May 18, 2022

Introducing PubReader: A New Way to Read PubMed Central Articles, Code Also Available

From a NLM Technical Bulletin Post by David Lipman:

The most common way that a scientific paper appears on the Web is as a single long page that you read by scrolling through vertically. Without the landmarks of multiple columns and separate pages, however, once you scroll back to look at, for example, an earlier figure, you often have to hunt around for the spot where you stopped reading.

Another common presentation format is a PDF, which displays the pages on your screen exactly as they appeared, or would appear, on the printed page. If your display is large enough, you might get one or even two pages on the screen. With smaller screens however, such as a laptop or tablet, when you shrink the page to fit the screen the text is too small to read. Zooming in so that the words are readable means you are back to the problem of scrolling around through the article. Either way, it can be difficult to keep your train of thought as you work through the paper. These problems are compounded when you try to read through an article on one of the new tablets with a 7-inch screen.

To address these problems, NCBI has developed a new presentation style that we call PubReader, an easier way to use your Web browser to read articles in PubMed Central on your desktop, laptop, or tablet computer. Like a printed paper, PubReader breaks an article into multiple columns and pages to improve readability and navigation. PubReader can expand a page to whatever fits on your screen — with multiple columns on a desktop monitor or a single column page on a small tablet. It will even switch to two columns if you rotate the tablet to a landscape view. When you adjust the font size or change the size of the browser window, page boundaries and columns are adjusted automatically adjusted.

Learn More About PubReader

Links to Open Articles in PubReader are Found Next To PMC Articles in PubMed Search Results.

At the moment, PubMed Reader only works with most recent versions of some browsers on some platforms. Here’s a complete list.

PubMed Reader Technology

The PubReader view is implemented in the same way as the traditional PMC article display, only using features and functions that are available in the latest versions of the underlying technologies, HTML5 and CSS3. To create the PubReader display, we start with the XML version of an article and use XSLT to convert it to an HTML document. Then we add in CSS and Javascript to implement the formatting, paging, navigation, and text reflowing. The entire article is loaded into a Web browser as a single HTML page. The browser handles paging and other functions locally, giving the flexibility described above without sacrificing efficiency and speed.

The CSS and Javascript code used to create the PubReader display is available from the NCBI repository on GitHub. Anyone can use or adapt this code to display journal articles or other content that is structured as an HTML5 document.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.