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Inclusive Publishing Hearts and Minds at the Digital Publishing Summit

DPUB logoThe 2019 edition of the Digital Publishing Summit took place in Paris (France) on June 25-26. This increasingly popular two-day conference—now in its fourth iteration—is organised by the not-for-profit organization EDRLab (European Digital Reading Lab). The conference began in 2016 in the town of Bordeaux (France), then moved to Brussels (Belgium), followed by Berlin (Germany).

This year’s opus was hosted by the National Library of France, in the capital city where EDRLab’s headquarters are located and has, yet again, been a showcase of some of the most exciting developments in the industry. The two conference days were packed with in-depth presentations as well as entertaining insights on the many facets of the publishing ecosystem. Business managers and technical experts shared their experiences, and reflected on the challenges and opportunities that have marked the year.

The extensive program covered a broad spectrum of topics, including:

  • The essential role of technical open standards—the EPUB specifications, the W3C web platform, and the global collaboration to normalize digital sequential art / visual narratives (comic books, manga)
  • The strategic significance of open source software—EPUBCheck and the Ace by DAISY Accessibility Checker
  • Innovative research and development projects coming to fruition and the growing adoption of Readium architecture in commercial-grade solutions
  • User-friendly Digital Rights Management gaining traction in the library context—Readium LCP (Licensed Content Protection)
  • The emergence of bleeding-edge software solutions and services, automated production processes powered by machine learning principles
  • Changing consumer habits and evolving business models including  the remarkable expansion of the audio-books market
  • Legal directives and legislative frameworks, ensuring inclusive access to all published content—the European Accessibility Act and the ongoing ratification and implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty

This short article only touches the surface of some of these topics, so make sure you explore the YouTube video recordings of the conference talks.

Daniel Weck presenting at DPUB with a power point slide containing the Thorium logo

Image supplied by Luc Audrain, Hachette Livre

I personally made a presentation about Thorium, an open-source desktop application based on the Readium architecture. Thorium is a reading system developed by EDRLab, which aims to support EPUB (reflowable and fixed layout), the LCP DRM, OPDS catalogs, TTS read aloud, accessible annotations, and many other essential features. I talked about usability, as well as the technical challenges faced when implementing accessibility techniques (e.g. keyboard navigation, screen reader support, customizable text formatting, adaptable user interface, etc.). Aferdita Muriqi (EDRLab) showcased the Readium mobile apps, with the notable addition of support for audio books. Naturally, accessibility is also high on the priority list of the Android and iOS projects.

Over the past few years, the digital publishing industry has demonstrated a passionate drive to create systems with inclusive design in mind, impacting not only the reading experience end of the supply chain, but throughout the entire ecosystem—authoring tools, production practices, validation utilities, delivery and discovery systems, and of course technical standards and publication formats.

Ken Jones' first slide at the #dpubsummit a11y=accessibility

In the first slide of his presentation, Ken Jones (Circular Software) showed how the word accessibility contracts to the term a11y. Ironically, Ken immediately went on to make live demonstrations of interactive, animated, all singing-and-dancing fixed layout EPUB publications, which usually rate low on the a11y-o-meter! However, Ken made the case that documents authored with Adobe’s InDesign—a tool typically geared towards visual typesetting and graphic-oriented creations—can indeed feature a clean navigation structure and linear reading order. Ken showed keyboard usage and gave an example of accessible text in typographically-rich layouts. He also explained how to label interactive controls so they are announced by screen readers as well as demonstrating EPUB Media Overlays read aloud— the playback of audio narration synchronized with highlighted text.

There is indeed a strong case to be made for optimized publications – as defined in the EPUB Accessibility specification, for example those that meet the particular needs of readers with dyslexia, using adapted typography, text formatting, colours,  and synchronized voice narration, etc.

However, fixed layout EPUBs have an intrinsic characteristic that makes them inherently less accessible than their reflowable counterparts: they are not authored with responsive design in mind. By definition, a fixed layout document is not meant to reflow depending on screen size and device orientation. At best, it can be scaled in or out, and panned across. Crucially, in the real world, many fixed layout publications are just mere exports from typesetting tools like InDesign, or straight conversions from PDF with little or no care for accessibility.

