Audio Books – Abridged or Unabridged Whats the Difference?


Recently Alyce at At Home With Books had in a post how she accidentally listened to an abridged audio of a book.  “Whew” I thought,” I am not always good at checking the packaging but that has never happened to me.”

I have been listening to On Mystic Lake by Kristin Hannah and just being annoyed to no end with it.  Fellow book lovers who know I am listening to it were saying, “Ooh that is such a good one” and I kept thinking, “Really?  You have got to be kidding me.”

SO what’s my problem with it….

Well for one it moves at a ridiculous speed, as in long-lost friends go from grieving a friend and wife to flat-out RELATIONSHIP in one encounter.  The whole audio is moving so quickly I am feeling there is no character development…

(you can probably see where I am going here…)

Then today I was driving into work and yet another thing happened  while I was listening to this audio, it felt like it skipped an entire section.  One moment she is sharing a big happening in her life while they are in bed, and the next sentence it is days later.  And then… like a very dim light bulb, I started to get it.  I reached for the packaging and sure enough ….




Double whammy actually because I just told Alyce what a rock star I was and that had never happened to me….


So…. that brings me to this post.  Why do they make abridged audio?  To me it is like picking up the Cliff Notes to a book…. you get the basic idea enough to talk about the book (sort of) but you don’t get the heart of it. 

When I looked up information today on abridged books it said they were created for publishers to be able to offer the book at a lesser price.  But are they really offering you the book?  Or… are they metaphorically ripping out the middle of the books pages and handing you a copy saying, “Here you go, fresh off the bargain table!”  😛

I am truly clueless here and not at all trying to diss the abridged audio put out there or those who create them or listen to them.  Obviously there is a reason I am not picking up on .

I am curious about your thoughts on this.  Do you read abridged books and if so, what benefits do you find to them?  Is listening to an abridged book the equivalent of Cliff Notes? 

Thank you Alyce, for inspiring this post. 😀  If you had not recently talked about this on your blog, I would probably still be ranting about this audio. 

* I have also noticed that the other Kristin Hannah I have unopened in the car ready to listen to next… is also abridged.  *sigh*


49 thoughts on “Audio Books – Abridged or Unabridged Whats the Difference?

  1. I don’t know who thinks “abridged” books are a good idea. I avoid them at all costs but every now and then one will sneak by me and I am never satisfied because I’m either confused or left feeling like I missed something.

    1. That’s the way I have felt all along in this audio. I was taking notes on how quickly things were happening it was almost laughable, it felt rushed. Now I feel fairly can not use these notes since it was abridged. 😀

  2. Well I am sorry that you had the same experience, but it does make me feel like less of an idiot! 🙂 I knew about the cost-saving thing with publishers, but you would think that if enough people demanded unabridged audiobooks (if the abridged audios weren’t profitable) they would change it up. I have a feeling that people who are not voracious readers might not care quite as much as we do, but I’m probably over-simplifying. Or maybe it’s been a matter of people just taking what they can get in the past when audiobooks weren’t quite as popular as they have become lately. In any case, I would be thrilled if publishers decided to only record unabridged books, especially in this age where audio is becoming more and more digital, so the physical costs of recording and producing cds would be less of an issue.

    1. I think it would be really hard to decide what to take out – and an authors nightmare… butchering the book tight in front of them…. GAH!

      I think abridged would work if you were doing a study on a subject and just needed the basics of it…

  3. I make a point of buying only unabridged audio books. My biggest problem with audio books is an narrator that just plain gets on my nerves.

  4. I avoid abridged books same as I avoid Reader’s Digest. I always wonder about who makes the decision on what part to cut out and I bet the authors have nothing to say about it.

  5. I am not a fan and haven’t been caught with this yet but I’m sure one of these days I will be…

  6. My distaste for abridged versions prompted me to leave a comment here. I guess the film version would be widescreeen vs. full screen.

  7. Great topic for a post. This has never happened to me, but I don’t listen to audiobooks very often. Given the choice though, I would choose to listen to an unabridged version. And I don’t think that listeners are getting a deal if they have to pay less for less of a story. Thanks, I will be double checking which version I get from now on.

  8. The only audio I’ve listened to that I discovered was abridged (which makes me wonder which ones I didn’t notice…) was Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I was familiar enough with the story to wonder where all the good stuff went – and why the book was so short! I hate it. But I guess if people are looking for a shorter version to be read to them, it might be helpful?

  9. That’s a total bummer! I just finished listening to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s memoir Total Recall, and realized it was abridged after the fact. Don’t usually like those myself, but this time it worked out for me.

