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.]

3 thoughts on “Review: Accessible EPUB 3 by Matt Garrish”

  1. I’m glad to hear you found the book thought provoking — even if not what you expected — as the goal is to get people thinking about making content that is universally accessible to all as early as we can.

    An alternate title was “EPUB 3 Accessibility”, but that’s limiting in its imagination and defeats the message that making content accessible is universally beneficial to all readers and not a niche need.

    If you’re looking for an introduction to the specifications, have a look at the other O’Reilly piece I did, What is EPUB 3? (Also free.) It’s technical, but might be more up your alley in terms of explaining what is going on under the hood.

    As you’ve noted, too, it is a chapter of what will be a bigger best practices guide, so I wrote it knowing that there will be some bits that may only make sense in the larger context. If I filled in all the pieces I’d have written the whole thing… 🙂

    All the best.

    1. Matt, thanks for stopping by and responding to my review.

      I actually have the What is EPUB 3? book, but obviously, I haven’t read it.

      As someone who works with the Deaf and have tried to be conscientious to the needs of the blind (even though I know little about what is needed), I appreciated your book on that level. I am a proponent of making things accessible. I did not point that out in the review, but should have.

      Thank you again for your input.

      1. Right, and there are so many dimensions to accessibility that it can sometimes be daunting to people to figure out where to begin. Even small changes can greatly enhance access, though, if perfect accessibility remains elusive (or even possible).

        Structuring content is a key consideration that people overlook, for example, thinking assistive technologies work magic on their behalf. But some simple care with markup will clearly identify the logical reading order, which in turn allows reading systems to play back content in a meaningful way to someone who can’t see it.

        With my background, I’m more familiar with braille, synthetic speech and other text production methods, obviously, but EPUB’s new multimedia capabilities mean greater care now needs to be taken for people who may not be able to hear it, as you already know.

        It’s also an area that is still under development with WebVTT competing with other technologies for captioning and subtitling, and the track element not yet having native support in browser engines.

        But I think what’s best is that we’ve been able to integrate so many accessibility features into a mainstream format like EPUB, so support is only a matter of time now. An impediment in the past has always been that to be accessible meant producing a second specialized ebook format that typically would only be played by specialized players.

        I’m actually working on compiling more accessibility production guidlines right now, so hopefully there will be more information to come soon if all goes well!


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