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Accessibility

Enhance your e-resource reading experience

What electronic formats are available?

Each of the Library's e-resource platforms and databases is different, and sometimes the user experience can vary even within the same platform or database. However, you are always able to access full text content via the Library in one of four ways: HTML, Online PDF, Downloadable PDF, and EPUB. Some of these formats are more accessible than others, and you may already have your own preferred format. Below we'll take a look at each of these these file formats and illustrate the accessibility benefits of each:

HTML

Full text content in HTML format is displayed online as a simple webpage. Generally only one article or chapter is displayed at a time. This format has the following benefits:

  • Quick and straightforward online access – no need to download articles or e-books.
  • Useful if you cannot download files onto you device, or if you cannot find or open downloaded files on your device.
  • Usually compatible with text-to-speech and screen reading software without the need to download the full text.
  • Text can always be copied and pasted into preferred software and other files, increasing usability.

One limitation of HTML is that the text is displayed continuously rather than divided into separate pages, which some users may find confusing. Publishers and platforms sometimes indicate page numbers within the continuous text, but it is not possible to display only one page at a time online. If you would prefer such a layout, you may need to download the content in another format (see below).

Embedded PDF

Full text content available as embedded or online PDFs is usually displayed in a scrollable box within a webpage. Usually only one article or chapter is displayed at a time. Sometimes the whole text of an e-book can be read online within a special reader interface. On some platforms only a single page image is displayed at a time, and users are required to click or tap to access subsequent pages. However, embedded PDFs can almost always be downloaded to your device (see below). This format has the following benefits:

  • Quick and straightforward online access – no need to download articles or e-books.
  • Useful if you cannot download files onto you device, or if you cannot find or open downloaded files on your device.
  • E-books formatted as PDFs are similar in appearance and layout to a print book, which you may prefer over HTML text or EPUBs. 

Depending on the formatting quality and embedding, the text of embedded PDFs may not always be selectable for copying and pasting into text-to-speech or other screen reading software. You may therefore have to download a copy of the PDF to use the text in this way.

Downloadable PDF

Full text content available as downloadable or offline PDFs is always also displayed online as either HTML text or an embedded PDF (see above). Usually only one article or chapter may be downloaded as a single file. Occasionally, you may be able to download an entire e-book in a single file. This format has the following benefits:

  • Files that have been structured and optimised for accessibility can be navigated by screen reading software, meaning they are accessible to visually impaired users.
  • Allows the use of inbuilt accessibility features within PDF reading software, such as the ability to enlarge text, automatically reflow text to account for screen size and level of magnification, change font and background colour, and use text-to-speech tools.
  • E-books formatted as PDFs are similar in appearance and layout to a print book, which you may prefer over HTML text or EPUBs. 

Depending on the publisher and platform, some downloadable PDFs may not have been structured or optimised for accessibility and could therefore be difficult to navigate and read. Find out more about accessibility options and settings within PDF readers.

EPUB

Full text content available in EPUB format is currently formatted at EPUB3 standard. It is usually available online within a special reader interface and offline as a download of the whole e-book text. This standard has the following benefits: 

  • Quick and straightforward online access – no need to download e-books necessarily to make use of the accessibility functions.
  • EPUBs are created with accessibility in mind and to a set of standards, meaning they can be navigated by screen reading software and are virtually always accessible to visually impaired users, both online and when downloaded.
  • Flexibility and the ability to present the full text in a range of ways that can be adapted to suit user requirements.

One limitation of the EPUB format is that the text is displayed continuously rather than divided into separate pages, which some users may find confusing. However, the experience of reading a print book or PDF may be approximated by adjusting page display settings within the EPUB reader so that text is displayed as a single-page or two-page spread instead of continuously.

Other Formats

This list is not exhaustive; depending on the publisher or platform, e-resource full text may be available to download in formats other than those listed above. The most accessible (and therefore ideal) format is an accessible MS Word file, but this is rarely available for user download due to publisher copyright considerations. If you are unable to access or use any of these file formats, take a look at our Alternative Formats pages for information about obtaining files in or converting files to a more usable and accessible format.

This text has been adapted from the E-book Audit 2016 and we thank the team for allowing us to reproduce and adapt their work.

Improve your e-resource reading experience

Which platform offers which format?

Again, each of the Library's e-resource platforms and databases is different, and sometimes the user experience can vary even within the same platform or database. However, each publisher or platform generally prefers a particular format and offers the majority of their content in that format. Generally the newest content will be available in the platform's preferred format whilst older content may only be available as PDFs. We've listed each format below for you and where you can find and access content in that format:

  HTML Embedded PDF Embedded EPUB Downloadable PDF Downloadable EPUB
ACLS Humanities E-Books   Yes Occasionally Yes  
Bloomsbury Yes     Yes  
Brill   Yes   Yes  
Cambridge University Press Yes     Yes  
De Gruyter   Yes   Yes Yes
Ebook Central   Yes   Yes Yes
EBSCOhost Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Edward Elgar Yes Page images only   Yes  
Emerald Yes     Yes Yes
Gale Yes Yes   Yes  
JSTOR   Page images only   Yes  
Knovel   Yes   Yes  
Kortext   Occasionally Yes Only within the Kortext App Only within the Kortext App
Liverpool University Press Yes Page images only   Yes  
OVID Yes   Occasionally Occasionally  
Oxford University Press Yes     HTML rendered as a PDF  
Project MUSE Yes     Yes Yes
ProQuest   Yes   HTML rendered as a PDF Occasionally
SAGE Yes     Yes  
Science Direct Yes     Yes  
Springer Yes     Yes Yes
Taylor & Francis Yes Occasionally   Yes  
VLeBooks   Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wiley Yes     Yes Yes

You can find a comprehensive guide of each e-book platform's inbuilt accessibility features on our E-book Platforms In Depth page.

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