  10. Ever since reading those Reader Digest Condensed Versions of books at my grandparents farm while growing up and HATING it! and wondering what in the world/who in the world “abridged” is for ~ I avoid those at all costs. Will refuse to read it or listen to it if its abridged.

  11. This happened to me with The Hobbit. I’m always really careful but I completely missed this one. AND I didn’t pick up on it until we went to the movie and I was like, “Wow, Jackson DID take a lot of creative license with this movie” and Dan goes, “Why, this was in the book.” Me: “No it wasn’t.” Dan: “Yes it was.” Me: “No, it wasn’t.” Dan: “Reagan, I read this book in middle school and I remember this part.” UGH! I knew a four hour audiobook was too good to be true haha. Now I’m listening to the REAL audiobook and all of its 9 discs. I don’t know why they do this or what the point is. Huge pain in the butt.

  12. You know I’ve never read or listened to an audio book. I’ve wondered why they are made as well. If it’s that obvious that the story is getting jacked up then why even make it. I’m finishing up 11/22/63 by King and it’s 20 discs. Yes, it’s long but i think every part of the story needs to be told. Weird.

  13. This happened to me with World War Z, downloaded from the library. I thought it was awfully short and nowhere near as good as everyone had been saying, and then realized it was abridged, same as you! I have to say, though, I have had a couple of people borrowing from the library tell me that they preferred abridged audio because it cut out all the extraneous stuff and kept the story moving along quickly. So there is an audience out there! (Probably not among book bloggers, though.)

  14. Good to read your thoughts on this. To be honest up until recently I hadn’t realised that this occurred let alone that it wasn’t always made clear that what the reader was getting wasn’t the full story as it where. Abridged or unabridged surely it is the individuals choice but I think it should be made very clear which it is.

  15. I find I drift off listening to audiobooks and they really don’t work for me but the abridgement would put me off anyway. The point was proved at an old book club I used to go to. One time, one of the guys was proud of himself for listening to that month’s choice via audiobook. When we started talking about the narrator’s relationships and the plot twists though rather than just the blurb level details he had *no clue* – half the things we were talking about, the stuff that really made the book interesting and gave us plenty to talk about? All cut to get it under the magic number of hours/£££. It was so funny watching him try and figure out where he’d missed everything but oh, I did kinda feel sorry for him too!

    1. LOL.. that’s good! We have a few people in our book group who will do the audio, I can not recall if I have with a book club choice or not. I enjoy the differences we can talk about in the different formats we choose but the abridged really would leave them in the dark 😀

  16. I know I should be talking about abridged vs. unabridged books, but this post got me thinking about the voicing of audio books. You’ve probably already posted about this (I just found your blog), but, for example, I love Carolyn Hart (mystery writer from my home state of Oklahoma), so I got some of her books on audio. I did NOT like the audio books simply because of the VOICE. Have you run into this problem? Again, sorry about being off topic. If you haven’t posted on this, I hope you will!

    1. Oh absolutely and that is a great discussion topic. The narration can make or break a book, and even a good book. If the voice doesn’t work – it can ruin the story. I am listening to one now that is a YA book but the narrator has an accent and sounds much older than the characters she is portraying.. it bugs me ad thank goodness it is a short audio or I would probably give up on it.

  17. I don’t understand why they offer it either. It sounded like Alyce’s book was just ripped to shreds … as does yours. (How weird that it happened to you right after you said it never had. Isn’t that always the way?) I always look carefully … but now I’m sure it will happen to me soon!

    1. It was kind of funny that it happened to me right away but if not for Alyces post I would have just thought it was really bad audio and left it at that… it was her post that made me look at the package. 😀 I will definitely be more careful in the future 🙂

  18. I’m not sure why they offer the abridged version anyway. I would feel like I was getting cheated out of the book. If I want to listen to a book, I want the whole book, not just the parts they’ve chosen for me to hear.

  19. I do try to check and make sure if I get the FULL versions and wonder why anyone would want to do an abridged version of anything. Also, fyi, I read the entire Mystic Lake and didn’t care for it AT ALL. so it might not have been the version you had! 🙂

  20. Been there, done that! A few years ago, I decided to reread my favorite book, The Queen of the Damned, for the fourth time on audio. I made the mistake of listening to the abridged version. It took out all the parts that made the book my favorite. It was horrible! 😦 I do not recommend listening to the abridged version…ever!

  21. I try to be careful, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a few have gotten past me! I sort of wonder the same thing about print books too. Why? It is apparently impossible to find an unabridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo in any format. Or it just doesn’t say either way, which makes me suspicious. I want the whole book!

    I say that, but I’ve written in a few reviews of chunkster classics (Anna Karenina comes to mind) that “I wish I’d had a ‘good parts’ version of this one.” I guess you just can’t make me happy!

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