Audiobooks discussion

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Book Talk > What's the point of abridged audiobooks?

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message 1: by Chris (last edited Aug 08, 2012 03:42PM) (new)

Chris Nicholson | 50 comments This may sound like a straw man argument, but in the year or so I've been listening to audiobooks, I've never once been tempted to get an abridged version of a book.

To me at least, it's like saying, "Here, we've made you a beautiful chocolate cake. For the same price, do you want all of it, or half?"


The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) (pirateghost) It's more like saying... how about just the icing?

Abridged is how celebrities read lots of books so they can endorse them without having a clue what's in them.


message 3: by Chris (new)

Chris Nicholson | 50 comments *like*


message 4: by Kim (new)

Kim (kimmr) | 83 comments I guess they appeal to some people, but I can't come at an abridged book at all, whether as an audiobook or in text format. If I don't want to read all of a book, then I don't want to read it at all.


message 5: by David (new)

David | 40 comments I agree--abridged audiobooks are never on my list of books to listen/read.


message 6: by Eileen (new)

Eileen I've only once listened to abridged book, because it was free. I didn't like it at all. I kept thinking, there has to be more to the story.

Oh...yes...abridged book...never again.


message 7: by John, Moderator (new)

John | 4782 comments Though this topic has been beaten to death, I'll chime in that certain long nonfiction books might be better as abridged, to make them more "general interest" for those leery of drowning in detail.


The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) (pirateghost) I might go with certain non-fiction books, and maybe books I have to read for a class but don't really want to, but, for myself, I've never wanted less detail on a fiction book i chose to read.


message 9: by Jeanie (new)

Jeanie | 5550 comments Like John, I'll add my two cents to a topic that in this group is like preaching to the choir. Short answer, I hate abridged audiobooks.

I think abridged audiobooks were some of the first to be introduced to the public because there was a false perception that those who didn't have time to read the print book would feel they didnt have time for the unabridged version. Also, it was a way to keep up with the hot new titles and talk shallowly with friends about them. I think it was also felt that commuters and people taking trips were the biggest portion of the target audience and no one could imagine a person keeping track of a long story over time. It was also a shortcut for people who wanted to "read" literary classics without having to try too hard--my first and only run through of The Picture of Dorian Gray was 2 abridged cassettes (a gift from a well-meaning friend).

Personally, I avoid abridged books of any kind and the few times no other option was available I finished feeling the loss of the sections that were missing, even if I didn't know what they were.
My one notable exception is that I think The DaVinci Code is better in its abridged form--tighter story with no key events missing that can't be inferred. A few autobiographies read by the author in the abridged form only are OK too sometimes.


message 10: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie | 4075 comments Me too; I would never choose to read an abridged book, audiobook or in paper format. For me, style is more important than the content of a book. I don't want the prose altered. If only an abridged form of an audiobook is available, such is often true to those of us living in Europe, then I don't read it at all. Only the real thing will do for me!


message 11: by Sara ♥ (new)

Sara ♥ (saranicole) | 305 comments It seems like they used to make abridged versions a lot more 10-15 years ago (on cassette) than they do now. Most fiction books I've read recently are ONLY available unabridged, which is WONDERFUL. It seems like that's industry standard now. I've been getting audiobooks on CD from the library for maybe 5 years now, and I think I've only gotten a couple abridged versions (and promptly returned them).

The classics and books released years ago are a different story, of course. I don't read or listen to much nonfiction, so I'm less familiar with abridged vs unabridged for the genre.


message 12: by John, Moderator (last edited Aug 08, 2012 10:33PM) (new)

John | 4782 comments Okay ... from the many previous discussions we've all had on this topic, folks here largely hate the idea. I've only listened to one abridged version of a book, Lessons in Becoming Myself, memoir of actress Ellen Burstyn. She narrated it and presumably decided what to leave out. Out of curiosity, I looked through a print version afterwards, coming away with the feeling that she'd done a good job of leaving the story intact.
Abridged fiction sounds like a bit of an odd concept to me, but I suppose it'd be possible to cut out certain storylines. With longer classics it might be attractive for those who are daunted by the entire thing?

