What Are the Real Differences Between Abridged and Unabridged Audiobooks

Audiobooks are currently the most consumed product of the publishing industry. The wide range of genres and styles make this derivative work a complete delight, from the standard narration of non-fiction titles to the great voice acting narrators, sound effects, and soundtracks of many fiction productions. 

Book lovers and non-lovers are finding audiobooks the perfect combination to grab great quality content. Those who enjoy reading are looking forward to the audiobook version to compare if the story remains as good as they perceived it when they read it, and non-lovers either can’t or don’t want to spend huge amounts of time on tons of written text but get to the point, or being able to do something else at the same time.

The real differences between abridged and unabridged books are: length, format, popularity, the number of pages of the print book, their genres, and the impact books have when they are launched first as print paperback or eBooks.

How to Recognize if an Audiobook Is Abridged or Unabridged

To recognize if an audiobook is abridged or unabridged, first, look at the length: Less than 3 hours tend to be the first characteristic. Then, look at the description of the audiobook: it will show the author, narrator, and the version (abridged or unabridged). Audiobooks produced before 2004 were launched on CD. They were adapted to shorter versions to reduce production costs and offer attractive prices for customers.

Listening to the sample audio can let you have a first impression of the book. If you like it, add the title to your wish list or just purchase it and treat yourself!

Why Are Unabridged Audiobooks More Popular

Unabridged audiobooks are more popular because current audiences prefer original versions, most of the titles make part of a bestsellers list, they are recorded by talented narrators with positive reviews and background, and for a low price they can be purchased on a monthly subscription (from $7.95 to $14.95 on average).

  • Thanks to the steady growth and wide acceptance of audiobooks from the early 2000s up to now (according to Google Trends), people have been looking at getting the original versions of their favorite books, no matter how long it takes to listen to them.
  • If you look at the 100 bestsellers section in your favorite audiobook retailer platform, you can notice that on average 25 audiobooks are fiction, 75 are fiction, and all of them are unabridged.
  • On many occasions, the success of an audiobook is achieved thanks to the quality of the narration. Many users (like me) click on the name of the narrator to see how many other titles they have recorded. You can see those details in the description of the audiobook, where it shows the Performance (narrator), Story (author), and Overall (production) ratings.
  • Every time a subscriber purchases a highly rated, unabridged, bestseller audiobook with a credit, the audiobook platform has gained a loyal customer and that’s beneficial for authors, narrators, and loyal audiences.

All these reasons demonstrate that people enjoy getting the best of their available time by listening to a good story or quality content that will enhance their general knowledge or help develop a skill when commuting, working out, or at any spare time they have.

What Audiobook Genres are Abridged

Most of the abridged audiobooks available on the largest audiobook retailers are non-fiction, mainly from original productions before 2004, which have been launched again as a digital download. Some abridged titles are adaptations of classics of literature whose printed books are more than 550 pages, and whose unabridged version would take between 29 to 55 hours of audio content.

The table below shows the average number of abridged audiobooks in Audible (2021) for each nonfiction genre:

GenreNumber of Audiobooks Available
Biographies & Memoirs+1,000
Business & Careers+1,000
Children’s Audiobooks+2,000
Computers & Technology27
Education & Learning802
Health & Wellness770
Home & Garden91
Literature & Fiction+7,000
Money & Finance1,046
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense3,000
Politics & Social Sciences989
Relationships, Parenting & Personal Development+1000
Religion & Spirituality+1,000
Science & Engineering207
Science Fiction & Fantasy835
Sports & Outdoors228
Teen & Young Adult450
Travel & Tourism225

Why Would an Audiobook Be Unabridged

The main reason an audiobook is launched as an unabridged version is that its printed book and eBook have already been successful. Thus, the producer or author knows the audio version of the entire original work can be widely accepted by its current fans. Loyal fans also like to purchase the Whispersync version to enjoy reading the eBook and listening to the audio version at the same time.

  • Of the 93 audiobooks that make the Best Sellers list in Audible, 100% are unabridged, 68.8% are fiction, and 32% nonfiction, on average (2021). This data answers the following question:
  • From the point of view of an author or producer, making an unabridged audiobook is a must, once other preview titles have been well received by the readers and current audiences.
  • Unabridged audiobooks are usually narrated by talented and experienced narrators, who have a portfolio of over 60 recorded audiobooks and other audio products, such as voice-over radio, TV, and internet ads.

Are Most Audiobooks Abridged?

The data shows that 100% of the best-sellers audiobooks in Audible are unabridged. When typing in the search box for “abridged audiobooks”, the results show that there are over 20,000 titles available (see the table above: What Audiobook Genres are Abridged).

Are All Audiobooks Unabridged?

At least more than 65% of the best seller titles in Audible are unabridged versions, and so they have been in the past 5 years. People who enjoy reading, tend to love audiobooks, and people who don’t like to spend tons of time-consuming written text or need to make the best of their available time, choose unabridged versions, as they can set a timer to listen to their favorite contents when commuting, working out or at the time when they really need it.

Which Audiobook Version is Most Popular

Whether we want to believe it or not, original complete versions of books have been produced as audiobooks, with even more than 55 hours in length! Titles such as Harry Potter and Game of Thrones show thousands of positive reviews. Check the facts in the table below, according to Audible:

TitleAuthor and NarratorLengthRating (0 – 5 stars)
A Game of Thrones
A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1
By: George R.R. Martin
Narrated by: Roy Dotrice
33 hrs and 46 mins130,389 
5 out of 5 stars
A Clash of Kings
A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2
By: George R.R. Martin
Narrated by: Roy Dotrice
37 hrs and 12 mins80,553
5 out of 5 stars
A Storm of Swords
A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 3
By: George R.R. Martin
Narrated by: Roy Dotrice
47 hrs and 34 mins69,082 
5 out of 5 stars
A Feast for Crows
A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4
By: George R.R. Martin
Narrated by: Roy Dotrice
33 hrs and 51 mins51,015
4.5 out of 5 stars
A Dance with Dragons
A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5
By: George R.R. Martin
Narrated by: Roy Dotrice
48 hrs and 55 mins53,732  4.5 out of 5 stars
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Book 1By: J.K. Rowling
Narrated by: Stephen Fry
9 hrs and 33 mins5,339 5 out of 5 stars
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Book 2By: J.K. Rowling
Narrated by: Stephen Fry
11 hrs and 5 mins3,617      
5 out of 5 stars
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Book 3By: J.K. Rowling
Narrated by: Stephen Fry
13 hrs and 10 mins3,183
5 out of 5 stars
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Book 4By: J.K. Rowling
Narrated by: Stephen Fry
22 hrs and 17 mins3,076
5 out of 5 stars

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Book 5 
By: J.K. Rowling
Narrated by: Stephen Fry
30 hrs and 18 mins2,942 
5 out of 5 stars
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Book 6By: J.K. Rowling
Narrated by: Stephen Fry
21 hrs and 27 mins2,675
5 out of 5 stars
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Book 7By: J.K. Rowling
Narrated by: Stephen Fry
24 hrs4,564
5 out of 5 stars

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