PDF and Online Flipbooks are website addons used to make documents on a website more visually appealing by evoking the tactile feeling of “page flipping”.
They are often presented as embeddable iframes that go into a page and display a document (mostly PDFs) in a book or magazine style that uses a page turning animation to make the experience supposedly more engaging by making it feel more like flipping through a paper document rather than just scrolling on screen.
Many education institutions are drawn to these style of display products as a way to publish digital versions of prospectuses and other promotional material. You may be familiar with products like Publitas, nxtbookmedia, PageRaft or YUDU, but by far the most commonly mentioned is the issuu publishing platform.
This guide is not a criticism of any individual platform but a discussion on the challenges of using embeddable PDF flipbooks as a whole and a reference tool for available accessibility information on common products. We have linked to the accessibility information of any products we mention (where available) at the end of the guide.
There are many aspects of these types of publishing platforms that can cause problems when it comes to accessibility because we are using different content types nested within one another.
- Firstly, any problems that can arise out of embedded content usage like issues surrounding frame titles.
- Secondly, problems with the flipbooks themselves such as keyboard control issues or, controls and content being available to screen readers.
- Thirdly, problems with the documents themselves even if alternative download options are provided.
Most flipbooks are used to present longer form and highly graphical document content. While that is not necessarily a blocker to delivering accessible documents it does mean that more care needs to be taken with content, and introducing inaccessible controls and display options only adds to the complexity of making these types of content accessible.
Some platforms suggest that they use “full-screen readers” which some people misunderstand as an accessibility feature, but it really just means viewing the document in full screen, not anything to do with screen reader software.
Sometimes you may not be able to win the argument for avoiding inaccessible document display options like flipbooks.
We advise that as a minimum, accessible document alternatives must be provided alongside flipbooks and contact information for support on request. This could take the form of PDF downloads and an email address, but the important thing to remember is that any document download alternatives must be accessible documents.
At this stage, the flipbook becomes an optional extra, “nice to have” if users want to engage with your content that way, but you have an accessible option available for everyone.
- Make your print-style content digitally accessible, Substrakt 2022 is a useful article on the misconception of the phrase “full-screen reader”.
- Some history of complaints about flipbooks going back as far as 2013, A Demirgian 2018
- Examples of impact and response from end users with disabilities, Google group thread 2016
- Issues with Issuu: An Open Letter to Literary magazines, D Goldstein 2012 mentions both disability related and general web usage issues that still appear to be relevant in 2023.
Below is the accessibility related information we found when looking into mentioned flipbook products. As we looked through each, we tried to locate as much accessibility information about the products as possible and have noted where we could not find information or made comments about the journey and content we did find.
Some products mention outdated standards, some have a lot to say about accessibility but don’t embody their own advice, and others have no information at all. Overall, there is little useful accessibility information available publicly on their main websites for these products.
This is not an endorsement of any products we mention, and you should check thoroughly that any product you use meets your accessibility requirements before purchase or use.
Please consider asking for accessibility compliance documentation, VPATs or other evidence of how platforms deliver accessibility before use. More information can be found in our accessibility in procurement guide.
Issuu Accessibility Statement
Issuu also have a help centre in which we could not find any relevant articles for the keywords: accessibility, disability, screen reader, JAWS, VoiceOver, or blind.
The live chat suggested contacting support which was not possible at the time, sales for pricing and features, or further live chat only if we had a subscription so no useful information was found.
Nxtbook media / PageRaft
Nxtbook media have a lot to say about accessibility and make commitments on their products’ ability to help creators meet WCAG requirements.
Their own accessibility guide surfaced through their product PageRaft has content inside the document that cannot be accessed with keyboard controls only. If using a screen reader, the interactive links within content can be tabbed through and text navigated with arrow keys.
Nxtbook media FAQ – The “How do you create accessible content?” section is the 11th accordion in the list of accordions which cannot be navigated with keyboard controls, so their information on accessibility is itself not accessible.
The Nxtbook media Digital Accessibility and Content Creation article, 2020 explains the basics of accessibility to customers and makes further commitments that their product supports accessible content creation.
Paperturn provide a guide on how to use their accessibility features. They make the bold claims that when using Paparturn, your flipbooks are 100% accessible and comply with all worldwide accessibility legislation. They state this is because disabled users have their own unique flipbook viewer.
When looking at their viewer controls, it was immediately obvious that many disabled people would not be able to use the "accessible" viewer because none of the controls provide focus indication either in the default or the "accessible" viewer. So any keyboard only users will have no chance of even turning on the proposed accessibility features or navigating the "accessible" viewer even if they could somehow get into it.
Paperturn also offer an overlay product as part of their "accessibility" tools. Find out more about the risks of overlay products in our Overlays and other "fix-it" products guide.
Publitas do not list accessibility in their features list, and use the same support portal as Issuu in which again we could not find any relevant articles for the keywords: accessibility, disability, screen reader, JAWS, VoiceOver, or blind.
Yudu has an accessibility section in their features list. Yudu makes commitments about keyboard shortcuts, text sizing and screen reader compatibility.
They also mention the ability to make plaintext versions to comply with WCAG 1.0 (which was superseded in 2008). Stripping content to make a plaintext version is not considered best practice as plaintext can often lose accessibility features as formatting is removed.
Yudu also has a guides and resources section which was searched for the keywords: accessibility, disability, screen reader, JAWS, VoiceOver, or blind with no results.