A case in point: Vincent Wartelle (ISICrunch) gave an entire presentation about using machine learning—more commonly referred-to as artificial intelligence—to reverse-engineer the navigation structure, linear reading order, and text flow from PDF files typically published in the education sector. In my opinion, although there are valid justifications for fixed layout EPUBs, I believe the first port of call for any modern digital creation should be a reflowable responsive design.

Thankfully, nowadays there are readily-available tools to help validate publications not only in terms of their correctness with respect to the EPUB specification (i.e. EPUBCheck), but also by asserting a number of well-defined accessibility criteria. As Romain Deltour (DAISY Consortium) demonstrated, the Ace by DAISY Accessibility checker verifies W3C WCAG rules as well as EPUB-specific ones. The report produced by Ace contains a list of categorized and prioritized issues, which content creators can use to identify problems and address them effectively (references to the DAISY Knowledge Base are provided).

@wendy_a_reid @kobo talks about audio books at #dpubsummitI anticipate that in some not-too-distant future, there will be similar validation/checking tools to help with the production of audio books. In her presentation, Wendy Reid (Kobo) walked us through the W3C audio books standardization effort, which includes a strong recognition of the need for a structured table of contents (not just a playlist of MP3 files!), accessible descriptions, as well as the potential of more advanced features like escapability and skippability (which are well-known concepts in DAISY Digital Talking Books)

Many of the presentations at the Digital Publishing Summit did not have a direct accessibility angle, which made them no less interesting. Julie Blanc (Labo Paragraph) talked about “page.js”, an HTML toolkit for print layout based on CSS stylesheets. Florian Dupas (Kwalia) presented the latest research and development in the field of digital comic books – sequential art / visual narrative – a collaborative effort that involves participants from several countries (notably Japan, where manga is a popular art form, and a vibrant market).

Conversely, a whole portion of the conference was dedicated to discussing inclusive access, head-on. Notably, Cristina Mussinelli (LIA Foundation) provided an overview of the Marrakesh Treaty and the European Accessibility Act. Avneesh Singh (DAISY Consortium) talked about the global accessibility specifications that are used to implement the legislative requirements.

To conclude, here is a quote from one of Avneesh Singh’s slides:

We are in the beginning of a revolution, we have a lifetime opportunity to achieve the era of born-accessible publications.
Let’s come along for a common worldwide standard for accessible publications

We certainly are. We certainly should.

Avneesh Singh talks about the "born accessible" publishing revolution.

This article was kindly submitted by software engineer, Daniel Weck, who works with the DAISY Consortium and EDRLab to implement accessible open source production tools and reading systems. Daniel also contributes to the standardization of web technologies and open publication formats, with a particular focus on inclusive publishing.

The History and Future of Audiobooks

Space Gray Iphone 6 and Red On-ear HeadphonesThis article was kindly submitted by Wendy Reid, Senior QA at Rakuten Kobo Inc and one of the co-chairs of the Publishing Working Group of the W3C. She is the editor of the audiobooks profile of Web Publications, the focus of this blog piece. Wendy recently presented on the new audiobook standard at the DPUB Summit in Paris.

When Thomas Edison recorded the first audiobook in 1877, he probably didn’t think of them as anything other than a way to sell more phonographs. In the 1930’s, when the Library of Congress and the AFB developed a program for talking books, audiobooks got their real start and reputation as a medium for reading accessibility. The talking books program was created to provide reading materials for wounded war veterans and people with visual disabilities, and the model would be recreated in other countries in the years that followed.

My first exposure to the world of audiobooks came in grade 10. My English teacher, a man well known for his coke-bottle glasses and sweater vests, popped a cassette tape into a player on his desk and played us a recording of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It was pretty good, certainly more interesting than reading the worn copy in my backpack or listening to my classmates stumble over Shakespeare’s peculiar use of English. However, it was a cassette in a time when I carried an iPod around in my school bag and feverishly downloaded MP3s from torrent sites. Audiobooks, though better than reading my school books, seemed antiquated. When I picked up an audiobook again at a summer data entry job, it was on a CD. I later discovered I could torrent them off music sites too, but my tiny 8gb iPhone 4s couldn’t handle more than one at a time, and I always seemed to lose track of my place.