Jeanie: I think you're being a bit dismissive in blaming things on the readers almost entirely. From a marketing point of view, it was a lot easier to produce, transport, and sell a two-cassette abridgement, so producers encouraged consumers to consider that option. They weren't going to be selling all that many packages of more than four cassettes to consumers, other than libraries. 25 years ago Walkmen were for music, few people besides yours truly would consider listening to a book with one! For those of you who weren't part of the "scene" back then, unabridged books would come in huge boxes, sometimes two boxes of a dozen or more cassettes. Since I liked to listen on plane flights, and couldn't easily pack those boxes in a carryon bag, rummaging around for the next cassette was kind of a pain!

Getting back to Chris' original point of why they offer abridged editions, some folks prefer getting the gist of a story without the subplots?


message 13: by Jeanie (new)

Jeanie | 5550 comments John wrote: "Okay ... from the many previous discussions we've all had on this topic, folks here largely hate the idea. I've only listened to one abridged version of a book, Lessons in Becoming Myself, memoir o..."

I have to admit considerations of space for the older cassettes--or even LPs--hadn't occured to me. Fair point. My earlier response was blaming it less on the reader than those marketing abridged books to their presumed audience. Obviously, there was a limited market for the product at the time. Thank heavens we've evolved.


message 14: by Isabell (new)

Isabell (purzel) | 5 comments Some weeks ago I had an extreme case of an abridged audiobook. I usually listen only to unabridged audiobooks in English, but when I listen to audiobooks together with my mum, I have to choose German books or translations.

I really like the books by Kristin Cashore and wanted to give my mum a chance to like them too. The only problem is that as a rule German audiobooks are still produced as abridged versions. I wouldn't ever consider buying one of those abridged versions. But my local library did have a copy of the abridged German audiobook of "Fire", so I went ahead and got it to listen to together with my mum.

That certainly taught me a lesson. The abridgment changed the whole feeling of the book by cutting a whole character that provided some funny and light-hearted atmosphere to the book that is otherwise a bit depressing. After we finished the book my mum had to endure my complaints about the abridgment for several weeks. I even wrote an email to the publisher of the audiobook and surprisingly I got an answer back, although it only contained the usual "reasons".

These are the reasons the German publisher gave for the abridged version:
Unabridged versions would cost more and the target audience for the book (YA) wouldn't have the money. Also, an audiobook wasn't supposed to represent the book as such but to make a version that was amiable to the ear. And then he actually compared an audiobook to a movie version in indicating that a movie couldn't be true to the book it was based on in every little detail. Obviously the publisher's view and mine differ on the question of the nature of an audiobook.

I'm only glad that there are some German audiobook publishers that only produce unabridged audiobooks (the German audible for one does a spectacular job on some of those) and that audible allows me to get the unabridged English versions.


message 15: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (stewartry) | 404 comments I dislike abridgements on principle - but I made an exception for Tom Baker's reading of A Tale of Two Cities, and will make another for the other Dickens he narrated (Great Expectations, I think). It was tremendous fun, and many think Dickens too long-winded anyway - but in the end the main emotion it left me with was regret that he hadn't read the whole thing. Why didn't he? No idea.


message 16: by John, Moderator (new)

John | 4782 comments Isabell - did your mother like the abridged book?


message 17: by The Pirate Ghost (new)

The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) (pirateghost) I might point out that, abridged books are cheaper by as much as 10-15 dollars a book. For someone like me who does a lot of audio books or Text to Speech Kindle stuff, that's not unappealing.


message 18: by John, Moderator (new)

John | 4782 comments And if at least some of them were recorded years ago, back in the heyday of abridged-on-cassette, why shouldn't Audible offer them for download? It's also possible, though likely not common, that someone tried a full book by an author, deciding, "She writes a good story, but goes on and gets sidetracked a lot, maybe an abridged book would be easier to get through?"


message 19: by The Pirate Ghost (new)

The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) (pirateghost) I have yet to do an "abridged" audiobook but if I did, it's likely to be non-fiction rather than fiction.


message 20: by The Pirate Ghost (new)

The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) (pirateghost) And, agian, please remember that this is not something that has happened, just me speculating for duscussion purposes,... I might be inclined to get an abridged version of a book that I had already read in it's entirity at an earlier point in my life. I might get one if I was going to need to discuss a book I read earlier in my life with a current group or class etc., did not have the time to read it without doing an audio book and not wanting or having the money to buy the unabridged version. I might use it as a refresher to save time and money on a book that I had completed completely in the past.


message 21: by Isabell (new)

Isabell (purzel) | 5 comments John wrote: "Isabell - did your mother like the abridged book?"

