Abridged vs Unabridged Audiobooks: What are the Differences?

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If you’re an audiobook fan, you’ve probably seen and heard the terms “abridged” and “unabridged” when you’re browsing for a new title. But what do they actually mean, and what are the key distinctions between these types of audiobooks?

In this post, I’ll explain the differences between abridged vs unabridged audiobooks so you can decide which format is right for you.

Abridged vs Unabridged Audiobooks

Abridged vs Unabridged Audiobooks

Unabridged Audiobooks

An unabridged audiobook is the full length version of the original book, which has not been shortened, altered, or changed in any way. In the case of audiobooks, it’s the exact same version of the originally published book, but in audio format.

Unabridged audiobooks are always longer, so by nature, they take more time to finish.

Abridged Audiobooks

An abridged audiobook is a shorter, more concise version of the original book. The context and overall essence of the book are still the same; it’s just been condensed into fewer words.

It’s not just audiobooks that come in an abridged version. It’s pretty common for traditional print publications to be reduced into an abridged version too.

More often than not, the abridged versions of traditional print books follow the same rules; they’re a condensed version of the original work that still retains the same tone, mood, and key information. But sometimes, traditional print abridged books are dramatically different from the original work. They might be manipulated to convey a particular message or opinion, or they could even be a parody of the original text.

But when it comes to audiobooks, this isn’t usually the case. Abridged audiobooks are true to the original publication, just in a more concise format.

Many authors, including the master of horror Stephen King, preach that if a sentence doesn’t add value, meaning, or carry the story forward, then it should be dropped. But there are plenty of writers who don’t follow that rule.

I’m sure we’ve all read books with unnecessary filler sentences and added fluff that doesn’t add any weight or dimension to a story. An abridgment cuts through this excess and gets down to the important stuff.

Of course, many in the anti-abridged crowd will argue that it’s sacrilege and that only the original author should make the call to alter the text in any way.

To Abridge or not to Abridge?

To Abridge or not to Abridge

Both of these formats have their advantages and disadvantages, and many audiobook fans are extremely adamant in which style they will purchase and listen to.

Some audiobook purists turn their noses up at abridged versions of an audiobook. They argue that the text should be consumed exactly as the author intended it to be and that those who read abridged versions are missing out.  

But others swear by abridged audiobooks and say their concise and time-saving nature gives them a huge advantage. By design, abridged audiobooks contain fewer unnecessary details and less fluff without sacrificing on the important stuff.

In the audiobook world, it’s fairly common to see both an abridged and an unabridged version of the same book. The abridged version is always significantly cheaper and is often, but not always, released first. Once the book generates enough of a fanbase, the unabridged, more expensive version will go on sale.

What are the Most Common Reasons for Abridging an Audiobook?

  • Production costs

Audiobook versions of particularly lengthy books can sometimes be well over 40 hours long. When you factor in the production costs for making an audiobook of that length, an abridged version starts to make sense.

  • It saves time

Abridged versions of audiobooks are ideal for a casual reader who wants to take in the key essence and details of a story without spending excess time listening. It’s perfect for those who want to consume more books but don’t have as much time as they’d like.

  • A cheaper alternative

Abridged versions are almost always cheaper than their unabridged counterparts. This can result in more customers purchasing the audiobook and more success for the publisher.

  • A more accessible read

Or, when it comes to audiobooks, a more accessible listen. In many cases, an abridged audiobook can be more enjoyable than the unabridged one since it’s shorter and easier to absorb while still maintaining the original flow, style, and substance. All these attributes make it more accessible to a wider audience.


An abridged audiobook is a condensed, shorter version of the original. There are pros and cons to both unabridged and abridged audiobooks, and the format you choose will depend on a lot of different factors.

If you’re looking for a more concise, easy, and quick read, an abridged version can be a great option. But if you’d like to hear the book in its pure, original form, then an unabridged audiobook is the best choice.

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