Little did I know then that in a few years I would be working on audiobooks on the other side of the table. Instead of torrenting them I’d be working on an app to purchase, download, and listen to them all on my iPhone 6s. I would spend 6 months of my life listening almost exclusively to audiobooks, some I enjoyed, some I hated, many in languages I didn’t understand, all for the purpose of releasing a product. A product I inevitably use almost every week..

Last year the Publishing Working Group  at W3C started work on audiobooks. It had become apparent to us that there was a strong business need for standardization in the industry, especially as it was seeing a newfound popularity.

It would shock many people to know that audiobooks are produced without any sort of unifying specification at all.

Today, if a publisher wants to produce a new audiobook, they are responsible for a few things: they have to produce the audio files, cover, a track list, and any supplemental content that they want to include with the book (this can be things like graphs or photos). Once they have done that, they often send their files to either distributors or direct to retail. Each of those entities may or may not have a preferred “standard” they expect, and this can be very different depending on the requirements.

This fragmentation means that end users, depending on the platform they use (and they are almost always siloed to one), can get many different experiences.

Those reading platforms also have to factor in for a lot of data challenges, things like incorrect chapter lengths, missing track data, a missing or incorrect table of contents.

The Publishing Working Group looked at all of these problems, as well as use cases that we thought were underserved by the current implementation of audiobooks—specifically accessibility. Our specification, now a public working draft, addresses our four main classes of use case:

  • Listening—a user should be able to listen to their content without input or interruption
  • Portability—a user should be able to download, steam, or offline their content
  • Navigation—a user should be able to know when and where they are in their audiobook
  • Accessibility—regardless of ability, a user should able to enjoy their content

Listening

Our specification makes the possibility of seamless listening possible via the reading order section of the manifest. This provides instruction to reading systems or the web that as long as no other input is present, this is the order the content should be presented it. It does not preclude fast forwarding or rewinding, but if a user chooses to not interact with the listening medium, they get their content in order.

Portability

The audiobooks specification is designed for the web first, meaning that streaming was a major use case, but we also recognized the need for an offline distribution model where content could be downloaded and transported in a single piece. For that we have developed a packaging specification that addresses this problem. It means that content creators can bundle their content together into a single file, and users can download that file and enjoy their content wherever they choose to open it.

Navigation

The audiobooks specification has a specific provision for the Table of Contents. We allow content creators to create an HTML document for the table of contents which means they can create a rich document with the necessary structure of the book, and audio platforms can use it for display and information. That data can be used to help the user understand where they are in their audiobook at any time.

Accessibility

Audiobooks are often considered accessible by default—talking books were designed for the blind after all. However, print disabilities is a bigger classification than this and we needed to address all of the possible users for the specification. For that reason, the Audiobooks specification will be using the Synchronized Media specification to provide a method for content creators to sync audio and textual content for optimal experience. The specification also allows content creators to reference accessibility metadata within the manifest (on top of any ONIX they may use) to allow users to understand exactly what content they are receiving and if it meets their needs.

The audiobooks specification is moving towards recommendation status with the W3C, at this point in our process we are looking for feedback and implementation, so please reach out to us on our GitHub at https://github.com/w3c/wpub or to the editor at wendy.reid@rakuten.com (you can also reach me on twitter @wendy_a_reid if you are really keen).

EDRLab Announces Program for DPUB

EDRLab  has announced it’s program for June’s European Digital Publishing Summit with a heavy focus on accessibility. DAISY colleagues, Avneesh Singh and Romain Deltour will both be presenting at the 2 day conference alongside an impressive line up of international speakers. There will be a number of sessions concentrating on accessibility and demonstrations of the Ace by DAISY software and the SMART tool will be taking center stage.

See our events page for details on how to register and find out more

Digital Publishing Summit Europe 2019

June 25th to 26th, 2019

The DPUB Summit Europe 2019 encourages participants to exchange thoughts and views on technical and business innovations in the publishing industry. Talks, panels, and lots of demos. At this 2 day event, EDRLab aims to strengthen a true spirit of cooperation between professionals via talks, panels and lots of demos. It aims to encourage massive adoption of open standards and software by the European publishing industry.  Avneesh Singh, DAISY CTO, and Romain Deltour, Ace by DAISY developer, will both be speaking at DPUB alongside an exciting line up of international speakers.

