• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

Availability Issues

Note that my blog post below about availability of audiobook, ebook and other editions of my novels and short stories is from December, 2010 and is (obviously!) OUT OF DATE. However, my discussion of the complexities of the publishing industry—and the constantly changing availability of a specific edition or format of one of my books—might still be of interest.

The best way to determine if a specific edition or format of one of my books is available—and you are NOT comfortable doing a web search on your own—is to visit your local independent bookstore and to ask their personnel. Thanks!

December 9, 2010

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about availability issues:

  1. Why can’t you get an unabridged audiobook of THE FIERY CROSS or A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES?
  2. Will THE EXILE be available as an audiobook?
  3. Will there be Large-Print editions available of the OUTLANDER series of novels, the Lord John series and OUTLANDER short fiction?
  4. Why can’t you get “OUTLANDER:The Musical” on audio CD from amazon.co.uk?

I don’t have answers to all the availability questions, of course, because I don’t actually publish and distribute everything out of my garage <g>; I have contracts with a great many different publishing companies around the world (and in multiple different languages), all of whom deal with those issues in their own territories, and usually I have No Idea.

1.) Why can’t you get an unabridged audiobook of THE FIERY CROSS or A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES?

Gabaldon-Fiery-CrossOK, follow me like a leopard here. Back in the day, nobody had any idea whether audiobooks would amount to anything; it was new-fangled technology, nobody was familiar with the concept as anything beyond the material for the blind that the Library of Congress’s Talking Books program does, nobody was sure it would ever be worth anything—and it cost a lot to produce one.

That being so, when Bantam-Dell (a subgroup of my US publisher, Random House) contracted with us (me and my agent) fifteen (or so) years ago for audiobooks, they did so very cautiously—and only for the rights to make an abridged version, because the thought of anyone being willing to listen to (let alone pay for) an unabridged version of something the size of OUTLANDER was laughable.

Now, in my naivete, I had no idea that “abridged” actually meant, “butchered into little bloody shreds, one-quarter of which will then be scraped up into a pile and kind of patted into the rough semblance of a story, rather like a sculpture made of raw hamburger.”

I did, though, insist on keeping the Unabridged rights, having faith that at some far distant date, someone might be willing to take the gigantic gamble of recording the Whole Thing, down to the last word.

Bantam-Dell fussed about this—publishers hate to give up any rights, whether they know what to do with said rights or not; they might come in handy someday, after all—but eventually gave in, since they were positive that the unabridged rights were worthless.

They did, however, insist on a non-compete clause in the contract, just in case: to wit, that if anybody did ever do an Unabridged version, this version could not be sold in retail outlets where the abridged version was sold. (They reasoning—correctly—that if anybody saw the two versions side by side on a shelf, they’d instantly realize that three-fourths of the story had been omitted from the abridged version. (Not kidding, here; the FIERY CROSS abridged audiobook contains only 23 % of the original book’s text. Just so you know…))

OK. A few years later, I happened to meet some representatives of Recorded Books, Inc. (well, actually, I engineered an “accidental” meeting at a librarians conference, having ascertained that Recorded Books was the biggest of the only two companies who even did unabridged books), got them interested (though they were a little goggle-eyed at the sheer tonnage involved; OUTLANDER was the longest book they’d ever done), and… well, Bob’s your uncle.

Recorded Books has done a magnificent job with the Unabridged audiobooks. They found marvelous readers (the hugely talented Davina Porter, who reads the OUTLANDER novels, and the equally talented Jeff Woodman, who does the Lord John books), and have risen nobly to the challenge of getting the audiobook versions produced more or less simultaneously with the print versions (no easy job, given how close I always come to the pub date in delivering the manuscript).

Gabaldon-Breath-of-Snow-and-AshesNow, going back to the original Bantam-Dell contract for the abridged audiobooks: my agent (who was an excellent agent) reasoned that since no one actually knew how the audiobook market might develop, he didn’t want to lock me into the usual sort of semi-permanent contract that we’d do for a book (i.e., you essentially grant the publishing company the right to publish your book as long as it sells. Only if it stops selling and they allow it to go out of print, can you get back the rights to it), and instead sold the audiobook abridged rights on a ten-year license. Meaning that we gave Bantam-Dell the right to produce an audiobook of each title (six books were covered under the original contract; they weren’t all written then, but were all under contract as print titles) for a period of ten years, from the date of publication of each title. So the license for VOYAGER, for instance, expired in 2004, as that book was originally published in 1994.

