EAA Backlist Confusion – Looking at Regional Differences

A wall of books at varying angles with  a mirror reflecting a corridor of books opposite. A chalkboard sign reads "So Many books, so little time" reflecting the enormity of the task.

The European Accessibility Act comes into effect in June 2025, bringing with it a diverse range of requirements designed to improve the accessibility of products and services for people with disabilities.

The implications of the legislation reach far beyond the European Union. Anyone (with a few exceptions) wishing to sell their products or services into this market will also need to be aware of the Directive and understand exactly what they need to do to make them accessible. 

Whilst the scope of the Directive is broad, of particular interest to the publishing industry and people with print disabilities is that it covers ebooks. This includes both titles that are published after the implementation date of June 2023 as well as those already on the market, the so-called backlist.  

Many of the larger publishers have been working on upgrading the accessibility of their backlists for quite some time, prioritizing the most active titles and those easiest to update. However, because of the significant volume of backlist titles not everything will be updated by June 2025. 

Medium and smaller publishers don’t necessarily have the volume of backlist titles that they need to work through, but they often don’t have the level of resources to invest in rework, making the selection and prioritization of titles even more critical. 

Given that existing titles will be subject to the accessibility requirements, one question that keeps coming up is when backlist ebook titles will need to comply. And the answer to the question is not so clear. One explanation for this is that countries have implemented the Directive in different ways. Some countries have chosen to interpret parts of the directive in such a way as to allow for newly published titles to be treated differently to the backlist.  

For example: France have allowed for a 5-year grace period. Countries such as Sweden opted to exclude backlist titles from their legislation, however, more recent Swedish legislation appears to suggest the excluded content is web-based PDF documents and may not encompass all backlist ebooks. Other regions such as Finland and Denmark believe that the Directive applies equally to existing and newly published titles and are implementing legislation and issuing guidance to support that approach. 

With a variety of messages coming from different countries all implementing the same legislation, there is little wonder that confusion abounds. 

Ongoing debate about the grace period for backlist titles is likely only to be resolved through case law over a matter of years. In the meantime, we agree with what publishing bodies and accessibility experts from the publishing industry have been saying for several years now – publishers should be proactive and take active steps to make their backlist as accessible as possible. This will allow people with print disabilities to enjoy their titles, and also minimize any legal risk. 

One such publisher is Taylor and Francis: 

Taylor and Francis are focusing on their backlist in preparation for the EAA. It’s important to be on top of this work and we are taking the harshest interpretation of the EAA as a baseline for our efforts.

As different countries implement the act in their legislation and provide regional guidance to their publishers this topic will continue to develop. If you have referenceable information about local implementation that is relevant, please let us know