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Abridged or Unabridged?

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message 1: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Davidson (wulfalpha) | 10 comments I apologize in advance if this is a repeat thread. I was wondering what the community thinks. I feel that abridged novels are great, and much faster to read, but at the same time you potentially miss a lot. does it matter to any one else? I enjoy getting caught up in the flow of a story, and some times an abridged work can have an entirely different feel.


message 2: by Michele (new)

Michele | 1154 comments I don't think I've ever read anything abridged so I have nothing to compare. I've always just made sure I picked the unabridged because the other seemed like cheating. I've even avoided abridged audio. But then for me, the longer the book the better. I would always wonder what I missed.


message 3: by Casey (new)

Casey | 654 comments Abridged audiobooks? Sheer lunacy.


message 4: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 833 comments The exception being the abridged version of World War Z - not because it's abridged, but because it has a truly impressive cast. Which can happen when you're the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft and have access to all their Hollywood pals. ;-)


message 5: by Deon (new)

Deon (noed) | 67 comments I have no experience with abridged books. I can see why you'd do abridged audio (more radio play like, or even to cut out "he said"s), but isn't abridging just a step toward Cliff's Notes? What is the purpose? I hope I'm not coming off as insulting, I am genuinely curious. I have always assumed books that were abridged were directed toward students trying to avoid an assigned book.


message 6: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4144 comments I can see the lure (sort of) of abridged audiobooks. I never knew there was such a thing as an abridged print edition. I don't think I could ever read an abridged book. I'd spend too much time wondering about what was cut out.

That said, having read some books, I can say that in retrospect, an "abridged" version wouldn't have been the end of the world.


message 7: by Carly (last edited Aug 24, 2013 05:39PM) (new)

Carly (dawnsio_ar_y_dibyn) | 21 comments I have a fondness for BBC radio plays, which are certainly a form of abridgment. When I was little, my family used to listen to tapes of the BBC radio play of Lord of the Rings on all of our long car trips. I've read the book and seen the movies and I still think the radio programme is perhaps my favourite version (Stephen Thorne is an amazing Treebeard). They did cut out Tom Bombadil, though.

I don't really get why reading for pleasure would still be subject to accusations of "cheating." If you get enjoyment out of the abridged version and don't attribute flaws in the abridged version to the true book, what's wrong with that?


message 8: by Casey (last edited Aug 24, 2013 06:02PM) (new)

Casey | 654 comments Carly wrote: "I don't really get why reading for pleasure would still be subject to accusations of "cheating." If you get enjoyment out of the abridged version and don't attribute flaws in the abridged version to the true book, what's wrong with that?"

"To each their own," I say. So long as it doesn't adversely affect me. If someone has the desire to read/listen/become aware of, but only to a partial degree of the subject, that's on them. I struggle to comprehend how anyone would want to permit someone else (editor) to determine the relevant "gist."

But hey, just my opinion.


message 9: by Carly (new)

Carly (dawnsio_ar_y_dibyn) | 21 comments Casey wrote: struggle to comprehend how anyone would want to permit someone else (editor) to determine the relevant "gist..."

I suspect abridgment is usually applied to "classics," so aren't they usually rather past caring? Otherwise, I suspect it is like any other adaptation, be it film or audio: while they may not be happy about the abridgment, at least some subset of their ideas reach more minds. And, of course, there's the monetary aspect.

To quote P.G. Wodehouse [about J&W films and movies], " I did not draw myself to my full height and issue a cold nolle-prosequi; I just asked them how much gold they had in mind...one tends to lose one's austerity, and today I should not object very strongly if someone wanted to do JEEVES ON ICE."


message 10: by Michele (new)

Michele | 1154 comments Yes, whenever I see classics that are abridged I think of students getting the shorter, easier to read versions for school, and then they become associated with Cliff Notes.

This is completely unfair but that's where my mind wants to put them.

Anyways, like I said, I like great big books and would always wonder what I was missing in an abridged version.

Audio, I'm not sure about. If it's got a full cast and is turned into an almost play, then that's different. I only noticed because I was looking to get The Crystal Cave, one of my favorite books, as an audiobook and there was only an abridged version, so I didn't buy it.


message 11: by Darren (new)

Darren I think of Reader's Digest Condensed Books, which are awful.


message 12: by Gary (new)

Gary As a general rule, I don't think reading an abridged book is a good idea. It would be OK in certain situations, like for children reading something that the original might be too advanced for, or a book might be abridged for the sake of the vastness of the original book. I don't know if most people really need to read the entirety of The Golden Bough, for example. Most people don't require all 20 volumes of the complete Oxford English Dictionary.

