Abridged vs. Unabridged Audiobook: What’s Best for Authors?

Abridged vs. Unabridged Audiobook

These days, most audiobooks aren’t abridged or shortened. However, some audiobooks have an abridged version. Why? Three very specific groups like condensed audiobooks. They are: students looking for a short version of a classic, parents trying to encourage young readers, and busy listeners who don’t have much time.

As an author, there may be an advantage in creating two versions of your manuscript. For example, if you’re writing a long, detailed manuscript on business, history, or religion, creating the abridged version may be a way to attract a new audience. This shorter manuscript can then be turned into a paperback book, ebook, and audiobook.

On the other hand, abridged audiobooks are becoming obsolete due to technology. Almost all audiobook players allow the listener to vary the speed of the audiobook. I’ve listened to many long, detailed audiobooks at 1.5x the speed. In these cases, I was only interested in the general idea of the audiobook.

However, there will always be listeners who prefer the condensed version, and therefore it could be worth an author’s time to create one.

The rest of this article discusses what is best for authors who are considering creating an abridged and unabridged audiobook.

What does abridged vs. unabridged mean?

Abridged vs. Unabridged Audiobook difference

An abridged audiobook is a shortened version of the author’s original work. It’s condensed but contains the ideas of the original work.

An unabridged audiobook has the author’s original words. It’s not shortened and represents the author’s true intent.

Audiobooks are abridged when students are the intended audience, and the text contains long detailed information. Authors creating audiobooks in the teaching niche that include genres like history or biographies should also consider an abridged version.

I remember forcing my way through a long detailed biography of someone famous (I don’t remember who now). I spent many pages just skimming the text because I didn’t find it interesting. However, a condensed version that contained all of the essential points would have helped me remember the book.

Some genres are best unabridged. Authors who create audiobooks for entertainment like mystery, science fiction, thrillers, and romance may not gain too much of an advantage by creating an abridged version of their manuscript. These are the types of audiobooks where listeners want to “get lost” in the story. Therefore, the longer form is precisely what these listeners want as they take in all the twists and turns of the plot.

How can you create an abridged version of your audiobook?

Recording audiobook

You can create an abridged version of your audiobook, by starting with a shortened version of your manuscript. If your manuscript is fiction, you create an abridged version by condensing descriptions, world-building elements, scenes, and backstory.

If your document is non-fiction, you can reduce it by decreasing detailed descriptions, instructions, background information, and references.

After you’ve made your abridged manuscript, you still need to send it to an editor. There will places where you’ve removed too much information and others where you could remove more. Your goal is to shorten your manuscript by 30% to 70%.

Another option is to send your original manuscript to an editor with a request to create an abridged manuscript. Publishing houses frequently use these types of editors to create abridged books and audiobooks.

Once you have your new manuscript, you’ll need a new cover for your paperback book, ebook, and audiobook. The new cover should include the word “abridged” on the cover page, in the description, and in the details (metadata that includes author, title, length, etc.)

The reason is that your fans will usually prefer the unabridged version of your audiobook, and you want to make sure they don’t accidentally purchase a version they don’t want.

Once your manuscript has been turned into a paperback book and ebook, then you need to go through the steps to have the audiobook created. You may choose to use Amazon’s Audible because it’s the company with the largest market share. However, you may be interested in an up-and-coming competitor, Findaway Voices.

If you are interested in creating an audiobook on Audible, please take a look at my article How to Publish an Audiobook on iTunes. If you’re interested in making an audiobook with Findaway Voices, please take a look at my article How to Publish an Audiobook on Google Play.

Is unabridged better than abridged?

book recording

Usually, unabridged audiobooks offer a better listener experience than abridged audiobooks. Many times when the author takes the time to craft their words, they are really thinking about the impact to the reader or listener. Abridging the story takes away some of the author’s intent in writing the manuscript.

In addition, the Audio Publishers Association stopped reporting on abridged audiobooks several years ago. The APA 2016 Sales and Survey Report lists unabridged audiobook consumption at 96.3%. This means less than 4% of audiobook listeners chose abridged audiobooks.

However, as I mentioned above, there are specific cases where the abridged version will provide a better reading and listening experience. Abridged books and audiobooks are much better when a student needs to quickly consume a large amount of information.

In addition, abridged children’s books and audiobooks work very well for parents trying to get a new reader excited. When my daughter was younger, I read several history books to her. They were all abridged with loads of colored images. Afterwards, she was so interested we continued our discussion and even looked up additional information on the Internet. It was a great learning experience.

During that time, she also listened to audiobooks, but they were in the science fiction and fantasy genres. These audiobooks were always unabridged.

Abridged audiobooks are good if the listener is trying to understand the main topics or themes of an audiobook. Also, they help students obtain information faster. Unabridged audiobooks are also good when you’re listening at leisure and want to get lost in the twists and turns of your latest thriller.

Are Audible books abridged?

Amazon Audible

Audible is an audiobook store and it has a large selection of abridged and unabridged audiobook. Audible’s abridged audiobooks span several genres. It’s the perfect place for busy audiobook listeners to be exposed to Arts & Entertainment, Business & Careers, Computers & Technology, and more.

Many of the abridged children’s audiobooks include classics like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin,” “The Count of Monte Cristo,” and “The Secret Garden.” These audiobooks represent a chance for kids to get interested in reading while they’re young. In addition, some children listen to the audiobook while reading the book.

Students interested in a condensed version of history could listen to “Julius Caesar,” “The Republic,” and “Homer.” These audiobooks could allow the student to grasp the overall importance of learning about ancient Greece.

Authors who write and create audiobooks could increase their sales by creating an abridged version of their manuscript. This will allow students, children, and busy adults to discover your writing.

How do you tell if a book is abridged or unabridged?

If you want to know whether or not a book or audiobook is abridged or unabridged, the words “abridged” will appear on the cover page, in the description, or in the details (metadata that includes author, title, publisher, etc.)

Audible lists whether or not an audiobook is abridged in the details underneath the description. It’s easy to miss the “abridged” or “unabridged” text buried in the details section, so read carefully before you purchase your audiobook.

If you’re an author who has self-published an abridged book or audiobook, make sure the word “abridged” appears as prominently as possible. If you don’t make it clear, then you’ll hear from many of angry fans.

What is the difference between an audiobook and a CD?

cD player for audiobooks

When a listener is thinking of purchasing an audiobook, she can choose to download an audio file (MP3, M4A, M4B, etc.). A second option is to purchase a CD (compact disk) that will contain the same audio file but in a physical format.

Downloading is the fastest way for a listener to get the audiobook. Ordering a CD will take several days to weeks for the listener to receive the audiobook. Most PC’s will play a CD, but you need to double check before ordering it.

Some listeners prefer to experience their audiobooks on a CD. As an author, this is a good option if you’re able to create the CD and store it in the Amazon warehouse. Allowing listeners to choose a CD increases the number of new fans that will find you.


Abridged audiobooks are a condensed version of the original manuscript whereas unabridged audiobooks contain all the entire manuscript from the author. The best option for authors depends entirely on the audience.

An adult with a modern audiobook player reading for entertainment will prefer an unabridged audiobook. However, an elementary school child still learning to read may prefer a shortened version of the author’s detailed history audiobook.

Which type of audiobook to you prefer? Abridged? Unabridged? Does it depend on why you’re reading? Let me know in the comments below.

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