We could then, if we liked, renew the license for an additional period. Well, having seen what a travesty the abridged books are (meaning no offense either to the reader or the production team; there’s just no way of doing a good version of a book from which you’ve essentially omitted every other word), the answer was a resounding NOT, and we’ve been canceling those licenses the instant they come due. (Bantam-Dell is allowed a certain period post-cancellation during which they can still sell whatever stock they have on-hand, but they can’t produce any more.)

Result being that we’ve pretty much stamped out the abridged versions of OUTLANDER, DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, VOYAGER, and DRUMS OF AUTUMN. But THE FIERY CROSS was published in 2001. Which means that its license doesn’t expire until 2011. Which (hahahaha!) happens in a month!! So we’ll get to cancel that license Right Soon, leaving only ABOSA to go.

But that’s the reason why you haven’t been able to get FIERY CROSS or A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES from Audible.com—it’s considered a retail outlet that sells the abridged versions. [I’m putting the following in caps, because I keep telling this to people, but they often don’t seem to notice or understand:]

YOU CAN GET THE UNABRIDGED VERSIONS OF FIERY CROSS AND ABOSA!! You just can’t (yet) get them from Audible.com, which is most people’s default supplier of audiobooks. You totally can either rent or buy the unabridged audio of both books from Recorded Books. But I admit that it will be much more convenient for everyone when the license on ABOSA expires as well, and all the Unabridged audios can be found on Audible.com. (You can get AN ECHO IN THE BONE and all the Lord John books in Unabridged form on Audible now, because none of these books were covered in the original contract with Bantam-Dell, and thus no abridged version of them has ever existed.

2.) Will THE EXILE be available as an audiobook?

the-exile-final-cvr-2Well, no, I really don’t think there will be an audio version of THE EXILE, unless it’s made by Recording for the Blind or the Talking Books program (in which the reader describes all illustrations for the benefit of a visually impaired reader). This book is a graphic novel. And while I was quite surprised to discover that there are a lot of people (judging from the one-star reviews on Amazon.com) who have never heard the term “graphic novel” (and didn’t bother to find out what “graphic novel” means, or to scroll down far enough in the product description to see what it meant—and thus were shocked—shocked!—to find that it was A COMIC BOOK! (and thus concluded that this was calculated fraud on my part… people are Very Strange on occasion)). A graphic novel is, in fact, a comic book for adults, but it is also a novel told largely in visual images.

Ergo, kind of hard to do as an audiobook, I mean. Reading just the dialogue part of the script might not be all that effective.

3.) Will there be Large-Print editions available of the OUTLANDER series of novels, the Lord John series and OUTLANDER short fiction?

Large-Print editions. Well…. let’s just think about the logistics here for a minute, OK? How much bigger is Large-Print than the normal typeface? 50% bigger? Twice as big? Let’s say 50%, just as a start.

OK. OUTLANDER runs about 700 pages, and that’s the shortest book in the series, at 305,000 words. (FIERY CROSS is the longest, at 508,000, but A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES runs it a close second, at something like 498,00. Those two books are at the physical limit of how many pages you can reasonably bind between covers.) To get all of ABOSA into one volume, the German publisher was obliged to print it on “Bible” paper, the paper-thin, tough paper they print Bibles on.

So. Multiply those lengths by 1.5, and we’re talking something the equivalent of 750,000 words (just the space that many words would take up, I mean). Chances are that you’d need even more space than that, because of the leading and kerning issues (those are the spaces between letters in a word and between the lines of print—all of which need to be magnified in a Large-Print book), but leave that aside for now.

Even OUTLANDER, therefore, would have to be published in two volumes, for a Large-Print edition, and several of the later books in the series would need to be done in three-volume sets. The cost of producing a book of X size remains the same, whether it contains all the words in the original text, or only one-half or one-third of them.