So, 99% of the time people should read the original in its original form.


message 13: by Carly (new)

Carly (dawnsio_ar_y_dibyn) | 21 comments I don't personally read/audio abridged books other than radio plays because I also like getting the full story, but I also don't begrudge the enjoyment of people who do.
I also agree with Gary--sometimes the originals are so dense that some of us casual readers just won't bother otherwise. I could see the point of abridging a book like Les Misérables. (You could pull out the entire Napoleon-fanboying section and not hurt the narrative a bit, IMO.) As I don't do abridgements, I've never managed to forge my way through that darned book, and that seems the worst outcome of all.


message 14: by kvon (new)

kvon | 562 comments I read an abridged War and Peace, and an unabridged Les Miserables, and I'm all for abridging long books. Digressions may matter to the author, but not to me. Still, when I'm looking at audiobook titles, unabridged is my preference.


message 15: by Andreas (new)

Andreas I've read so many books recently which are way too long (I mean: 100-150 pages out of 500) and should have been shortened by the author, that I'm not completely opposed to abridged book.

Though Darren seems to have negative impressions from Reader's Digest, I've read a couple books which didn't leave the impression that you would miss something at all.


message 16: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments I grew up with the Reader's Digest Condensed Books. It was pretty cool because you would get a quarterly volume that contained 3 to 5 of the latest books. I read so many books out of them when I was really young. That was where I first read To Kill a Mockingbird. Those books were great for getting exposure to books that you otherwise might not read. They had a good variety and didn't include trash. I have no idea what was edited out or if I would like them now, but they did have their place and time. Plus, they sure looked attractive on the shelf. I have read a lot of books in recent years that probably could have stood the Reader's Digest condensation treatment.


message 17: by Casey (new)

Casey | 654 comments I still believe abridgments are works of sheer lunacy, but I do not wish to stand in the way of others deriving pleasure from such lunatic practices :)
No, but seriously. I've been mulling this over.

It sounds like a large proponent for abridgments is making something that is thought to be overly long more manageable for the reader by an act of reduction. This argument being, it may reach more individuals, and thus in a more palatable presentation, cause an effect where as without an abridgment, no reader involvement would have occurred. Logic being, partial exposure is preferred to no exposure. Can anyone else spot the postmodern dangers affiliated to such lines of logic? Because I do, and it's a little frightening.


As soon as we abridge, reduce, make less the subject, we have reshaped the whole. Literature isn't the same as the OED. For most of us, a single volume dictionary will suffice (Oh God, I'm old. I should have said Google not a dictionary). Point being, we have the ability to quickly locate an unknown word.

But an abridgment of The Count of Monte Cristo is not The Count of Monte Cristo. Any opinion formed in the 600-800 page abridgment, be not but opinions built on sandy shores. Does this mean you can't read the abridgment? Of course you can. But the abridgment is part of something greater. If it is in your power, why not taste the intricate richness of completeness and know the entirety of the work?

Part of what makes love so deep and complex is the associated pain and necessary grief, which ultimately is what renders love so damn delicate and beautiful. Can you know love without pain? No, you can't. Can you know something very similar to love without pain? Yes, you can. But it isn't love.

Literature is like love, if you short it, you really only end up shorting yourself.


And blah, blah, blah, blah. Sorry, didn't mean to go on and on and on like some unabridged post :)


message 18: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Davidson (wulfalpha) | 10 comments You know, this is one of those instances where I find myself agreeing with more than one point of view. You all make such cogent points. Abridged works have their place, but so do unabridged works. While I do agree that some books could do with a bit of a pruning, I feel that there would have to be a difference between a work that was so shortened and a work that is relatively the same as when the author penned it (or typed or dictated, what ever the case may be)


message 19: by Deon (new)

Deon (noed) | 67 comments See, Casey expressed what was on my mind as well. If it is abridged, it isn't the original work. (I don't want to rekindle the reading vs. audio debate, I am definitely not saying it "doesn't count" as reading, or it is lazy.) There is something to be said for author intent, however. If the author intends for you to get a set of information, it seems like an insult to the work to let an after-the-fact editor pick and choose which parts of the whole are important. However, especially for children, as Sandi pointed out, it does seem like a great way to introduce literature. It occurs to me now, on reflection, just how many shortened versions of classics I had available as a child.


message 20: by Carly (new)

Carly (dawnsio_ar_y_dibyn) | 21 comments Deon wrote: "See, Casey expressed what was on my mind as well. If it is abridged, it isn't the original work. (I don't want to rekindle the reading vs. audio debate, I am definitely not saying it "doesn't cou..."