She liked it well enough, but when I asked her about the "feeling" or tone of the book she said it was quite depressing, so I suppose she didn't enjoyed it as much as she could have.


message 22: by Sara ♥ (new)

Sara ♥ (saranicole) | 305 comments That ALMOST makes me want to give Jane Eyre another go. (I listened to it abridged years ago...) No, just kidding. Nothing could make me want to do that... ;)


message 23: by David (last edited Aug 09, 2012 05:16PM) (new)

David | 40 comments A few months ago, I downloaded an audiobook from the library, one that was labelled as "unabridged". It turned out to be only a couple of hours in duration, whereas the hardbound book (same title and author) is a few hundred pages.

I wrote a message to the library, asking that they check into it. A few days later they replied that the audiobook was correctly labelled as unabridged. ??XX!!!***??


message 24: by Regan (new)

Regan | 163 comments Sara ♥ wrote: "That ALMOST makes me want to give Jane Eyre another go. (I listened to it abridged years ago...) No, just kidding. Nothing could make me want to do that... ;)"

Oh, but it should! This is one of my favorite books ever and I've read it multiple times. I recommend the Lucy Scott narration produced by RNIB. It's absolutely brilliant and I consider it the gold standard of narration for Jane Eyre.

I don't ever read abridged audiobooks. I want to read what the author wrote and get an understanding of that book. Sometimes it means having to suffer through some long-windedness (Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Alexandre Dumas to name a few), but how would you know this about these books and authors if you didn't read it?


message 25: by Sara ♥ (new)

Sara ♥ (saranicole) | 305 comments I'm afraid Sara + Gothic anything (literature, art, architecture, etc.) = FAIL. We just don't mix well...


message 26: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 2058 comments David wrote: "A few months ago, I downloaded an audiobook from the library, one that was labelled as "unabridged". It turned out to be only a couple of hours in duration, whereas the hardbound book (same title ..."

I just ran into this the other week - I downloaded

The First Man in Rome to listen to - the book is 1000+ pages, and the audiobook, marked as unabridged, was only 6 months...the only way that works would be if it was a chipmunk talking


message 27: by The Pirate Ghost (new)

The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon) (pirateghost) Dee wrote: "David wrote: "A few months ago, I downloaded an audiobook from the library, one that was labelled as "unabridged". It turned out to be only a couple of hours in duration, whereas the hardbound boo..."

ALVIIIIN! ("have you been reading my books again?")

(LOL, yea, that's funny right there, uh-huh.)


message 28: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (stewartry) | 404 comments Dee wrote: "the audiobook, marked as unabridged, was only 6 months...."

... Hours? :) Though six months sounds almost about right for something like The Count of Monte Cristo.


message 29: by Sara ♥ (last edited Aug 14, 2012 09:42AM) (new)

Sara ♥ (saranicole) | 305 comments The Count of Monte Cristo was a REALLY LONG audiobook. 43 hours, I think? 35 or 36 discs. It was AWESOME though! SOOOO worth it! (The 24-hour-each-way car drive was a great excuse to listen to it, too...)

EDIT: Speaking of which, though... I get why you'd listen to an abridged version of that. A lot of people read the 600ish page version of the book instead of the 1300ish page version. If they're willing to READ abridged, I don't know why they wouldn't opt for an abridged audio. Plus, 43 hours really IS a time commitment!


message 30: by Nathaly (new)

Nathaly | 37 comments I'm sorry for my ignorance but what an abridged book?


message 31: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (stewartry) | 404 comments Sara ♥ wrote: "The Count of Monte Cristo was a REALLY LONG audiobook. 43 hours, I think? 35 or 36 discs. It was AWESOME though! SOOOO worth it! (The 24-hour-each-way car drive was a great excuse to listen to..."

