged versions. Since abridged audiobooks have fewer inessential details and thus contain less bagatelle to waste one’s time, it’s a convenient version of the original book. And… it’s not like the publishers let go of important stuff.

But, which side of the debate am I on?

Neither! Audiobook fans have the liberty of choosing which format they want, but I believe that for an author or publisher, that liberty is taken away—it’s a luxury.  To be safe, an author ought to produce both an abridged and an unabridged version of the same book. You can release the unabridged version first, at a lower price, and once the sales start to pick up, you can also release the abridged version at a significantly lower price and hike the price of the unabridged version.

Summary

There are advantages and shortcomings for both unabridged and abridged audiobooks, and deciding on the format will depend on a couple of factors.

Do you go for the unabridged version? The version that suits a leisurely schedule, the format that gives you the entirety of the content, requires a lot of your time, and… probably a little bit costlier.

Do you opt for an abridged audiobook, a condensed, shorter version of the original book? A version that is ideal for reading in the workplace or school, a format that serves you the main ideas, takes less of your time and has a price good for your budget. 

About Jessica Majewski

Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories.

She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.