I agree with most of this. I do not believe that the abridged is identical to the work, any more than a movie adaptation is identical to the work. Both are adaptations, but it doesn't mean that people shouldn't be allowed to enjoy them. For my case with Les Mis, I actually have seen an abridgement--the musical--which is why I keep attempting to read the book. Since I'm interested in the differences between the adaptation and the real work, a textual abridgement wouldn't make sense. But I still appreciate the enjoyment I could garner from the musical adaptation. I don't think they are equivalent to the originals, but I also don't see anything wrong with enjoying them.


message 21: by Gary (new)

Gary I don't think people should read an abridged version of Les Miserables.... :)

I think an abridgement should be reserved for

1. Children.

2. Truly long, multi-volume works that really only need be read by the specialist or someone seeking that kind of knowledge. The examples I gave before were the OED (which is 20 volumes) and The Golden Bough (4 volumes.)

I don't think most laymen need to read the entirety of either of those.

For something like Les Miserables, though, I think one needs The Full Monty, if you will. Yes, it's a big book, and that requires a reading skill and dedication that is greater than, say, James and the Giant Peach but that's kind of the point.


message 22: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 833 comments Many years ago, I read a book on writing by Patricia Highsmith in which she mentioned being picked for Reader's Digest Condensed Books. She did NOT want to just edit it down, so she rewrote the book. She found that a lot of the more important passages turned out to be word for word the same.

Now, THAT'S dedication!


As for the value in an abridgment: The purist in me says "No! Don't do it!" The realist says "Yeah, but am I really ever going to read that doorstop of a book otherwise?" So far, I can only remember two (I had a really long commute several decades ago, listened to a lot of self-help tapes, got tired of them, got some audiobooks from the library that turned out to be abridged). One I reread in full (All the Weyrs of Pern), the other (a Star Trek novel) I'm happy to leave as is. And as mentioned above, I listened to the famous cast audio of World War Z, but I read the rest of the book, also (it was for a book club; I'm NOT into zombie fiction).

So yeah, I don't actually read abridgments much. Although I do skip stuff sometimes, but I don't count it as read. So my own personal abridgment, which I fill in (by rereading straight through) if I care enough and don't if I don't. Just did that in fact for a couple of novellas in a series, was glad I had.

In other words, I dunno....


message 23: by Paul (new)

Paul  Perry (pezski) | 490 comments I've always hated abridged books. Whenever I see those Readers Digest volumes in charity shops I shudder (you know the ones? They'd generally collect four or five abridged novels in one volume). Even hough I can see how, when that started, it brought a wider range of books to people who otherwise might not have encountered them (despite, in the UK, that we once had an awesome public libraries system) the idea of abridging a novel horrifies me. Surely it takes out the nuance, the detail, that the author and editor have crafted? (OK, you can argue various authors who perhaps need trimming, but that's an editorial question for another thread)

That said, I listen to an awful lot of book readings on BBC radio and, for time constraints, they are usually abridged. Sometimes it shows and you can tell that you are listening to either a selected readings (usually the case for short story collections or non-fiction) or a pared-down version. But often the abridgement is very well done (and fitted to the audio format of however many 15 or 30 minute episodes) so it works.


message 24: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (new)

Tassie Dave | 3542 comments Mod
We all agree some books need to be better edited, but having some person without any input from the author just rip out huge chunks of a book is sacrilege.

I never read abridged books.


message 25: by Belle (new)

Belle (grimmira) I actually have very strong feelings on this topic, so I hope I don't offend anyone.
I despise abridged books. I see them as lazy & dumbed- down. I refuse to read them. I won't buy them. I won't allow my kids to read them. My kids also aren't allowed to read 'for kids' versions of books (like "Shakespeare For Kids") because it is an abridged version. The way I see it, I would prefer they wait until they are ready, including emotionally & psychologically as well as having the skill & vocabulary, before reading a book. If a book needs to be dumbed-down for a person to understand or appreciate it, maybe that person isn't ready for that book.
A book was meant to be read as originally written. The author chose those words for a reason. They added that specific amount of detail for a reason. They worked on that book for days, weeks, months, sometimes years. They edited, proofread, and rewrote to get it exactly the way they wanted it. They put a piece of themselves into their work. To have someone else cut out chunks they feel are unimportant, replace words they feel are too difficult/old-fashioned/offensive, or in any other way shorten or change that work is just wrong. It takes some serious hubris to assume you are better qualified than the author to decide what about his work should be changed or removed.


message 26: by Thane (new)

Thane | 476 comments I always thought abridged books had to be the worst thing ever. Then I got deep into the Wheel of Time books. I'm thinking a nice abridged version would be juuuuuussst fine. At least until I get to the Sanderson stuff. Hm.

