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Great Expectations Of e-Book Access Demonstrations

Accessibility is “rising up the agenda” of the publishing industry as awareness grows of the value of helping people access electronic books in multiple formats, a publishing standards body said this month.

The statement came following a live demonstration of accessible readings from “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens at the London Book Fair in an event organised by the Royal National Institute of Blind People, the Publishers Licensing Society and EDitEUR – the trade standards body for the global book industry.

Technologies demonstrated live included font size adjustment on the Kindle e-reader; a text-to-speech reader; and use of an iPod to produce both text-to-speech and a Braille output linked to a Bluetooth Braille display.

Helen Gunesekera, Media Development Officer (Publishing and Reading) at RNIB, told E-Access Bulletin said the live Braille display demonstration in particular struck a chord with the audience. “Being able to see the Braille display in action really caught the imagination of people in the audience, few of whom were aware that this was technically possible,” Gunesekera said.

Speaking to E-Access Bulletin after the event Mark Bide, Executive Director of EDItEUR, said accessibility is “rising up the agenda” in the publishing industry. He said there are now good levels of compliance with a 2010 recommendation by the Publishers Association that text-to-speech be routinely enabled on all e-books across all platforms, except where there is an audiobook edition commercially available.

“It’s not at the top of the agenda but things have improved enormously over the last four or five years. There is a recognition that there are a number of very good reasons for making e-books accessible, one of which is market-driven: by bringing what has previously been a very specialist activity to the mainstream, you actually increase the overall market.”

Bide said progress was founded on the Joint Statement on Accessibility ( http://bit.ly/12IZBUl ), a pledge issued by the Publishers Association in April 2012, asking for sector-wide support across the publishing industry to improve e-book accessibility (see E-Access Bulletin, issue 147: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=714 ).

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