Date

June 25-26, 2019

Venue

Paris, France

Learn More

Full details on how to register are available at the EDRLab website. Early bird pricing is available until April 30, 2019

Notes from Berlin: DPUB Summit Highlights

Ken Jones, author of this article, displays his conference pass, program and conference information
 This is a guest post by Ken Jones – Ken specialises in writing workflow applications and offering training and consultancy for publishers on print and digital workflows. Ken’s company Circular Software’ provides software tools and services for a range of illustrated book publishers. Contact Ken on twitter @CircularKen on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/kenjones  or through the website circularsoftware.com.

This article has been kindly edited by Laura Brady and has been cross-posted on epubsecrets.com


The Digital Publishing Summit was held in Berlin on Weds 16th and Thurs 17th May. It was a wide-ranging and stimulating event full of interesting news about the digital publishing landscape.

The area of central Berlin we were in had a pleasant bohemian vibe. After my vegan panini and smoothie, I strolled to the event hotel as hordes of cyclists whizzed by along the sunny streets. Oh, wait, this is not a holiday review, allow me to continue… #not-eprdctn

This previous name for this yearly gathering used to be the ‘EPUB summit’ but this year it has been renamed the Digital Publishing Summit or ‘DPUB summit’ as it relates to digital publishing beyond EPUB. Before the main conference started around 40 of us started off the Wednesday morning with an extra Readium workshop led by Laurent Le Meur, CTO, EDRLab (@lmrlaurent). Laurent started but outlining some of the challenges with Readium 1 — notably performance, accessibility gaps and lack of Windows and Linux SDKs. They decided to  to start R2 with fresh codebase and to create new mobile & desktop SDK named Readium-2 (aka R2).

The overall aim of the project is to deploy a set of open and interoperable digital publishing technologies in Europe, around an open, flexible & accessible standard applicable to all kinds of digital publications

Laurent Le Meur presenting at DPUB Summit

R2 is being optimised for performance, ease of maintenance, and is well documented with consistency between target environments (so different OS, mobile, desktop). It is a live ongoing project with releases approx. every two weeks. Everything they are doing is on Github. Readium 2 apps are emerging already and an Alpha desktop version in publicly available.

They have an ambitious roadmap for 2018. Expect progress to be made in roughly in the following order: import, library, reflowable EPUB, LCP (Readium Licensed Content Protection), user settings, RTL, fixed-layout, CBZ (comic books and manga), OPDS (Open Publication Distribution System), bookmarks, vertical text, themes, footnotes, accessibility navigation, search, support for WP, audiobooks, TTS, media overlays, more dyslexia support.

Laurent Le Meur presenting the EDRLab Roadmap for 2018

 

EDRLab are seeking a wider community for development, feedback, and financial support.

Phew! Got all that? I’ll explain in more detail about some of this below. The roadmap is available on GithubEDRLab are seeking a wider community for development, feedback and financial support. They need constructive testing (so don’t just moan about how it may look wonky or has missing features, they already know this!…) and, again, everything is open and logged on Github.

Hadrien Gardeur of Feedbooks then spoke about the Readium Web Publication Manifest. Think of it as an unpackaged and deconstructed ebook that exists in RAM. By abstracting the contents it means R2 reading apps can be much more responsive. By loading the publication into memory and preparing for transmission over the web. And it doesn’t have to be EPUB, any structured publication could be deconstructed. They already support CBZ (a format for comic books as images) and are in a good place to handle any new W3C formats that come in the future.

R2 ingests packaged EPUBs in this way ready to them streamed, parsed, and fetched as HTML resources. They refer to the flow of rendered content to the reader app as the ‘streamer’. Think of the R2 reading system in 2 parts: frontend and backend. The frontend reader is fed by the backend, which could be either within an offline app or streamed from a server. By pre-fetching and pre-rendering content in backend memory everything is presented super fast.

Readium CSS is the open resource that Readium apps are using to present content and to handle user settings. Glue JS is a new project being built for R2 which makes sense of pagination, scrolling, touch and key events and CSS, locations, and custom properties.

Aferdita Muriqi of EDRLab (@AferditaMuriqi) talked about where they are with Readium mobile apps and their future plans.

