Review: Accessible EPUB 3 by Matt Garrish

Cover for Accessible EPUB 3As someone who is interested in the creation and formatting of ebooks I eagerly picked up Accessible EPUB 3 from O’Reilly’s blogger review program. I know little about the EPUB format as most of my study of ebook creation has been for the Kindle. Reading about EPUB would have given me more tools for complete ebook formatting.

I read the title, Accessible EPUB 3, to mean that the author would show me in an easy to understand (accessible) way to create and format books for the EPUB platform. Even reading the short description at the O’Reilly website did not change my thoughts on what the book was about. But I was completely wrong on who their target audience was. This is not a book for people who are new to EPUB and wanting to learn about it. In fact, the EPUB spec is not even explained in the book. This book is written under the assumption that the reader is already familiar with and understands EPUB.

The book is actually about how to make ebooks that are accessible to people with different abilities. There are sections specifically on how to make books with pictures more accessible to visually impaired readers as well as making audio content more accessible to those with hearing disabilities. This is what is meant by the word accessible.

After getting a better understanding of what the book was about, I enjoyed the book from a thought experiment point of view. There were specific examples on how to implement the concepts the author was proposing. However, as someone who doesn’t even understand EPUB programming, this information was merely theoretical and thought provoking. There are even points in the book where the author, Matt Garrish, admits that there may be a better way to be even more accessible in the future. His point is that he wants readers to think about people with various abilities who will be reading books. What is it they need and how can you go about programming your ebook to fit their needs?

Accessible EPUB 3  is an excerpt from a larger work expected to be published later this year (2012) called EPUB 3 Best Practices.

Accessible EPUB 3 is available for free at both O’Reilly and Amazon.

[Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book through O’Reilly Media.]

I Broke My Kindle, But Amazon is Amazing

When I turned on my Kindle before going to bed last night my heart sank when I saw the screen wouldn’t redraw properly and that my screen was probably broken. Yesterday my Kindle was involved in an unfortunate accident. I take full blame for what happened. I called Amazon’s customer service today to see what they might be able to do for me even though the broken Kindle was my fault. The problem was certainly not a manufacturing error but an error on my part.

First Customer Service Rep

Kindle 3The rep on the phone took the information about my device and what happened. I told her that the Kindle was in a box that got hit by a large object. The Kindle was the only thing in the box that was damaged (thankfully my computer survived) and there was no physical evidence that the device was harmed in any way other than the screen would not redraw.

The kind rep (who spoke fairly good English) said that Amazon would allow me to buy a replacement device for $65 (which is 1/2 the price of a new Kindle Keyboard with the same features). To me that was more than fair since I am the one who broke the Kindle. It was not a manufacturing flaw in any way. However, I don’t have $65 at the moment and told her that. She said it would be flagged in my account if I wanted to buy a replacement at any point in the future I could get the reduced price.

Amazon was more than fair and the story should have ended there.

Second Customer Service Rep

However, I searched my account and found out that my device was out of warranty by 5 days. Certainly that should not make a difference. They had no obligation to do anything for me, yet they offered me a 50% discount on a new unit. But…seeing that it was only 5 days out of warranty, I wondered if it would make any difference if I pointed out to them that the warranty just expired (knowing full well that even under warranty my mistake should not be covered).

I jumped back onto the Amazon site and, instead of calling this time, I used the live chat feature. I quickly explained my scenario to the rep. Upfront I told him that I thought Amazon was more than fair to offer a new Kindle for 1/2 price and that the problem was one that I caused. At no point did I try to hide the fact from them that I was at fault. Then I asked him if it would make any difference if my Kindle was still under warranty. Without answering my question he asked me to do a couple of tests on the device to determine if it was really broken (if he could see it he wouldn’t question its brokenness). I patronized him.

I then said that I knew Amazon had no obligation to replace the device and that 50% reduction for a new Kindle was more than generous. But I also knew that Amazon was a kind and thoughtful company. Would they consider replacing the unit for me.

My Pleasant Surprise

Without hesitation the rep said he would send me a new one. He just needed a few bits of information to proceed. I excitedly provided the info he needed and he told me that a unit would be delivered by Monday. I got an email from Amazon later in the day today (Thursday) telling me that my new Kindle had shipped and that it would be delivered at my house tomorrow (Friday before the proposed Monday delivery).

Amazon is amazing!

Will they do this for you? I don’t know, but if you have a broken Kindle it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask. I think the biggest thing in my favor was that I didn’t demand anything from them and I didn’t try to pretend that the screen just broke on its own.

It Doesn’t Stand for ‘No Elephants’

No Parking sign in SpanishWhen we were living in Argentina our daughter saw the no parking signs and couldn’t figure out what they meant. In Spanish the phrase is ‘No Estacionarse.’ The no parking sign looks just like ours in English except it has a big E on it instead of a P. She finally determined on her own (and who were we to correct her) that the E with a slash through it meant ‘No Elephants.’ I have no idea how she came up with that, but it did make sense: I never saw an elephant walking around the streets of La Plata. The signs must have been working.

Yesterday we drove through a town with several no parking signs along the side of the street. She read the signs and then she asked me what the word for ‘parking’ was in Spanish. I told her it was ‘estacionarse.’ Then I heard her say to herself, “So the E doesn’t mean ‘No Elephants,’ it means ‘No Parking’ in Spanish.”

I think it was cuter when she thought that all those signs meant ‘No Elephants.’