I listened to Bill Homewood's narration earlier this year. It was excellent, and I chose it based on the samples, but I think it was the longest one out there: 52 hours & 45 minutes. Yeah, that took a few commutes.


message 32: by John, Moderator (new)

John | 4782 comments Nathaly -

"Abridged" means that the item contains selections from the book only; the publisher (and/or author) have determined that there are parts of the book that can be removed, without affecting the overall plot.


message 33: by Dave (new)

Dave In Hollywood | 181 comments I've "read" exactly one abridged audiobook that I liked - Marley & Me read by the author. I have NO idea why the author didn't narrate the longer version, but I've never cried so hard listening to an audiobook as I did when the author got to the end of Marley & Me. I would definitely listen to it again.

I kinda disliked Collapse by Jared Diamond on audiobook. It was so repetitive that I think an abridged version might have worked better.


message 34: by John, Moderator (new)

John | 4782 comments Dave -

I have posted here, whenever this topic comes up, that I listened the memoir of actress Ellen Burstyn, that was only recorded abridged, liked it, and felt nothing was "missing" (it flowed fine). Later, out of curiosity, I looked at a print copy, realizing that there were details of her personal life (reconstructed conversations, etc.) that just didn't matter much, which she chose not to narrate.


message 35: by Dave (new)

Dave In Hollywood | 181 comments Usually the most fearsome words you can read on an audiobook cover are "read by the author" ;-), but when the author is a famous actor or comedian then it's quite a bit different.

I've listened to the autobios of Julie Andrews, Patti LuPone, Julia Sweeney, Steve Martin, etc. They've all been great.

Oh and of course David Sedaris is actually BETTER as an audiobok than a regular printed book.


message 36: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (stewartry) | 404 comments Dave wrote: "Usually the most fearsome words you can read on an audiobook cover are "read by the author" ;-), but when the author is a famous actor or comedian then it's quite a bit different..."

Or Shelby Foote. I'd have paid double if I could have gotten any of his books narrated by him.


message 37: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 2058 comments Tracey wrote: "Dee wrote: "the audiobook, marked as unabridged, was only 6 months...."

... Hours? :) Though six months sounds almost about right for something like The Count of Monte Cristo."


haha, that is apparently what I get for typing before coffee...yeah - 6 hours


message 38: by Clif (new)

Clif Hostetler (clif_) | 30 comments I can attest to the fact that there are fewer abridged audio books now than there were in the past (in the cassette days).
Another thing that is less common now than in the past are publishers who wait a year or more after the print publishing date before releasing the audio version. I assume they think that sales of the paper version will be hurt if the audio version comes out at the same time. A particular example of this were the Neal Stephenson books, "Cryptonomicon" and the "The Baroque Cycle" series. In that case the publisher waited about ten years before issuing the unabridged audio versions. There were some earlier abridged audio versions which really drove me crazy. Finally, when the unabridged versions finally became available I rewarded the publishers by purchasing them, when what I really wanted to do was boycott them as punishment for their ill treatment of the audio market.


message 39: by Regan (new)

Regan | 163 comments Clif wrote: "I can attest to the fact that there are fewer abridged audio books now than there were in the past (in the cassette days).
Another thing that is less common now than in the past are publishers wh..."


I don't think they thought it would hurt the print market, but rather that they wanted to see how popular the books would be before making an audio version. It was time consuming and expensive to make audio versions back in the day when you had to make a bunch of cassettes or CDs and hope they would sell. These days when most of the market is digital, there's less financial risk.

The whole mood of the audiobook market has really changed in the last decade. Books are often released at the same time as print or very nearly, few abridged books, more choice, better production and so on.


message 40: by John, Moderator (new)

John | 4782 comments I think that on occasion the audio delay make have something to do with narrator availability.


message 41: by Alan (new)

Alan (alanmintaka) | 184 comments I avoid abridged audiobooks "when I can". This is not to say that an abridgement might not be preferable to an unabridged title. For example, is an abridged audiobook version of Moby Dick "better" than an unabridged version? I wouldn't touch that question with a 10-foot harpoon. For me it's not so much a question of quality as of choice. I want to be the one who decides what portions of a book I will or will not read - not some editor (or even author) who has an agenda that has nothing to do with me or my reading habits.