Aferdita Muriqi of EDRLab (@AferditaMuriqi) talked about where they are with Readium mobile apps and their future plans. The R2 iOS app is out now and it is still being developed with later builds regularly and betas here. The R2 Android app is also available now (in beta) from Googleand Github. R2 iOS and Android are being developed in tandem and share the same functionality and core code. But the different OS mean they have to handle things differently.

It’s important to understand that the EDRLab stance on mobile apps is that they will only ever be ‘test apps.’ They have no plans to produce a fully featured mobile reader instead will provide an open source example to others of what is possible and exactly how to do it.

The ultimate goal is a robust attractive reading system and to become an open replacement.

Daniel Weck of EDRLab (@DanielWeck) talked about Readium desktop apps and their future plans. Unlike the mobile apps the plan for desktop IS NOT to be just a test app. The ultimate goal is a robust attractive reading system and to become an open replacement. R2 desktop apps are already very impressive but are still in early stages. Latest builds available here.

Video demo of Readium desktop app

R2 apps (desktop and mobile) already come with support for OPDS (Open Publication Distribution System) basically a way for a metadata feed from a vast library of books to stream and also can point to book content. Sideloading is also possible. R2 Desktop has a load button for local files and mobile apps can load from weblinks or Dropbox etc. via the OS. If you interested in the future of EPUB readers, or the current lack of them, consider join me and others in testing and giving feedback to shape these valuable and open source mobile and desktop apps.

If you interested in the future of EPUB readers, or the current lack of them, consider join me and others in testing and giving feedback to shape these valuable and open source mobile and desktop apps

We then moved on to an interesting chat about EPUB Canonical Fragment Identifiers. In short, EPUB CFI is an accurate way to point to any content within EPUBs. Lars Wallin of @ColibrioReader demonstrated how to use EPUB CFI to achieve interoperable, sharable, annotations, bookmarks etc. EPUB CFI also support identification of interactive elements, images and even parts of images within EPUB. Yuri Khramov of @EvidentPoint then spoke how they are contributing to ‘Readium NG’ to support existing R1 users in their migration to R2 with as little pain as possible

Later, in the main DPUB conference, we heard more on how Readium Licensed Content Protection aka Readium LCP can store a user’s passphrase inside an EPUB reader to effortlessly unlock content. Hermann Eckel of German ebook company Tolino explained how Readium LCP is already installed in their hardware and how it is now their preferred copy protected solution.

Later we saw a live demo of a reader entering accessing an ebook using the standard library log-in.
Slide displaying details of the readium 2 LCP project

Eden Livres talked about how they invested last year to integrate LCP server side and now have over 80,000 titles now live with Readium LCP.

De Marque talked about how National Libraries Quebec achieve 6M+ ebook loans – quite a lot for a small city. Previous DRM systems had cost them over $800K CAD over the years and with countless hours of support and left them feeling powerless and not in control. LCP was a community project to take that control back. They are currently focus testing LCP with user in Quebec City, to be released this summer for all public libraries in Quebec province and other partners.

“DRM should be boring. It should be invisible and nothing to the user.”

A refreshingly neat quote that summed it up was “DRM should be boring. It should be invisible and nothing to the user.” #eprdctn

Garth Conboy of Google spoke about EPUB3.2 and future plans for EPUB at W3C and invited participation in the community group.

Slide displaying details of how the edge browser supports EPUB

Ben Walters of Microsoft (@_BenWalters_) gave a great presentation on how their Edge browser natively supports EPUB. Double click any DRM free reflowable or Fixed Layout EPUB on Windows 10 and it auto opens in this well featured reader. He said that reading books on a desktop or laptop may not be common but actually for reference or education the ability to have multiple pages of the same book, of different books, or other web content side by side can be very useful. One challenge for browser based reading is that people don’t expect a browser to work offline, even though they can for cached and local content. The challenge here is in education.

Microsoft Edge for iOS and Android edge on phone coming ‘very soon’. First releases were last year but last month’s update brings improvements including notes, better navigation, page sharing and media overlays! This is great stuff from Microsoft!… You hear that @Adobe…

Ben confirmed to me afterwards that, at launch, sideloading will not be possible for Edge on Android and iOS. It will only feature content from the Microsoft store.

