Reading an e-book from a screen is difficult for everyone at times, no matter what device or sized screen you are using. One of the big advantages of e-books over print is that it's easy to manipulate and change the text, making e-books more legible and easier to read. We've listed some tools below you can add to your device or web browser to improve your e-book reading experience, as well as tips for reading downloaded e-books. These should help all staff or students regardless of whether you have a visual impairment or special accessibility requirement.
If you'd like to learn how improve your reading experience on a specific e-book platform and make it more accessible, you can find a comprehensive guide of each e-book platform's inbuilt accessibility features on our E-book Platforms In Depth page.
If you are able to download a whole e-book as an unsecured PDF (or even just a chapter from any provider), you can make use of the following features within Adobe Reader:
Choose Pause (or press Shift+Ctrl+C) or Stop (or press Shift+Ctrl+E)
Note that you can change the default Read Out Loud voice in the following way:
When you zoom in on a PDF the text will run off the side of the screen. This means that you have to scroll left and right to read each line of text, making PDFs difficult to read. Reflow converts the text into one column so that you don't need to scroll when you zoom in:
Note that you will have to close and reopen Adobe Reader for the changes to take effect. Some documents may not display correctly with reflow turned on but you can quickly turn it off by clicking the View menu, then Zoom, then Reflow.
The background colour should change immediately and will remain the same whenever you open a PDF from now on.
The text colour should change immediately and will remain the same whenever you open a PDF from now on.
Adobe Digital Editions allows you to download e-books in PDF and EPUB format for offline use. This software uses the accessibility features on Windows and Mac operating systems to provide accessibility, including support for high contrast modes and support for resizing book text. It can be used with various screen readers, including JAWS and NVDA on Windows, and Voiceover on Mac OS.
Links and instructions on how to download Adobe Digital Editions for free are available on Adobe's website.
F.lux is software designed to adjust your screen colours to the time of day, reducing the blue glow, which might help improve the e-book reading experience. It is available as a free download for Windows and Mac here.
Visor is a screen dimmer and reading aid which may help with fluency, eye-strain, concentration, and comprehension. It also provides overlays, as well as a point of focus feature designed to reduce further visual confusions. It is available to download for free as a Chrome Extension here.
Screen Shader is an extension designed to tint your computer display to a soothing orange colour to reduce eye strain and eye fatigue. It is available to download for free as a Chrome Extension here.
Don't forget that there are also screen colouring settings built into your computer's web browser. Click to learn more about changing these settings in Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Safari, and Firefox.
Please visit the AbilityNet Changing your colours page and choose your device and operating systems for instructions on how to change the colours of your screen.
Selection Reader is a text-to-speech tool which can read near-unlimited amounts of text without cutting out. It is available download for free as a Chrome Extension here.
NaturalReader is a text-to-speech tool which converts text into natural sounding audio, supporting most document formats, including PDF, txt, and doc(x) files. It is available for free as a chrome extension here and also as desktop software for Mac and Windows here.
Intelligent Speaker is an advanced text-to-speech tool with a human-like voice which supports web pages, documents and PDFs. It is available for free as a chrome extension here.
OpenDyslexic is an extension which allows you to format pages using the Open Dyslexic font, an open-sourced font designed to improve readability for readers with dyslexia. It is available to download for free as a chrome extension here.
Substital is an extension which enables you to add captions to videos on any online streaming site. You can search for subtitles with the built-in search feature, add your own subtitles, and change the subtitle font size and text colour. It is available to download for free as a chrome extension here.
Minimal Reader Mode is an extension which allows you to change the font size, colour, margins, line heights and spacing, and enable dark mode on any website for optimised reading. It is available to download for free as a chrome extension here.
Weava is a highlighting tool which enables the user to highlight websites and PDFs with multiple colours and to annotate the highlighted text. These annotations can be revisited in a single click and organised into sub-folders. It is available to download for free as a Chrome Extension here.
Copyfish Screenshot Reader is OCR software which allows the user to copy, paste, or translate text from any image, video, or PDF without retyping. It is available to download for free for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge here.
Grammarly is a writing assistant which offers you specific suggestions to help you improve your writing, from grammar and spelling, to style and tone. It is available to download for free here.
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