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Do you have a preference for choosing an abridged or unabridged book or you are a person who doesn’t fully understand the differences? In this article, I am going to explain the differences which will make the decision-making the process clearer. We are going to discuss abridged and unabridged books as a format which is commonly applied to audio books.

Abridged vs Unabridged

So what is the difference between an unabridged and an abridged book? An unabridged book has the original content; it is not condensed or shortened in any way and is exactly as it was when originally published. It is a true representation of how the author wrote the story.

An abridged Audiobook is a shortened version of the audiobook, it is condensed by using fewer words, but still retains a sense of the original book. Some folks are very decisive about which format is best for them; many purists insist on reading the unabridged version regardless of anything else, they feel they are missing out if they read the abridged version. Others will choose the abridged version because they see certain advantages because the book has been suitably altered.

It is common for an audio book to be made available both an abridged and unabridged versions but usually the abridged is published first and costs much less. It is not unusual for each version to be released independently of each other.

So what is an unabridged book, let’s consider the purist explanation to begin with. So that there is no confusion I will quote an excerpt from Wikipedia which reads as follows:

Quote: “An abridgment is a condensing or reduction of a book or other creative work into a shorter form while maintaining the unity of the source. The abridgement can be true to the original work in terms of mood and tone, capturing the parts the abridging author perceives to be most important; it could be a complete parody of the original; or it could fall anywhere in-between, either generally capturing the tone and message of the original author but falling short in some way, or subtly twisting his words and message to favor a different interpretation or agenda “Unquote.

It needs to be made clear that an abridged book has been altered or shortened for a variety of reasons. What has been altered is not normally declared by the publisher leaving the prospective reader wondering what was omitted and why?

What Kind of Books are Available as Abridged

Many book categories offer an abridged version; novels, audiobooks, and even reference books, sometimes the intention is to make it more marketable by making the book shorter by cutting all but the most important information, in doing so they will often be easier to understand. TV broadcasts and movies are often cut for the same reasons. AbridgedStephen King has said that if a sentence that doesn’t carry the story forward, drop it. But how many authors write in accordance with that rule? It might be argued that many writings have a lot of fluff and unnecessary words and fillers that do not really add anything the crux of the story and should be edited out. A purist would argue that is not acceptable and that only the author should make that determination.

Purists might also argue that an abridged version of any of the classics would be akin to sacrilege. All that said, not all readers are purists and they are happy to accept what they see as benefits, particularly in relation the cost of the book.

How Is an Abridged Book Edited

Generally, an editor will decide which narratives, references, elements, notations, and paragraphs or anything that could be could be considered superfluous can be removed without affecting the story. As an example; In the case of a fiction book, in an instance where a story element reads ” Steve met an old friend for coffee, John was an old friend who he had known since childhood from when they both lived in the USA.” to “Steve met John, an old childhood friend for coffee”

Common Reasons for Editing a Book

So what kind of edits are made to an abridged book and why?
1. Too long, in the case of audiobooks, some exceed 40 hours, production costs for an unabridged audiobook are much higher.
Tip: Compare the two formats for listening times.
2. Often edited to suit a reader who is happy just to follow the general story which is told in an entertaining style but without the need for lots of time?

Advantages and Disadvantages for Abridged

  • Often a cheaper alternative
  • Story may be distorted when compared to original
  • May be more enjoyable as the story can be shorted yet still keep the original flow, tone and intent of the original story and is faster and easier reading.
  • The common attributes of an abridged book often make it more accessible to a wider audience.
  • Hard copy books can also be abridged, most commonly in textbooks
  • Advantages and Disadvantages for Unabridged

  • An unabridged book is true to the original book, unaltered in any way.
  • Can take a long time to read or listen too
  • In the case of an audio book if it is a long-running book, production and distribution costs are much more expensive, therefore so is the cost of the book.
  • Summary

    Abridgement is very common in all forms of media: television, movies, plays, radio etc.
    Almost all category’s of media are included, fiction, non-fiction, documentaries, biographies and many more. It’s a technique that has many advantages and in many cases needs to be done because of the many limitations and time constraints of modern media and it means that no other option exists.

    Books however most often do allow an option for the reader to choose.

    Leave a Comment Below

    People have all kinds or reasons for choosing either abridged or unabridged versions of a book. If you have an opinion or a question, comment in the designated area below.


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