Differences Between Abridged Vs Unabridged—Which Is Best For You?

Audiobooks have become an incredibly popular medium for people to enjoy the books they love, regardless if they are abridged vs unabridged. In a 2021 data of the Audio Publishers Association, audiobook sales reached an impressive 1.6 billion dollars in the U.S. alone, and almost half of Americans are reported to have listened to an audiobook at least once.

Audiobooks offer convenient listening opportunities for all of us: we play them in the car, on the way to work, in the house as we do housework, or winding down at the end of the day. With busyness and convenience becoming a part of our daily lives, listening to the audio format of books are a great way to educate and entertain ourselves without dropping everything to pick up a hardcopy of the book.

If you are familiar with audiobooks, or if you have just started to browse for a new way to enjoy your favorite hobby, you have likely come across the terms abridged vs unabridged. These terms refer to whether or not a book has been cut or shortened for easier consumption. There are also abridged and unabridged print books, but this article will explore the difference between unabridged and abridged audiobooks.

Abridged Vs Unabridged, abridged and unabridged books

Abridged vs Unabridged Audiobooks: What’s the difference?

What does unabridged mean?

According to Cambridge Dictionary, ‘an unabridged book, speech, or article is in its original form and has not been made shorter.’

An unabridged book is its original form. It remains as it was when the author wrote it and the publisher published it. Since it has not been abridged, it still contains the playfulness, style, tone, and subtleties that the author intentionally included.

What does abridged mean?

Cambridge Dictionary defines the verb ‘abridge‘ as ‘to make a book, play, or piece of writing shorter by removing details and information that is not important.’

When a book is abridged, the abridger carefully and diligently explores the context of the book with its message and purpose in mind. They scour the book for its details and then structure how it can be cut and edited so that the book’s message is not lost, but the length is shortened.

Abridgment is a skill that is not to be underestimated. It is more than a simple matter of shortening a book. The abridger must discern between relevant and irrelevant information throughout the book, which requires an in-depth understanding of the topic and an understanding of the writer’s voice and tone.

Abridged Vs Unabridged, abridged and unabridged books

Differences between abridged and unabridged audiobooks

Simply put, an abridged format means it is a shortened version of the original book. Here are the four primary differences between abridged and unabridged versions of an audiobook.

1. Cut

Abridged means cut or shortened. An abridged audiobook is the shortened version—it has been edited and made more concise by a third party. It is not the author’s full text, but an abridged version adapted and shortened to make it easier for a listener to process and digest the message. An unabridged audiobook whose text has not been changed or adapted for easier listening is the original text.

2. Length

Needless to say, the abridged version of an audiobook is shorter than the unabridged version. Extra information deemed relatively unnecessary by the abridger is removed from the text, which is delivered in a more concise and summarized way. Unabridged versions are longer because they feature all of the original text that the author wished to include.

3. Edit

In abridging a book, some of the original content is eliminated. As an author, one may intentionally use particular words to their artistic taste. An author’s word choice reflects his style and often reflects the society or background from which he or she wrote.

When a book is abridged, there is always a risk that some of the original and artistically meaningful content will get lost. Still, this is the craft of the abridgment. The abridger must understand the book’s context and make only genuinely less important cuts than the rest. Their job is to preserve or maintain the integrity of the unabridged book’s message while also losing some of that extra content.

4. Purpose and context

Readers choose the unabridged version of a book when they want the original. They are interested in the book and its author and want to enjoy it in its original form. They do not read the unabridged version for convenience but for the sheer joy of reading the original work.

Readers choose the abridged edition when they need to read it for convenience. They may still be highly interested in the book and its author, but they may need to read (or listen to) several books in a short time and simply do not have the time to do so without opting for the abridged versions of the books they need.

Abridged Vs Unabridged, abridged versions

Why abridge a book?

1. Save time

Abridged versions of audiobooks save time. They offer the content you need in the context of the purpose for which you read. As such, readers who want to save time and get the meat of a text without the fat often choose an abridged audiobook over an unabridged edition.

Since abridged books are shorter than their unabridged counterparts, they also allow readers to enjoy more books in a shorter time. This makes them incredibly useful for those who want to learn fast, without reading, and without taking in unnecessary information. Reading an unabridged print book is a lot more costly than listening to an abridged audiobook.

2. Easy read

Abridged audiobook contains the main message and most important points without the extra fluff, making it an easier read. People these days tend to have shorter attention spans than ever before, and convenience is king. By abridging your audiobook, you make it easier for the listener to understand the story. Not only does that pay off in terms of the listener’s experience, but it also encourages them to purchase your book in the first place.

3. Cheaper to produce

In general, an abridged edition of a book, whether in text or audio format, is cheaper to produce than the unabridged version. The unabridged version is longer, which means it contains more pages, more formatting, and more design work. Regarding audiobooks, narrators typically get paid per the number of words they read. As such, a longer text means a higher fee for the narrator.

4. Cheaper to buy

While listeners who choose the abridged version often do so out of personal need, there is also the financial aspect to consider. Since they are cheaper to produce, abridged books are also typically cheaper to buy.

Why do people choose abridged audiobooks?

Abridged and unabridged books are popular among readers and audiobook listeners, but their purpose is different. The format you choose depends on various factors, mainly your needs.

Do you need to read several books in a short time, or would you like to invest more of your time into one book? Is the original book long and complicated, so much so that it makes you not want to bother reading it? Do you want to explore an author’s style in-depth? All of these factors influence a customer’s choice. 

Moreover, a customer may be influenced by the quality of the abridgment. People pay a lot of attention to online reviews of products before committing to a purchase. If an abridged book receives good feedback, people are more likely to buy it. However, if feedback is poor, a customer is likely to find a different version or forget about the book altogether.


On a final note, if you have managed to publish a book and are considering whether or not you should abridge it, understand that it is a wise choice. Abridged audiobooks give your audience an easier way to listen to your story or message. In today’s world of convenience, the smoother you can make the customer experience, the more successful you will be.

That being said, abridged audiobooks typically make less money in the market than their unabridged versions. People still enjoy reading the original text, and some people may feel like they are missing out on the full experience by listening to the abridged version. As such, do not neglect your unabridged version—market for both if you can.

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