Ben also won the prize for the most amusing slide when introducing his agenda.

Amusing agenda slide from Ben Dugas

Stephan Knecht from Bones AG demoed how their audio reader accepts EPUB by parsing a book into txt files. Able to handle cues like SSML, to indicate preferred speech speed, male, female voices for example. More here.

Stephan made an interesting point that his customers (often visually impaired, elderly, veterans) like the static simplicity of dedicated hardware. Rather than making a phone app, his credit card sized audio player has a run time 40 hrs with standby of months.

Word files are a ‘post paper digital artifact’

I really enjoyed the talk from Adam Hyde of Coko Foundation. He explained in a friendly rant how 90% of scholarly content is supplied as Word files and not truly digital. His phrase was Word files are a ‘post paper digital artifact.’ But not just there to complain, Adam had three solutions that all looked worth finding out more about:

  1. Getting content from word into HTML – XSweet.coko.foundation was released two weeks ago.
  2. How to edit content in HTML including citations, notes, tracked changes etc. (that is, the pro tools that are missing from Google Docs) — An open source HTML word processor.
  3. How to get digital content it out into legacy formats like PDF —Automation and using the browser as a typesetting engine: pagedmedia.org

Other highlights included @gleephapp a phone app that features a real-time barcode scanner of ISBNs and even book spines to make the link from physical to digital and then allows recommendations. This app has just launched in France with 33,500 users and 20,0000 titles.

Volker Oppmann of mojoreads (@onkelvolker) showed their neat book sharing platform which actually pays its users 10% commission for any sale that comes from their recommendation. #eprdctn

We also heard that Readium has further goals including an update to the Readium CloudReader with support for audiobooks.

I’m very glad I made the trip and I hope to attend again next year but I must conclude by saying this: it amazes me that Adobe is not attending, supporting, contributing development effort and funding to EDRLab. Privately they would have so much to gain themselves from this modern open source reading system And publicly, surely Adobe putting a couple of full time developers in EDRLab Paris for a year or two would both demonstrate and garner respect and support of their paying customers and the wider publishing community.

I’ll be talking more about Readium and demoing R2 during my PePcon session in a couple of weeks time if you’re attending CreativeProWeek and into EPUB and ebook development.

Also feel free to contact me directly if you’d like more info and I’ll help where I can.


Postscript. Typescript (@typescriptlang) seems to be a the current programming language of choice. Microsoft, EDRLab, and many of the smaller developers presenting at DPUB were all using it and speaking highly of it. http://www.typescriptlang.org

Accessible Publishing to Feature at DPUB Summit in Berlin

The Digital Publishing Summit Europe, being held in Berlin on the 16th and 17th of May, 2018, has a significant focus on accessibility this year. EDRLab, the organizers of this popular event, aims to “strengthen a true spirit of cooperation between professionals supporting the adoption of open standards and software by the European publishing industry”.

Avneesh Singh, COO of the DAISY Consortium, will be presenting a session on EPUB 3 and accessibility alongside Stephan Knecht, CEO of Bones AG.

Avneesh and Stephan will concentrate specifically on validation tools and processes which can enable the publishing industry to implement accessibility with consistency and uniformity across diverse production processes. The new EPUB accessibility checker, Ace by DAISY, will demonstrated at this session and delegates will also benefit from an accessibility focus throughout the summit – from an introduction by ABC Excellence Awards Winner, Luc Audrain from Hachette Livre, to a presentation given by Cristina Mussinelli of the LIA Foundation, we look forward to an exciting and informative event.

For further details on the full program and registration see the DPUB Summit events page.

 

Digital Publishing Summit Program Announced!

Logo for EDRLab the organizers of this conferenceEDRLab has announced the program for their annual Digital Publishing Summit (DPUB) which will take place in Berlin May 16-17, 2018. As ever the program is an exciting mix of tech presentations and high level sessions from the production of natively accessible ebooks to the spread of highly interoperable EPUB 3 reading applications on all platforms, with Readium LCP.  Delegates can expect plenty of practical demo sessions as EDRLab encourages adoption of open standards and software by the European publishing industry.

The program is of huge interest to accessible publishing, in particular the session on EPUB 3 as an accessible and mainstream format. Early bird pricing is available until February 28 and full information is online at the EDRLab website.