So the cost of producing a Large-Print edition of the OUTLANDER novels would be 2-3 times the cost of the normal book, the set would sell for 2-3 times the cost of the original ($50 to $75)—and how big a market is there for such an edition? (There’s also the consideration that many people who might need a Large-Print edition would have problems physically holding books of this size.)

Beyond these economic considerations, there’s the simple fact that if you have an ebook reader, the thing is light and easy to hold—and you can adjust the print on your digital screen to be whatever size is comfortable for you, including sizes MUCH bigger than any printed Large-Print version could offer.

[Ebook readers include Kindles (ebook by Amazon), Nooks (Barnes & Noble’s ebook), Apple iPads or one of the tablets running the Android operating system. Applications (or “apps”) are also available to read ebook versions of my books on smart phones (Apple iPhones and phones running the Android operating system) as well as for most computers and will give you the capability of enlarging the type on the display as you read my books.]

Anyway. Bottom line is that the only one of my books ever done as a Large-Print edition in print was LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER, which I wrote under the delusion that it was a short story. <g>

4.) Why can’t you get “OUTLANDER: The Musical” on audio CD from amazon.co.uk?

Outlander-Musical-logoAmazon.co.uk… (which is the Amazon online store for the United Kingdom sales area.) Well, now here I’m just reporting, because I have no relations with Amazon.co.uk myself. I do have some correspondence with Amazon.com (the Amazon online store for the U.S.A.), and everything seems to be running very well there. However, Mike, the guy who handles the “OUTLANDER: The Musical CD” sales for the U.K., established an Amazon.co.uk account for it, but hasn’t had as much luck in coming to an agreement with them regarding price, or in having his other concerns addressed. So he’s asked me to let y’all know that he’s suspended that account for the time being, but that if any of you in the U.K. or Europe want CDs, you can get them here.

(Note from Diana’s Webmistress on February 28, 2018: “Outlander: The Musical” on CD is apparently no longer available for purchase as a new item. This musical production should not be confused with the Starz Outlander TV series.)

Oh! This isn’t really an availability issue, but fwiw, I was notified this morning that all my e-books are now available on google books. No idea whether this is a Good Thing or not <g>, but there they are.

This webpage was last updated on Wednesday, February 28, 2018, at 2:14 a.m. by Diana’s Webmistress.

45 Responses »

  1. Thank you for the new web site. I love it. Also thank you for answering all the questions I have been wondering about. I have all your books but also have them all on my I-pod as well . I have read them only starting two years ago and love them. I have read them 4 times and listened to them all twice and am now working on the third. It just got me through major surgery and my recovery to listen to Jamie and Claire. I have always wondered about the abridged and they are the only one’s I did not buy because yes they kill the book. When you know the story for sure. Thanks for being the best writer ever and I can’t wait for the next books. Come to London, Ontario some time but finish the book first. lol

  2. So can I assume that Drums of Autumn and The Fiery Cross will be avaliable in the unabridged version (narrated by Davina Porter) soon? That would be great! ddg

    • Will The Fiery Cross (unabridged) be narrated by Davina Porter? She is excellent and I’m spoiled and may not buy the audiobook otherwise.
      PLEASE ANSWER. :-)

      • Dear Atara–

        Davina narrated THE FIERY CROSS some years ago, and it’s still her on the unabridged CD’s. {g} It’s been AVAILABLE in unabridged format for nearly ten years–it’s just that now you’ll be able to download it from Audible.com (which is apparently the only way most people get their audio books). Hope you enjoy it!


      • When will it be available on Audible? I picked up the CDs at the library and they skip. Plus I really prefer to listen on my iphone while I drive, clean, cook. I cant imagine carring around a discman! lol! But I will!

      • I have found ABOSA on Audible in unabridged form (yay!!) but not Fiery Cross. I want to listen in order. Do you know when Fiery Cross will be on Audible? Thanks very much.

      • Dear Katherine–

        November! Or so they tell me.


      • Counting down the days…

      • Hello Diana,

        Thank you for the long hours spent listening to your books – they are great!

        But I too am stuck at Book 4 – The sale of the Unabridged Audiobooks 5 & 6 is restricted and they are not sold in in Europe. Even if you try to buy it through the American Audible they kick you out at the checkout… (oh the torture of seeing the ‘download now’ button, only to be told they have to remove the item from my shopping basket!!)

