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Audio Books FAQ & Glossary [2022]

What is an audio book?

An audio book is simply a digitally recorded version of the printed paper book being read out aloud by a narrator. The narrator may be the author, a professional narrator or an actor. Often the recording may use a cast of narrators supported and embellished by the use of special sound effects.

In which formats are audio books available?

The audio format may be in various forms to suit the many types of playback devices in the market today. In the past tapes were common formats, e.g. cassettes, currently compact discs are still a popular medium as are MP3 and other digital variations.

How can MP3 audio books be played?

MP3 is simply a compression technique that makes it possible for reducing the size of the audio book (sometimes by as much as 80%) compared to that of cassettes or CDs. Most modern CD players support the MP3 technology, they an also be played on any PC that has Microsoft’sWindows Media Player or other related software.

Do I need any software on my computer to listen to audiobooks?

Audiobooks can be downloaded or played on any personal computer or portable listening device that supports Microsoft Windows Media Player v9 or a huge range of 3rd party audio playback software

Can I listen to an audiobook in the car?

Most certainly, as a rule of thumb, if a device is capable of playing music, then it is most likely capable of playing audio books also. For more information contact your device manufacturer for specific requirements.

What is Podcasting?

A Podcast is an audio program that can be downloaded to your computer.When you subscribe to an Audible Podcast, future editions of that audio program will be automatically downloaded to your computer into the podcast receiving program (“podcatcher”) of your choice, such as iTunes. You can then listen to your Podcast on your computer or transferit to a mobile audio device, like the Apple, iPod, and listen on the go. (An iPod is not required to listen to podcasts but combined with iTunes music management software, provides an excellent listening experience.)

What is a dramatized audio book?

A dramatized audio book, as the name implies, is a dramatized “play-life” version of the printed book, with usual full cast, music and sound effects.

Can I listen to my audiobooks on a portable listening device?

Yes. Audiobooks are compatible with a wide range of portable listening devices.

What is an unabridged audio book?

An unabridged audio book is one that was narrated word for word. In such an audio book, nothing was removed from the printed book. It has the exact content with that of the printed book, albeit in audio format.

What is an abridged audio book?

An abridged audio book is one that is shortened and doesn’t contain the exact word for word narration as the printed book.

What is a dramatized audio book?

A dramatized audio book, as the name implies, is a dramatized “play-life” version of the printed book, with usual full cast, music and sound effects.

Can audio books be purchased online?

Audio books are increasingly being purchased online due to the convenience and speed of delivery offered when buying online.

Audio Books Glossary

Common Audio Terms

Bit rate

A measure of the quantity of audio and/or video data transferred from your device’s memory to its audio and or video decoder. Different devices support different ranges of bit rates. Some devices are able to convert unsupported bit rates to supported bit rates, a process called ‘transcoding’.


Measured in megabytes or gigabytes. As with any other computer storage measure, the larger the number the larger the amount of data the device will be able to hold. Common sizes range from 128 MB to 30 GB. A small device will be able to hold a few audio book or music titles, while a device with a higher capacity will be able to hold many more titles. Higher storage capacity usually means higher price as well.


Part of a computer program that converts a specific computer file into information that can be played by a computer or device as audio, video, or both. Windows Media Player has all the necessary decoders to play the Overdrive media files. Some portable devices come with decoders that do not support the bit rates in which Overdrive media files are encoded.


The portable video or audio player to which you will transfer files for listening or viewing.

Mini USB

Type of USB connector present on many smaller portable audio devices. Used to connect the device to a computer so that audio files may be transferred to the device.


Popular compressed audio file that can be played on most portable devices. This file type does not support Digital Rights Management (DRM) and is not used by Overdrive media files.

Supported bit rate

The bit rate or rates for which a device is able to do the decoding process. If your device does not support the bit rate with which Overdrive encodes the media files and it is not capable of transcoding, it will not be able to play the file.


A Process that some portable audio devices perform to convert audio files from an unsupported bit rate to a supported bit rate.

Universal Serial Bus (USB)

Designed to allow peripherals to be connected to a computer without the need for expansion cards, USB ports have become standard equipment in modern computers. Most portable audio devices are connected to a computer using USB. The two most common types of USB connections are standard and mini.

Abridged Audiobook

A professional abridger “edits” the work from the original text to encompass the essence of the story while maintaining characterizations, plot lines and style. Most abridgements are done with author approval. Just as many book-based movies do justice to the book while not including every single scene, so an abridgement strives for the same goal of staying true to the spirit and content of the book

Audio Original/Audio Only/Spoken Word

Audiobook products derived from sources other than book content. These programs include dramatic readings, stand-up comedy, seminars, conversations, etc. that have no book counterpart.


Audiobooks can come in trays, slides, jewel cases, sleeves, wallets and spined plastique books. Most audiobooks are shrink-wrapped and some have a mylar-seal. Outside boxes can be many different sizes due to the number of units inside and package design.

Unabridged Audiobook

The complete, unaltered work.

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