The writing has been on the wall for page-turning magazines for the past five years. This week’s announcement that Firefox will block all versions of Adobe Flash should be its death knell.

This is a severe blow to many publishers who rely on page-turning digital editions. Adobe Flash is still the work-horse for converting PDFs into browser-friendly page-flippers for millions of publications a month.

There is an alternative but it’s more complex, as we at Page Lizard know only too well. We have spent two years building an HTML5 Webviewer with the aim of doing exactly what we can do in Adobe Flash in HTML.

There was a clear motivation when we began: users with iOS devices have never been able to run Flash, and the workaround – to display JPEGs of magazine pages – was never a viable reader-experience.

A second motive emerged in the last year or so, fuelled by the rapid rise in mobile reading. Users on mobile are still unable to read a page designed to be nearly 12 inches tall on something a quarter of the height.

As a result we started offering two views which readers could toggle between – page-replica view or pure HTML view (text view if you wish, although we would argue that it is a lot richer than that description implies.)

The idea was that those on big desktop screens could switch to the traditional page reading experience and those on mobile would read in HTML. We still support both views, and Page Lizard’s Webviewer is a more-than-adequate replacement for Flash page-turners. If anybody wants to sign-up, we licence it for less than £200/$300 a month.

But we found that in the process of creating the HTML/text layer, we were able to do everything that the page could do just as well. The articles looked great once we had applied custom CSS styling. They were easier to read. As a result, dwell times and reader engagement grew.

Some readers and clients started to take the view that the page view was no longer needed. If we drop it, the delivery is certainly faster and lighter. It will probably be some time before pages are dropped altogether but, to us at least, the writing is also on the wall for the next chapter.

Delivering replica print pages simply has no future in the mobile digital landscape.

Page Lizard Webviewer 

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