        Very sad. Do you have any idea whether it will become available at all? In other words, if I am patient, will I be able to buy it in a few months, a year? I do hope so.

        Thank you in advance for helping me find out.


      • Dear Estelle–

        Check again; the commenter just before you found it just this week–apparently there was some confusion over the rights that has now been sorted.


      • Hello Diana, FYI: ‘A breath of snow and ashes’ is still NOT available at audible.co.uk in the unabridged version.

        (The Fiery Cross is, and I have almost finished listening to it, with thanks to you for writing it. However, book 6 is only available in the abridged version and I’m afraid the unabridged version will never be available over here, considering the fact that the last comment dates from four months ago…)

        Is there anything you can do?

      • Estelle,

        Like you I have been unable to get the unabridged version of “A Breath of Snow & Ashes” on audible.co.uk, although all the other titles are available. I queried this with them (as the title is availale in the US) and was told by their customer services:

        ” As per your e-mail, I understand you are enquiring about the availability of the Unabridged version of “A Breath of Snow and Ashes” by Diana Gabaldon. I would be glad to help you with that.

        Upon further research of this title, it appears that we currently do not have an agreement with this provider to make it available in our collection. While we strive to carry all titles on our site, however, we must abide by the Publishers choice on where they distribute the content. We appreciate your understanding and patience in this matter.”

        So it seems that although the agreement has been reached with audible.com to distribute the unabridged version early in the US, this did not cover the UK – so I guess we will have to wait until the 10 year anniversary of its UK publication 21 Sept 2015 to be able to download from Audible.

      • Dear Sally–

        No, you’ll get it sooner than that–we’re figuring out the UK contract now.


  3. I am in the UK & I can’t buy book 2 – 6 of the Outlanders Series for Kindle from Amazon.co.uk. They seem to be available to the USA, is it possible for us desperate UK readers to have them available for Kindle? :-)

    • Dear Sally–

      Sadly, not up to me. That would be the business of the UK publisher–Random House, UK. You might try writing them and see what their plans are.


      • Thank you for replying. I have been trying to find how to ask them to make your books available on Kindle for the UK, but it seems they want to make it really complicated and I haven’t managed it. I would move to the USA if it mean’t I could have them on Kindle, but it seems a bit drastic. :-)


        Sally Smalley

  4. “But THE FIERY CROSS was published in 2001. Which means that its license doesn’t expire until 2011. Which (hahahaha!) happens in a month!! So we’ll get to cancel _that_ license Right Soon, leaving only ABOSA to go.”

    Yay for 2011! I’m anxiously checking Audible.com (since I have a membership to that!) for Fiery Cross. Is this the sort of thing that may take most of the year, or might it happen sometime soon? (Fingers crossed!) I’ve already read the whole series through twice, but it is wonderful to experience them in the audio format with Davina Porter’s talented reading!

    thanks so much!

  5. Good news/Bad news. After reading this I was excited about 2011 to get here so I could get The Fiery Cross in the unabridged format with Davina Porter narrating. I refuse to get the abridge version. Then sad that I will have to wait quite a while for A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES. Imagine my surprise when I saw A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES in the unabridged format on Audible.com. I thought I was seeing things. I bought it fast, thinking it had to be an error. Now I’m confused about The Fiery Cross. What is going on. Now another Good news/Bad news for another reason. I have A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES in the unabridged format, but can’t listen to it because there still isn’t an unabridged The Fiery Cross.

  6. I apologize, I didn’t read the explanation in another area of your website. Thanks so much for making A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES so much early. Much appreciated.

  7. I am confusted about why audible has the digital rights to A Breath of Snow and Ashes but not The Fiery Cross yet

  8. Thanks for the very clear explanation about the availability of the unabridged audiobooks.
    I can’t see very well so use ebooks and audiobooks a lot, and both the Outlander and Lord John series have been read brilliantly. They are a joy to listen to, but have meant some very late nights.
    For UK readers, keep going to the Amazon site, and click on the section for Kindle books, to ask that a certain title become available. If enough of us do it, I’m sure the publisher will decide it is worth it.
    Looking forward with great anticipation to Lord John and the Scottish prisoner.

