Glossary of Audiobook Terminology

Glossary of Audiobook TerminologyWhen it comes to audiobooks, there is a lot of terminology that is bantered about. It can get confusing for anyone!

Below is a glossary of common terms that you may hear or read about, and what they mean. If you’d like to suggest additions or corrections to the list below, please drop me a line.

Abridged Audiobook – A shortened version of the full book, edited down to maintain the important elements of the plot, characters and style of writing. A professionally condensed version of a novel should flow seamlessly so you wouldn’t even know it was abridged if they hadn’t told you.

Audie Awards (or The Audies) –  The Oscars for audiobooks! The Audies are highly-regarded annual awards presented by the Audio Publishers Association (APA) in the USA. Nominations are announced early in the year, with the awards ceremony taking place in the middle of the year. Awards are given out across a range of fiction and non-fiction categories including awards for the best male and female narrators. Find out more from the APA website.

Audio Original – This usually refers to an audio recording that was not published in print or eBook first. It was written and produced specifically for audio, although a printed or eBook version may be published at a later date.

Audio Play (can also be referred to as a Full-Cast Audiobook, Movie for your Mind or Radio Play) – This kind of audiobook is like a movie without the picture. It is usually acted out by multiple actors with a full range of sound effects and is underscored by music. While some audio plays may also include a narrator (just as some films have a narrator), most do not. Radio Plays are usually those which have been made specifically for radio broadcast, so they may include breaks in the action for a radio station to insert station promos or advertising.

Books on Tape (may also be called Talking Books or Audiobooks) – The term Audiobook was adopted as the new industry standard in 1994 by the Audio Publishers Association in the USA because a generic term was needed to represent all the different formats that are now available to us, including audio cassettes, LPs, CDs and digital formats. Before then, audiobooks were often called Talking Books and, when cassettes started to get used, they became commonly known as Books on Tape.

Enhanced Audiobook – These kinds of audiobooks generally sit somewhere between a Single-Voiced Audiobook and an Audio Play. They can vary quite significantly, depending on how they’ve been enhanced, but the most common enhancements are to include some sound effects and/or some music to underscore certain scenes. Some enhanced audiobooks may also include multiple narrators.

Multi-Voiced Audiobook – These are similar to a Single-Voiced Audiobook except there is more than one narrator. This technique is often used when a story is told from multiple viewpoints. A different reader will be used for each viewpoint to make it clearer to the listener.

Narrated By (or Performed By) – This is the person or people who you will be listening to when you start your audiobook. The term Performed By seems to be becoming increasing popular as professional readers continue to move away from the more traditional style of plain narration that many old audiobooks use and, instead, endeavour to enliven their reading by adding character voices, accents and personality quirks. In other words, they are putting on a performance for you just as much as they are reading the prose in between the dialogue.

Radio Play – These are stories that have specifically been recorded for a radio broadcast. Often, they can include breaks in the action so radio stations can insert station promotions and/or advertising. In the past, full-cast audio dramas with sound effects and music were almost always called Radio Plays, but in today’s digital age, these same kinds of productions are being made as podcasts, direct downloads or for sale as full-cast audio productions. In other words, ‘radio plays’ are no longer exclusive to radio broadcasts and are therefore often referred to as Audio Plays instead.

Single-Voiced Audiobook – This is the default for audiobooks. They are books narrated by a single reader with no other bells or whistles. A good reader will provide character voices, accents and changes in pace to enhance the storytelling, but their reading is usually not accompanied by any extras, like sound effects or music, unless it’s required for the story.

Talking Books (may also be called Books on Tape or Audiobooks) – The term Audiobook was adopted as the new industry standard in 1994 by the Audio Publishers Association in the USA because a generic term was needed to represent all the different formats that are now available to us, including old cassettes, LPs, CDs and digital formats. Before then, audiobooks were often called Talking Books and, when cassettes started to get used, they were commonly known as Books on Tape.

Unabridged Audiobook – An unabridged audiobook is one that is an audio adaptation of the complete original work. There have been no cuts or changes so you get the full story, as it was written, allowing you to follow along if you also have the printed or eBook version.

An example of both an Unabridged and an Abridged version of the same novel listed in Audible. Notice the difference in run time.
ABOVE: An example of both an Unabridged and an Abridged version of the same novel listed in Audible.

Whispersync – Exclusive to Amazon and Audible, Whispersync technology pairs your Audible audiobook with the matching Kindle eBook to allow you to switch back and forth seamlessly between reading and listening… or doing both simultaneously if you like to read along with the audiobook. Find out more from the Audible website.

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