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 Ctrl+Shift+C) or Stop (or press Ctrl+Shift+E)
You can change the default Read Out Loud voice in the following way:
You can also change other default Read Out Loud settings (namely the speed and pitch of the narration) 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 secured e-books in PDF and EPUB format for offline use. This software does not have its own built in accessibility features, and users are limited to highlighting and bookmarking text as well as adjusting font size and zoom.
Instead, this software uses the tools included in Windows and Mac operating systems to provide accessibility, including support for high contrast modes and support for resizing book text. It can also be used with screen readers, including JAWS and NVDA on Windows, and Voiceover on Mac OS. To make downloaded e-books only available through Adobe Digital Editions more accessible, we recommend you:
When viewing secured EPUB format e-books in Adobe Digital Editions, users can choose to show or hide page numbers within the full text. These page numbers correspond to those in print versions of the same book. Page numbers can be shown in the following way:
Page numbers can then be hidden in exactly the same way:
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.
Dark Mode is an extension that helps you quickly turn your browser dark. A toolbar button serves as an on/off switch which enables you to easily and quickly turn the extension on or off. If you do not like the current dark theme, you can visit the options page and choose a different theme from over 50 available options. It is available to download for free as a Chrome Extension here.
PDF Colour Inverter is an extension that inverts background and text colours of PDFs only when viewed within your web browser, rather than software such as Adobe Acrobat Reader or Adobe Digital Editions. It is available to download for free as a Chrome Extension here.
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.
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.
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.
Reader Mode is a feature-packed extension designed specifically to help dyslexic users as a distraction-free web reader. It removes clutter, ads and distractions, while also includes dyslexia support, bookmarking, annotating, highlighting, text-to-speech and many other features all in one tool. It is available to download for free as a chrome extension here.
Minimal Reading 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.
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.
Microsoft Word includes an Immersive Reader mode that enables you to modify document font, line spacing and background colour, and includes a reading ruler. This is available in Windows desktop, Apple iOS, iPad app, and browser-based versions of Word. You can access Microsoft guidance for using Immersive Reader here and see a video demonstration of the browser-based version here.
NaturalReader is a text-to-speech tool which converts text into natural sounding audio and allows users to customise reader speed, voice and highlighting. NaturalReader supports most document formats, including PDF, txt, and doc(x) files. It is available for free as:
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.
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.
T2S is a simple app that can open text and ePub files and PDFs and read them aloud. It can also convert text file into an audio file, and can link into your preferred browser. It is available for free as an Android app here.
Seeing AI is a powerful app created by Microsoft that helps users with low vision capture and read aloud text. Using a device's camera, it can read aloud real-world text without the need to upload anything and can even describe images and users' surroundings. It is available for free as an Apple iOS app here, and there's more information about the app on Microsoft's website here.
Microsoft Word and other Office applications include an Immersive Reader mode that enables you to have document text read aloud at variable speeds. This is available in Windows desktop, Apple iOS, iPad app, and browser-based versions of MS Word. You can access Microsoft guidance for any version of Immersive Reader here and see a video demonstration of the browser-based version 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.
OneNote Web Clipper is an extension that lets you quickly clip all or part of a web page into OneNote and save it for later. Clip images, PDFs, videos or a visual bookmark of a page. Best of all, you can access them from any computer, tablet or phone – even when you're offline. It is available to download for free as a Chrome Extension 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. Please note that Grammarly is an AI tool, so you should refer to the university's guidance on the use of AI in your academic work.
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