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Ignore Those Bells and Whistles

This article was kindly submitted by Kevin Callahan, ebooks developer and proprietor of bngobooks.com

ereader placed on top of a pile of printed booksThere’s too much discussion in the ebook-making world about bells and whistles and EPUB3. Folks don’t want to make EPUB3 files because, who needs Javascript anyway? Kindles certainly don’t. How many books in their right minds need video? Very few. But many of these so-called bells and whistles aren’t that at all – they are simply regular features that you might find in some books but not necessarily all.

Features which, by their very nature, ensure that your ebooks reach a wider audience…

Ding Ding Ding

Understandably, no one wants particular features if they aren’t going to work everywhere. Scripting, MathML, audio and video: there’s no denying that support is spotty.

Talking about bells and whistles and how they’re not supported is a great way to keep the conversation limited to ebook developers and out of reach — or interest — of people in publishing. You know, our clients. Authors, editors, designers.

That’s why I’d like to banish that phrase and instead talk about real-life book features that our colleagues can get excited about. Features that are already in books and that can be boosted in the ebook edition and that will enrich the reading experience for all readers. Features that improve the accessibility of ebooks.

It’s All About Books

Let’s talk about the ordinary, everyday book: a novel, a memoir, a bit of history or politics. In other words, a book that’s mostly text, with a few images, a bibliography and maybe a glossary, perhaps a few tables.

Those elements aren’t bells and whistles.

They are parts of a book.

The same with tables of contents. Not every print book has one, but many do. So when included in an ebook, they don’t ring any kind of bell. They just live there, naturally.

When we organize a book, we use simple, straightforward hierarchies: what’s the book title (h1 in ebook-speak)? Chapter number and title (h2)? No bells and whistles here, just book stuff.

If we include a glossary, we prepare the manuscript so that glossary terms and their definitions each have the correct tags. No pealing bells here.

When we add a table of illustrations to go along with the table of contents, we’re not proposing anything unusual.

We’re just making the book more accessible. And when a book is accessible, it’s easier to use for everyone. It’s the same whether that book is a print edition or a digital one.

Why Resist?

I’ve wondered about the cause of the resistance, and I have an idea. Quite a while ago a client wished for a one-click solution to ebook making. Well, it’s available if InDesign is your source document. It is possible to export a valid EPUB from InDesign and just put it up for sale.

I sympathize with this stance. If sales aren’t there to support an hour or two of an ebook developer’s time, then I see why a publisher would shy away from doing further development. But: chicken, egg? Spend the time, plan to add simple book features — features you wish you had room to fit into print — and your readers will notice and buy your next book because its a better read for them, because its more accessible.

It’s Not Technical

One stumbling block for a lot of editors, designers, and even ebook developers is that it all seems so technical. Non-book-world verbiage, indecipherable version numbers, unfamiliar interface, no feel of paper or smell of ink. But think back to when we just had print – the lexicon was exclusive to many non-production people – CRC, formes, galleys, the list is endless.

ABut all you need to keep in mind is that EPUB3 lets a book be more like the books you cherish on your bookshelves. More text, more features that don’t fit into the page count, better structure that will survive future reading systems and thrive there. EPUB 3 helps us make sense of this new digital world – it allows us and our readers greater access.

It’s Also About the Future

Future reading systems? Yes, new and different reading systems will come along. Work is ongoing to improve e-reading software. So for an editor who needs her ebook edition of Moby Dick to be as readable in that future state as her paperback, the best idea is to make EPUB3 files now.

We Are All Book People Here

A book is a book, in whatever format. As a print designer, I take care with the print edition, nudging design elements, making sure styles are consistent, establishing clear hierarchy through typography. I’m going to want to do the same thing to the ebook edition. I’ll add tables of contents that are as complete as possible, make hierarchy clear through proper tagging, and ensure elements are marked up consistently. Like I said, an EPUB3 is just like a print book, only moreso.

More Thoughts

On epubsecrets.com, Laura Brady mused about the slow adoption of EPUB3, and countered several common arguments. Click here to read her take On the Slow Adoption of EPUB3.

