How to Print Dyslexia Friendly Books – and Why

From The Alliance of Independent Authors:

As a young child, I learned to read and write in what seemed like the blink of an eye. The world of books unfolded, bringing knowledge and adventure.

Not all of my relatives have been so lucky. Parallel threads run through my family: each of the last three generations has included at least one writer, one engineer and one dyslexic. My grandfather, a dyslexic engineer, achieved great things in his profession but wouldn’t pick up a book for pleasure.

It’s a common story.

10% of the British population is estimated to have dyslexia, including celebrities like Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver and Keira Knightley.

. . . .

Alistair Sims, who owns the bricks-and-mortar bookstore Books On The Hill in the gracious Somerset seaside town of Clevedon, is himself dyslexic. He makes sure to stock an excellent range of books for dyslexic children and young adults, attracting customers from miles around.

It’s a source of frustration to him that mainstream publishers ignore dyslexic adults completely, choosing only to service younger age groups.

We both agreed that indie authors were uniquely placed to fill that gap.

To borrow from corporate-speak, indies are focused on solutions.

We’re not afraid to try something new, and we can get books published quickly. Within two months of meeting Alistair, he was stocking my dyslexia-friendly paperbacks in his shop.

. . . .

So what makes a paperback dyslexia-friendly? Alistair suggested I read the British Dyslexia Association Style Guide, which recommends:

  • a large sans serif font
  • wide line spacing
  • black text on a cream background

I also investigated specialised fonts, such as Dyslexie, road-testing them on dyslexic relatives. However, they found conventional sans serif fonts just as easy to read provided the text was made large enough. It seemed the special fonts didn’t perform any better than Verdana, which came out well in comparison tests by the BDA New Technologies Committee. I therefore chose 14 point Verdana with 1.5 line spacing, and, of course, cream paper.

Link to the rest at the Alliance of Independent Authors and thanks to Felix for the tip.

25 thoughts on “How to Print Dyslexia Friendly Books – and Why”

  1. 14 point type? 21 point leading?

    So the way to cater to dyslexic readers is to give them books that use up twice as much paper as normal editions. That way, the books will be so expensive that the dyslexics can’t afford to buy them and won’t be bothered by them.

    I see.

    • The ideal solution is, of course, ebooks. I have dyslexic friends who love to read but find it draining to sustain the necessary concentration. They adore ebooks and TTS.

      Failing that, slightly more expensive pbooks dyslexics can read are better than cheaper books they can’t read or that are painful to read.

      Audiobooks are another solution but they are hardly cheap either.

    • Huh? I fail to see whatever it is that you “see”. If someone with dyslexia can’t read a book at all, they wouldn’t be buying it either. People make their decisions about what to purchase based on their own criteria, whether that be price or readability. If someone prefers paper books, what’s wrong with giving them a larger choice?

      • Multiple editions cost more money. How many books sell well enough to justify the extra cost of preparing an edition specifically for the benefit of dyslexic readers? Not many, I’ll wager. If you can’t justify doing a separate edition, then what you’re being asked to do is make your only print edition dyslexic-friendly – which greatly increases the size, bulk, and cost of the book.

        • I dunno, but many publishers do large-print books for seniors and the partially-blind.

          Even disabled people have money, which they’ll give you if you’ll sell them what they want.

        • Multiple editions how?
          Setting up a POD edition isn’t all that expensive. For tradpubbers ordering big batcges it might be prohibitive but for Indies…? Reflowing a Word document into a separate pdf and uploading a second version isn’t a big deal.

          There must be a disconnect here…???

          • Either I’m missing something, or the hardest part will be labelling the two POD paperback editions so people know which is which.

            And would you need another ISBN for the dyslexia-friendly edition?

            • If you believe in ISBNs to start with, yes.

              Those would only be needed if you go for extended distribution. The odds of getting sales from B&M for such a niche are low, though.

    • It’s about choice.

      Yes, you can arrange the font on a book reader pretty much however you want (especially if you have a Kobo), but some people still like to have a paper book.

      Dyslexia-friendly paperbacks cater to people who want large print and wide-spaced lines AND still want to read a paper book. Yes, it’s more expensive, but a more-expensive book that you can read comfortably and actually exists, is better than no book at all, or one you can’t read.

      AA Abbott has all her books published as ebooks, of course. The dyslexia-friendly editions are in addition to the ebook AND the ordinary pbook editions.

      I know someone else who has started to publish ordinary large-print editions of his books, and is surprised by how well they’re doing. In the brave new world of POD, it doesn’t cost all that much to set up a new edition, and you never know – you might earn market share from all those people who need large print and don’t have an ereader – and want something other than Catherine Cookson and Agatha Christie (from my memory of the large-print shelves of the local library).

      Plus, there is the interesting angle that there is – apparently – a ‘large print’ section on Amazon, and it’s relatively easy to get good visibility there… 🙂

  2. Apparently the Alliance of Independent Authors is unaware that e-readers have had adjustable font sizes, multiple font options and background color options (sepia/’cream’), for over 10 years.

    • This is a bit unfair. This article is specifically about producing accesible print versions and you have no reason to suppose that the alliance lacks knowledge of e-readers. In fact, the first line of the full article refers to a previous posting about making e-books more accesible to the print disabled so they have already covered e-books.

  3. I have an eye muscle problem. These fixes for one vision problem would make it totally unreadable for mine. Please don’t lock down the fonts and colors on your ebooks.

    • I have trouble reading a typical margin setting. I set wide margins on my Kindle and it works perfectly. No need to scan so far from side to side.

  4. This article is about PRINT books, and cites that customers are prepared to pay more for a bigger, readable-to-them book, which has a different ISBN than the standard print version.

    And ALLi offers great guidance and recommendations for ebook design, which is an entirely different topic than this article focuses on.

  5. I’m dyslexic and it’s one reason I love ebooks. I make the font large and I find white text on black is best for me. The wonderful thing about ebooks is the layout isn’t fixed. Ragged right margin is also easier to read.

  6. One key point to consider is that because Indies aren’t afraid to use POD, the incremental cost for doing large print or dyslexic-friendly editions to sell side-by-side with the baseline editions is minimal. And it might be a competitive advantage because tradpubs, being mostly batch-print focused, don’t typically bother with either market. And dyslexia is far from rare:

    It is a spectrum so it doesn’t impact everyone equally but it affects as many as one in six. That’s a market worth serving considering the low up-front cost.

    Me, I suspect a savvy author might add a notice on the book page pointing out that “the ebook edition is unlocked and readers are free to select large font sizes or a dyslexic-friendly typeface but custom editions are available for those that prefer print”.

    Again: minimal cost but it might earn some goodwill. And added sales.

  7. PoD is the answer as you have no idea how many/few dyslexic readers will ever be interested in any one book/story.

    In other news:

    University of California, Berkeley, To Delete Publicly Available Educational Content

    Seems it’s cheaper to remove what’s already there than it is to make it fit the rules of easy access for the blind/deaf. So the many will suffer because the few couldn’t use it (reminds me of that saying about not letting a man have a steak because a baby can’t chew it.)

    • Serifs. 😉

      The key guideline is to make each word distinct unto itself and minimize stylistic frills and clutter. The examples in the OP are good at that. Even the cover gets the minimalistic treatment.

  8. Interesting article. I took notes. 🙂

    I don’t see any reason why a POD couldn’t be set up to handle this. Put it in the blurb what it’s for, and see how it does. A separate large print version could be done just as easily.

    Not everyone wants an ereader (and not all of them can handle different fonts or backgrounds, such as my old Kindle Keyboard).

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