Wonder how far the graphic novels have gotten? Of course, that's technically an adaptation, a different animal.


message 27: by Leesa (new)

Leesa (leesalogic) | 643 comments I won't read/listen to abridged versions of books.

If someone enjoys reading abridgements/condensed versions, that's OK with me. I have some from my Grandfather's library when he passed away. I will likely never read them, but I do like looking at them.


message 28: by Christopher (new)

Christopher Preiman | 347 comments I kind of understand the reason for abridgment from back when all audiobooks had to come on tape from a bookstore. Some books would have simply taken up too much space and cost too much. But beyond that example I just don't get it.


message 29: by Amy (new)

Amy Sinnott | 31 comments Eh. I subscribed to the Readers Digest books when I was sixteen, just out of home and thinking it was a good way to get cheap books. A few really good ones I read later on in full. Others I didn't, but the pot luck style meant I was still exposed to some wonderful stories I wouldn't otherwise have read, bibliographies in particular that were just amazing and that I still remember fondly.

I also read Les Mis in full, unabridged at the age of fourteen. So I'm not a lazy reader. When buying books though I do prefer length and sometimes wish some authors were still paid per-word like the old days (yeah Butcher, I'm looking at YOU). I have picked audio books based on length if tossing up between two and I wouldn't deliberately choose abridged now though- I don't read pot luck anymore, too many must reads on my list!


Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1864 comments I'm generally quite negative about abridged versions. I was a kid still learning the finer points of reading when my mum told me the readers digest book I'd been struggling to get through was abridged. Suddenly, it didn't seem worth the effort, since I couldn't keep from wondering what I was missing, and felt like I wasn't reading the book 'properly'.

That said, I do think abridged stories have a place in educational anthologies designed to give the reader enough to understand the text and it's place among others.


message 31: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Morgan | 70 comments I can't remember the last time I saw an abridged version of a book or audiobook ... does it still happen?


message 32: by Rick (new)

Rick P. | 53 comments I'm firmly on the side of unabridged. I want to enjoy every paragraph that an author writes for a book and often feel remorse when a good story ends.

That said, there does seem to be one downside to unabridged audiobooks. Apparently, when it's unabridged, the acting talent is required to read every single "he said" and "she said." This can be particularly excruciating when it's a John Scalzi book.


message 33: by Gary (new)

Gary Andrew wrote: "I can't remember the last time I saw an abridged version of a book or audiobook ... does it still happen?"

I've never seen (heard?) an abridged audio book, but I've never looked, and I'm not all that into the audio book thing, so I can't really say. However, I've seen a lot of abridged versions of books. Generally, the ones I've seen are the classics: Dracula, The Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick, Austen, Twain, etc. I haven't seen a lot of contemporary ones, though.


message 34: by Deon (new)

Deon (noed) | 67 comments "This can be particularly excruciating when it's a John Scalzi book", he said. He was sooooooooo right. There should be a special word for this, so we could look for it. Maybe "sanity abridgment".


message 35: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Morgan | 70 comments Gary wrote: "I've never seen (heard?) an abridged audio book, but I've never looked, an..."

Where do you find them?


message 36: by Gary (last edited Sep 01, 2013 11:46PM) (new)

Gary Andrew wrote: "Where do you find them?"

Abridged classics? I've only seen them show up at school libraries or in classrooms. I don't order those books or anything, though, so I haven't any idea who publishes them. Honestly, don't read them, or use them in a class, so I can't say anything about how functional they are.


message 37: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4144 comments Audible has abridged audiobooks. For some searches, I find it easier to use unabridged as one of the filters.


message 38: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Morgan | 70 comments Gary wrote: "Andrew wrote: "Where do you find them?"

Abridged classics? I've only seen them show up at school libraries or in classrooms. I don't order those books or anything, though, so I haven't any idea ..."


Ah, I see. Yes, I think the last one I saw was in a charity shop.


message 39: by Andrew (new)

Andrew Davidson (wulfalpha) | 10 comments Sad, it seems like this thread has been abridged


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