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You are watching: What does abridged and unabridged mean


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Let’s start with defining the difference in between unabridged and also abridged audiobooks. Just put, one abridged audiobook is a shortened version of the full text. If excellent right, the themes, tones, and also mood must all line up with the initial text. Vice versa, unabridged audiobooks consists the complete literary text, kept undamaged as initially published.

Abridged audiobooks can be shortened between 35% and also 75%. Typically, one editor will certainly go through the text, removing elements, references, and scenes the seem superfluous or redundant. In fiction, this is typically backstory, long descriptions, or world-building aspects that don’t include to the key narrative. In nonfiction, editors regularly nix references and technical details. An alert is often listed if the author approves of one abridgment.


“The original audiobooks videotaped in the ’30s were in reality abridged—excerpts indigenous the Bible, Helen Keller, etc.,” claimed Michele Cobb, the head of the Audio Publishers Association. Over the decades, abridged execution have had several advantages. In a pre–podcast marathon era, some producers believed that civilization had minimal patience come sit through double-digit hrs of audio. And also of food it’s cheaper to produce abridged audiobooks compared to their full-length counterparts.

In an entertainingly unfiltered interview for the Audiobook history blog, Henry Trentman, who established Recorded books Inc in 1978, says: “The significant publishers to be concerned around time due to the fact that they had to market these things and also to offer two tapes because that 14 bucks to be a lot much easier than offering 14 tapes because that $100. The wasn’t a publication store item.” Audiobook pioneer Caedmon, i m sorry was founded in 1952 and also saw success through a Dylan cutting board recording even before it to be published, witnessed the advertisement viability the its condensed audiobooks together a virtue.


There’s speculation the abridged audiobooks have also enhanced the celebrity appeal of books. Stars with busy schedules are more likely to commit to shorter recording engagements, and it’s quicker for the famous to blurb and endorse publications if they’re dealing with the abridged versions.

Snootiness over Abridged Audiobooks

There’s a (sigh) ongoing conflict over the legitimacy of audiobooks as “real books,” as if only civilization with work vision are actual readers. Yet listening to books does flex slightly various mental muscles than visual reading. Plus, it’s simpler to share the suffer of listening to a book, in actual time. And, as familiar to anyone who’s ever before stretched out a boring domestic chore simply to listen to the end of a chapter, audiobooks aid multitasking.


The proceeding snobbishness end print publications has been specifically fierce where abridged audiobooks room concerned. Together Recorded books founder Trentman has actually opined: “An abridged version—unless it’s a dreadful book—is never ever as an excellent as the original…really, you’re taking all the meat and also just finishing up with the skeleton once you’re doing abridged.”

Others have shared the sentiment. The talk Book selection Committee because that the Talking publication Library, the British business for soldiers that had end up being visually impaired during battle, refused in the 1930s to include abridged books. For this reason it exclude, the BBC’s book at Bedtime, a still-running radio collection that serializes books, often read by significant actors.

The concern over literature credibility expanded to institutions supporting remote people. Matthew Rubery’s The Untold Story of the talking Book, a must-read for audiobook history nerds (who surely number in the billions), recounts:

“The American foundation for the Blind and also the Royal national Institute that Blind civilization both prohibition abridgments come ensure that their constituencies obtained the very same credit as everyone rather for reading books. Law otherwise risked being regarded as substandard in terms of literacy.”

So abridged audiobooks have at assorted points to be aimed in ~ visually impaired people as well as shunned by establishments supporting them, in an effort to protect against the stigma that the abridged audiobook.

Yet Caedmon thumbed its sleep at unabridged purists. That marketed abridgments together a value-added reading experience. Caedmon editor abridged Lady Chatterley’s Lover through restricting the book to just Constance Chatterley’s perspective—you can decide for yourself whether this to represent an exciting kind of literature remixing or a blasphemous mishandling the a classic.

Other instances Rubery offers in The Untold history of the talking Book, native the liner notes of abridged audiobooks, incorporate Moll Flanders (“skillfully shortened”), Macbeth (“a true essence”), and that standard of excess verbiage: The divine Bible. Rubery writes,

“Omitting the ‘he saids’ from the Bible’s publication of project not only sped points along but likewise highlighted the remaining dialogue’s grandeur.”

Even more striking than this exercise in biblical trimming is the means that some audiobook authors have used abridgment as an possibility to improve their work. Poet Galway Kinnell would certainly spontaneously transform his poems as soon as reading them come audiences. He preferred these unexpected renovations so much that he stuck to them subsequently, and also used this revisions as soon as recording albums that his poetry, rather than the published versions. Therefore Kinnell treated his poems as ever-evolving creative works—much as an additional celebrated wordsmith, Kanye West, would later on do v his released-but-never-definitively-finished album The Life the Pablo.

How modern technology Has shaped The Abridged Audiobook

The key factors in the rise and also fall that abridged audiobooks space economics and also technology, i m sorry of course interrelate.

