Audio Excerpts

You must have the Real Audio plugin to listen to these audio clips of Diana's books. You can download Real Player 8 Basic for free. Enjoy. (BTW, once you have Real Audio, just click on the name of the clip to listen.) -- Rosana

What does Abridged vs. Unabridged Really Mean? - 21 Oct 2001
I occasionally get mail from people asking me exactly what the difference is between the "Abridged" audiotape versions of my books (produced and marketed by Bantam Audio) and the "Unabridged" versions (produced and marketed by Recorded Books, Inc. People also write to ask me which version I personally prefer.

Well, the difference is just about 80% of the book, that's what. And that little fact should answer the second question, nicely.

"Abridged" means "they took stuff out." In this case, the producers took out enough stuff that they could cram the shredded remains into the 6-9 hours they consider "commercial" (i.e., what they think the average person has sufficient patience or intelligence to listen to).

"Unabridged" means "they didn't take stuff out--what you hear on the tape is exactly what I wrote in the book." Consequently, the unabridged versions of the Outlander novels range from approximately 33 hours (for Outlander) to approximately 45 hours (for The Fiery Cross, which is still in production at the moment, but should be available soon).

Just how does someone go about reducing a 45-hour book to a 9 hour book? You might well ask. I happen to know this, so I'll tell you. {ahem}

First, a scriptwriter (NOT me; I would never be able to do this) goes through the manuscript and tries to extract a few elements of the plot that will sound more or less coherent when strung together. The scriptwriter then eliminates the rest of the plot, all the subplots, most of the characters, all of the interesting or descriptive language, most of the dialogue, all of the sex scenes, any "bad words," and anything even vaguely controversial in terms of ideas. What's left is slightly rewritten or rephrased to smooth out the disjunctions.

This scripting is, as you may imagine, a very difficult and demanding job, and I have the greatest admiration and respect for the poor soul whose thankless job it is to do this butchery. This doesn't mean I care for the results, but I will admit that even these very abridged audio versions may be desirable to some people, for some purposes.

Just one word of explanation, though:

If you pick up an abridged audiobook, the cover always says, "Abridgement approved by author." Well, let's put it this way; the producer of an abridgement normally sends the author the truncated script with a cordial letter saying something like, "It's now Saturday. We're recording this on Tuesday. Please let us know if there are any changes you would like to make."

As I said to the most recent producer (poor soul), this is rather like saying to a parent, "We're going to print this full- length portrait of your child in the newspaper tomorrow, absolutely life-size! Now, do you like the version that shows the left little toe, the nostrils, and three hairs, or the one with the collarbone, the elbow, and the bellybutton?" Whichever you choose is, of course, the "approved" version.

I suggested that instead of "approved by author," truth in advertising should require that the label read "This tape contains approximately 23% of the original text, but not necessarily in its original form."

Right. At this point, you are undoubtedly asking yourself, "Why, if she feels like that about it, is she allowing abridged versions to be sold at all?"

Well, that one's easy. Because the publisher of my books negotiated for--and got--the right to produce abridged audiotapes, when we signed a publishing contract with them. I retained the rights to unabridged tapes, because I wanted such tapes eventually to be made available, and luckily, they now are available, through a different publisher (I.e., Recorded Books, Inc.). But I can't legally prevent the production or sale of abridged versions--and in fact, some people like these.

Still, I do feel some obligation to let people know exactly what they're getting, given that it is my name on the front of both versions of the audiobook, and a number of people who have not actually read the books do assume that what they're hearing on the abridged tapes is pretty much what's in the books.

Now, the abridged versions are read by Geraldine James, who is a marvelous British actress and does a wonderful job. The unabridged versions are read by Davina Porter, who is also a marvelous British actress, who does a wonderful job. In terms of artistic performance, both versions are great. In terms of what these wonderful actresses are reading, though....

Well, here's a sample illustration. First is an excerpt from The Fiery Cross, as I wrote it, and as it will be rendered on the Recorded Books, Inc. unabridged audiobook.

Now here is the same passage, as rendered in the Abridged (Bantam) Audiobook version.

Now, granted, many people write to tell me how much they've enjoyed the abridged audiotapes. Sometimes, these are people who are merely using the tapes as adjuncts to the novels; they like to hear bits of the story read aloud. But sometimes, these are people who haven't read the books at all, and have no idea that what they're getting is the Gabaldon for Dummies version. This bothers me.

Now, as far as non-artistic differences {cough} go, the abridged audio version is available on CD, as well as cassette; the unabridged versions are not yet available on CD, though I expect that eventually they will be.

Beyond that, the major difference is plainly one of cost. Naturally, a 45-hour set of tapes is going to cost proportionately more than a 9-hour set, and a few people write to say that while they realize they are "missing something" (to say the least), they want to own an audio version, and really can't afford the unabridged version.

This is certainly a reasonable position. However, I should note that Recorded Books, Inc. not only supplies audiobooks to libraries (and you can request that your local library acquire any of the unabridged Outlander series), but also does rent the unabridged versions to individuals, for a very reasonable cost.

I won't give details here, as Recorded Books occasionally has special offers, and I don't want to give information that may be wrong or outdated--but I believe they do offer a one- to two-month rental of the unabridged tapes for something like ten or fifteen dollars--which is less than the cost of the abridged version.

I don't by any means wish to discourage people who'd like to get the abridged versions--perhaps they want to give these as presents to friends who are intimidated by long books, or to aged relatives who fear they won't live long enough to make it through the unabridged version--but I did want to make sure that people had a reasonable idea of exactly what they are--and aren't--getting. --Diana

Outlander Abridged - published by Random House

Dragonfly in Amber Abridged - published by Random House

Voyager Abridged - published by Random House

Voyager Unabridged - published by Recorded Books

Drums of Autumn Abridged - published by Random House

Drums of Autumn Unabridged - published by Recorded Books