For those who have never heard of page turning software they are programs that recreate the format of a printed magazine on a web page. The site visitor sees the image of a double page spread and simply clicks on the right or left of the screen to turn the page. They are intended to replicate the experience of reading a magazine or newspaper but on a monitor.

Every client I have worked with who has created page turning versions of their print publications has dropped them, reporting their readers don’t read them.

And there is plenty of evidence to back up their experience.

None of the web-only online publications have adopted this technology.

None of the world’s top five hundred sites have this technology.

All the major offline publishers who have moved online with page turning versions (with the exception of Dennis Publishing’s Monkey Mag) have stopped using it.

John Menzies eMagazine project, which tried to sell digital page turner versions of offline magazines, closed down after just 14 months losing millions of pounds in the process.

How much evidence do people need to realise that page turners don’t work?

Why Page Turner’s Don’t Work On The Internet?

Internet users do not read websites and web pages in the same way they read a magazine or newspaper.

They move around the web using a combination of three techniques that do not exist in the physical world.




They follow strands of interest, rather than taking a random walk through a printed document.

They control what they look at, in what order and for how long. They move from current stories to related archived information; they browse images and watch video; they jump from one site to another; they print longer articles and scan short ones; they decide in a fraction of a second if a page is of interest. 

If they like what they read they participate and become part of the story by commenting, book marking and rating.

Online publisher who understand this don’t try to control their visitors activity when they visit their site. Instead they focus on navigation, links, serving related content, offering interaction and watching what their customers read so they can continually offer more relevant information. They encourage their visitors to chart their own course through the web pages. They even encourage their readers to leave their site with links to content elsewhere on the web if it offers their readers the best possible experience.

Reading a magazine or newspaper is very different, and the truth be told, it is a very poor user experience which we tolerate because, in print format, there isn’t an alternative.

There is no search, navigation is very limited to a content page, linking between articles is poor, no access to source material or archive content, easy to get lost, and inefficient to browse.

The publisher tries to rigidly control what, when and how the visitor sees their content. The editor decides what he believes the visitor should read and orders it accordingly.

Page turning services take all these limitations online (where they don’t exist).

They force readers to go from page to page looking at content that they are not interested in.

They avoid search, navigation and links which interrupt the flow of their pages.

The deliberately place ads in positions that are intrusive.

And they tend to minimise interaction with visitors because commenting does not work within the page turner format.

Replicating the offline magazine format on the internet is like making new TV programs in black and white. It’s technically easy to do but why would you bother?

Page Turners Could Be Successful In Future

I don’t believe page turners will ever be successful on the internet.

However the new generation of portable devices such as the Amazon Kindle and Sony eReader could breath new life into the digital magazine format. Just maybe people will like to buy ‘digital magazine’ if they are on a portable handheld device.

Who knows?

Only time will tell.