Also on epubsecrets.com, Dave Cramer, cochair of the W3C’s EPUB3 Community Group, wrote about versioning, the differences between EPUB and the Web, and how we can create ebooks that utilize existing technology, old technology, and technology yet to come. Read “Good Enough: A Meditation on the Past, Present and Future of EPUB” here.

In the December 2017 edition of InDesign Magazine, I wrote the cover article on creating accessible EPUB3 files right out of InDesign. It can be done with minimal change in the workflow. Click here to access the article

 

Kevin Callahan is an ebook developer who writes and speaks about ebook design and production. He trains other developers — and everyone else in the publishing community — on best ebook–making practices. He specializes in adapting simple and complicated print designs to their best digital use. Kevin will be hosting webinars for the Editorial Freelancers Association and Editors Canada throughout 2018.

www.bngobooks.com  Twitter: https://twitter.com/bngobooks Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BNGObooks/

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.

November 2017: W3C Publishing Summit

November 9th to 10th, 2017

The web is the universal publishing platform. Register for the inaugural W3C Publishing Summit and learn how web technologies are shaping publishing today, tomorrow, and beyond.

This summit will show how web technologies are making publishing more accessible, more global, and more efficient and effective. You’ll learn about things you should be doing now to improve your products and processes; developments coming soon that you need to be aware of; and what is coming next in web publications, EPUB, mobile, and the overall Web Platform that can support your workflows on everything from today’s browsers, tablets and smartphones to tomorrow’s environments.

There will be a specific focus on accessibility within the session “Accessibility in Publishing and W3C” presented by Romain Deltour, George Kerscher and Avneesh Singh from the DAISY Consortium and Judy Brewer from W3C.

The W3C Publishing Summit will be co-located with W3C’s main annual meeting, TPAC, so attendees will have the opportunity to network with Web developers and technical experts, including access to a solutions showcase demo area.

Date: November 9-10, 2017

Venue: Hyatt Regency, San Fransisco Airport

Learn more: visit the W3C Publishing Summit site for further information and registration details

Benetech Establishes Global Certified Accessible Program

Benetech, the leading software for social good nonprofit, in conjunction with Dedicon, Royal National Institute of Blind People, and Vision Australia, announced Global Certified Accessible.

This program is the first third-party ebook verification program for accessible content. Global Certified Accessible supports publisher efforts to meet or exceed accessibility requirements set by K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions. This announcement comes on the heels of a six-month beta program with participation from industry leaders spanning educational, academic, professional, and trade publications.

Global Certified Accessible ensures students unable to read standard print due to blindness, low vision, dyslexia, or a physical disability have equal access to the same content as their peers.

The program has a global footprint in order to serve students around the world. Benetech developed the certification standards and serves as the lead certification provider for North America.

More information is provided on the Benetech website.

A11yPub Symposium, Australia

A11yPubAustralia’s first inclusive digital publishing symposium brings together a powerful array of national and international presenters to build understanding about the benefits, new legal requirements and solutions surrounding the authoring, publishing and  procurement of digital books (ePUB, audio books and book apps).

Image: Blue three-dimensional map of Australia

Date: to be confirmed, March, 2018

Venue: Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) Renwick Centre

Who should attend?

A11yPub will be invaluable for content:

  • Creators: Authors, publishers, media groups, app developers,
  • Curators: End users, librarians in schools, local government,  higher education or private organisations.
  • Advisors: Disability peak bodies, government agencies, senior education staff and leaders.

Learn more

Visit the A11yPub site for more information.

EPUB 3.1 Now an IDPF Recommended Specification

The IDPF Membership has unanimously approved EPUB 3.1 as a Recommended Specification.

The EPUB 3.1 revision includes a new accessibility specification and an accessibility techniques document.

Developed as part of EPUB 3.1 to provide guidance on making EPUB publications accessible, these new documents are designed to be equally applicable to older versions of EPUB 3. More information is provided on the IDPF website.