In the 1950s, companies prefer Libraphone and also the Audio Book agency seized upon the longer playing time the LP documents to record full novels. However the audiobook industry as a entirety didn’t choose up vapor until the 1970s; according to the Audio Publishers Association, libraries began stocking audiobooks in that decade. It ended up being common for bookshops to carry audiobooks in the mid-1980s.

Audiobook carriers didn’t just rely top top physical areas to stock your products. Mail-order service was vital to the development of the industry, and also one postwar adjust that deeply influenced Americans’ tastes in audiobooks was suburban sprawl and also the rise of commuting. Olympic rower Duvall Hecht founded the company Books on ice cream in 1975, and business boomed among commuters and travelers. Trentman, the Recorded publications founder so antipathetic towards abridged books, to be a travel salesman who wanted unabridged audiobooks that would carry out plenty the entertainment during long journeys.

Later, Brilliance Corp. Produced the charmingly antiquated-sounding “Bookcassettes.” In the 1980s, the company even relied top top a special invention that hasn’t stood the test of time. As Matthew Rubery explains to publication Riot, Brilliance “used a unique, cost-cutting recording an approach that doubled a tape’s recording capacity…but made them unplayable ~ above some gadgets without an adapter.”

Abridged audiobooks have actually been decreasing as physical media choose CDs come to be less important, and room is much less of a consideration. Being able to fit a publication on 5 tapes instead of 10 renders a far-reaching difference come both the cost and the reader’s experience. Carting about a massive set of tapes for a train journey, i beg your pardon crowds out valuable room in her backpack? No, thank you.

Mark Pearson is a cofounder that Libro.fm, an digital audiobook save that directs sales with independent bookstores. Pearson point out out one more recent technical development do abridged audiobooks less relevant: the ability to readjust the playback speed. If listening in ~ 2.0x, a complete audiobook deserve to be digested in fifty percent the common time.

As a pan of (attempted) slow-moving readingwho is perceptible to the chipmunkiness the sped-up audio, this sounds torturous to me. However the speed-change function is helpful for other reasons together well, such together slowing under a foreign-language book to enhance comprehension.

In 2009, digital download became more popular than CDs because that audiobooks. The digital boom has even led part publishers to rerecord abridged audiobooks in their unedited versions.

The Plummeting popularity of Abridged Audiobooks

The sales figures of the Audio Publishers Association, which go back to 2001, display that abridged audiobooks peaked in ~ 39% that the full audiobook industry in 2004, and this proportion has consistently fallen since then.

Today, audiobooks expected for day-to-day consumers are nearly exclusively unabridged. This gives readers full manage over which components of the story they skip end (if any) and avoids any type of sense of “missing out” on components of the plot. Assorted details will impact readers in different ways. What one person finds insignificant may be hang-this-quote-on-the-wall-worthy because that another.

Furthermore, unabridged audiobooks room a great resource because that readers with vision impairments or chronic disease that affect one’s ability to review words on web page for lengthy periods. When an audiobook is only accessible in that abridged version, the takes far the capacity for some readers to suffer the whole story as intended by the author.

Pearson tells publication Riot:

“The many returned audiobooks on Libro.fm space abridged editions the our members acquisition by mistake.”

Abridged audiobooks account for simply 4% that the site’s 125,000 audiobooks, and also make up only .5% of sales.

These paltry percentages complement trends in the wider industry. Cobb states that the Audio Publishers Association stopped tracking numbers for abridged audiobooks numerous years ago “as they really aren’t a far-ranging part of the market anymore. In 2016 castle were just 3% that the market.”

Why part Holdouts Still favor Abridged Audiobooks

So who are abridged audiobooks supposed for today? The most obvious answer is simply world who desire to read publications without the filler (sorry, long-winded authors). That might be a human with a high reading goal who wants to power with books, a student hoping to get the CliffsNotes of one assigned reading, or a parental trying to obtain their young leader interested in audiobooks.

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Abridgment—whether that audio, print, or digital books—also gives an chance to exactly typos and other errors from previously versions. And also it may be a means to redress the bigotry that old books. Librarian and fellow book Riot contributor Anna Gooding-Call recalls, “Cheaper through the Dozen had actually an abridged version on tape where they cut out the horrifyingly racist episode through the Chinese cook. Big improvement. Ns listened come it with my mom when ns was a kid and also read that separately, and I remember note the difference.”

Even though abridged audiobooks account for a tiny share the Libro.fm sales, “I mean that publishers will continue to develop abridged editions however that the number will decline,” Pearson believes. That pledges the “Libro.fm will continue to offer them even if only a little group that listeners desires the abridged version.”

Academic Rubery likewise believes the abridged audiobooks won’t walk extinct. He predicts that “there will constantly be some sector for abridged recordings just as over there is a market for abridged print publications (a shortMoby Dickis popular with kids, for example). It will simply be more niche than was once the case.”

This post was written through the help of fellow book Riot contributor Sophia LeFevre.