That sounds like a "principle". Nah, it's not that important or exclusive. It's just a preference. I said I avoid abridged audiobooks "when I can" because I sometimes hunt for obscure titles available only on cassette. If the only editions I can find happen to be abridged, I make exceptions. Other exceptions would be newer titles I really want to read but which aren't available in unabridged versions. I won't pass up such titles just because there are no unabridged versions.

That said, I find that, as Clif has pointed out, fewer of the newer audiobook titles are abridged these days. As a consequence I find myself having to settle for abridgements less and less often. In fact, now I can't remember the last time I bought an abridgement that wasn't an older title on cassette.

Happy listening,
Alan Mintaka


message 42: by unknown (new)

unknown (joeleoj) Microserfs by Douglas Coupland is one of my favorite books. A number of years ago I decided to see if it was available on audio and purchased a used copy on eBay. It turned out to be one of those classic "two cassette" abridgements, and it was the first time I'd experience a shortened version of a book I'd read (several times, in this case).

It was a big disappointment, to say the least -- huge plotlines totally dropped, entire characters and character arcs snipped. The weirdest part was when they would create composite characters, whenever a character they cut did something necessary to resolve the plot.

The reader -- Matthew Perry from Friends -- was fine, but I would love a new and unabridged version. Maybe someday.


message 43: by Jeanie (new)

Jeanie | 5550 comments I've been steadily--even painfully--working my way through English Society of the Eighteenth Century and found an interesting point about abridged books in it. According to the author, abridged books first came into existence in England during the 1700s as publishing became more widespread and in an effort to make classics and longer works available to the masses. Many writers of the day published abridged books--even abridging their own works for a wider audience. The main point seemed to be that abridged books were more accessible, cheaper, and saved time for those who might not invest many hours in the longer version. It was a win/win for the authors who sold more books to more people as a result. It seems abridged audio began for the same reasons, and exposure helped develop an audience for the longer form.


message 44: by Marianmar (new)

Marianmar | 4 comments Jeanie wrote: "I've been steadily--even painfully--working my way through English Society of the Eighteenth Century and found an interesting point about abridged books in it. According to the author, abridged bo..."

Your post reminded me of the Reader's Digest Condensed collection of books. I did some searching; I didn't realize they were still publishing them up until 1997!


message 45: by Regan (new)

Regan | 163 comments Marianmar wrote: "Your post reminded me of the Reader's Digest Condensed collection of books. I did some searching; I didn't realize they were still publishing them up until 1997!
"


In another 20 years will people know what someone means when they say "Let me give you the Reader's Digest version..."?


message 46: by Jeanie (new)

Jeanie | 5550 comments Regan wrote: "Marianmar wrote: "Your post reminded me of the Reader's Digest Condensed collection of books. I did some searching; I didn't realize they were still publishing them up until 1997!
"

In another 20 ..."


They may still say it but not understand where it comes from. People talk about a TV show "jumping the shark", even if they weren't around when the Fonz did it. I still discover sayings I use that I didn't actually understand... "in for a penny, in for a pound" never made sense to me even though I used it. Boy did I feel dumb when I figured out that the pound wasn't in ounces but sterling! "In for a penny, in for a dollar" just doesn't have the same ring to it I guess ;P


message 47: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 2058 comments Marianmar wrote: "Jeanie wrote: "I've been steadily--even painfully--working my way through English Society of the Eighteenth Century and found an interesting point about abridged books in it. According to the auth..."


I think you can still find similar...I had a co-worker reading one one day and it was all relatively new releases


message 48: by John, Moderator (new)

John | 4782 comments For those who are adamant that publishers should never offer an abridged book ... what if the print book received reviews along the lines of "good story overall, but I felt it got bogged down at times", "could've left out 1/3 or so and it would've read better" and the like. I think there are legitimate reasons for offering them at times.


message 49: by Paul (new)

Paul Ruben | 16 comments Abridgments had merely to do with economics of producing audiobooks in the early days and the belief that consumers didn't want the whole book. Then publishers learned the opposite and it became far more cost effective to record the entire book.


message 50: by John, Moderator (new)

John | 4782 comments You have an excellent point that back in the days of cassettes (and CD's to a lesser extent) package size made a significant difference.


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