Many audiobooks are provided in both abridged and unabridged formats.
Unabridged audiobooks are narrated word-for-word from the text of the written book. Abridged versions are shortened, sometimes significantly, by editing the content to appeal to readers who want to read the content, but do not want to invest the time.
So my question is this: As a reader, how do I choose which one to read?
Advantages of Abridged:
Some readers do not want to invest 12-30 hours or more to listening to an audiobook. They elect to listen to the shorter versions that can provide most of the content in a condensed amount of time. Abridged versions are also less expensive than their unabridged counterparts.
Advantages of Unabridged:
Unabridged volumes contain the book in its entirety, exactly as it was written. No content is edited or omitted. Readers are listening to the book precisely as the author intended it to be heard.
Is One Better?
I suppose that if a book contains a lot of “fluff” or excessively descriptive passages that are not necessary to the general story, it would be a good candidate for abridging. Similarly, nonfiction books that examine minutia that do not enhance the content could be shortened without detriment to the overall substance.
Let’s look at one of my favorites: The Time Traveler’s Wife. The unabridged version boasts a length of 17 hours and 43 minutes, while the abridged version is 12 hours and 6 minutes. An average person reads aloud at a rate of about 150 words/minute. The average number of words per page is probably around 300. By my inexact and unscientific estimation, the 5.6 hour reduction equals a loss of around 168 pages. Wow. That seems like a lot to lose!
I can’t imagine missing out on any of the content of my favorite books. Personally, I think I would be concerned with what I was missing. An editor may decide that a passage is nonessential to the experience, but my opinion may differ. I wouldn’t want to miss one word of The Time Traveler’s Wife nor a page of any of Wally Lamb’s intricate stories. Will I always feel this way? I have no clue. For now, I’ll stick to the whole story.