  9. Why did we get the unabridged version of ABOSA first? I thought Fiery Cross expired first??

    • Found the Blog!! Got it!

    • Dear Michelle–

      {groan} Yes, it does–FIERY CROSS expires in November, which is when it will be available through Audible.com and other retail outlets. We didn’t want to wait another three years for ABOSA, though, so we did a deal with the abridged publishers (essentially giving them part of the income from the UNabridged sales) in return for letting us make it available earlier. That deal is already done, so ABOSA is available. Q.E.D. {g}

  10. rented all the series and now want to own it…been doing pretty good until Firey Cross…glad I found this to know I just need to be patient. won’t be easy and you would think going thru a second time I would be so impatient. can’t wait for the next and probably last after echo in the bone. what a wonderful series. trying Lord John..not sure yet.

  11. Thank you so much for the Fiery Cross/Audible explanation. Being September 2011 now I was hoping Fiery Cross might be on Audible (.co.uk). But no matter, my obsession will grab anything whatsoever as I approach the end of Drums of Autumn – and there is a hardback copy in a library somewhere in the county! Thank you thank you thank you for it all! Katie

  12. So glad to find your explanation here about the audio books! I have a printed copy of each book, plus I bought all but the latest as eBooks from Fictionwise.com over the years, and own all but Fiery Cross as unabridged Audible downloads. I pretty much wanted them any way I happened to be in the mood for them at the time, LOL!

    Anyway, I have been seeing Fiery Cross only as the abridged (which is completely unacceptable) at Audible for a while, and now even that appears to have vanished. I’ve been relistening to them all the past couple of months, but I can pause in the story now long enough to wait for the unabridged version to add to my collection. Davina Porter’s narration is wonderful, I’m very glad she’s been able to do the entire series.

    Many thanks!

  13. I am soooo excited!! I can’t wait for the unabridged version of The Fiery Cross! :) I have read them all about 8 times….and started the audio versions of them this past Jan 2011…I am in the middle of Drums of Autumn…and will wait patiently for the audio version to be out in Nov. 2011.

    Thanks a bunch for all the many explanations…..Love….Love …Love your books….and I hope you never stop! :)

    Have a great day! :)

  14. Do you know which day in November The Fiery Cross will be available? It’s November 1st and I’m dying to continue the series!!!!

  15. It’s Nov. 1 and The Fiery Cross still has not made its long awaited appearance on audible.com. Maybe I’m just horribly impatient. Anybody know exactly when it is scheduled to be available?

  16. Ms. Gabaldon,

    Thank you so much for your explanation on the Fiery Cross CD problem. I have been trying to get the CD for a while with no success. This book has really saved my life in more way than one. I was a Soldier in Iraq and there is a lot of down time and I would read your book and it really helped the time go by. On my return I went back to work and I drive 1 1/2 hours one way to work and many times would drift off driving. I got the cd for the Outlander series and no more drifting off. It is great. The books are great and thank you so much for writing them. Now if I can just find Fiery Cross in CD I will have the complete series except for the new book coming out. I cannot wait.

  17. Hello,

    I love your books, have them all in paper on my kobo and audiobooks. I have several of the audiobooks as an App instead of the download-Voyager, drums of Autumn, echo in the Bone. They are much easier to deal with and use on the Iphone than the downloads. However I tunes just has the Fiery Cross available as a download and not as an App from the App store.
    Do you know if this will soon be available as an App as well? Wasn’t sure if there were rights clauses or whatever preventing that from happening?

    Thanks so much

    Je suis Prest!


  18. I’ve actually only just started reading and am scrupulous about avoiding abridged versions of stories. Do you know whether any of the kindle versions of your nooks have been abridged by the publishers? If so I’ll just follow up with physical copies, but if not I like the ease and ecology of utilizing the kindle. Thanks in advance for any information you can provide.


  19. Hi,

    Do you know when your latest book (In my own blood) will be translated to French? I’m anxiously waiting for it.



  20. I am SO GLAD you learned that abridged means “we are not publishing your book on audio tape (CD) we are publishing a ghost of your book. I fell in love with audio books in the early 90s when I got a copy of one of Tony Hillerman’s UNabridged books from my local library – after a few I MISTAKENLY checked out an ABRIDGED

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