If you wish to provide a more flexible and personalized reading experience for all users, ePUB is one of the best formats for content creation. This blog explores more about this format and how you can create accessible ePUB files with ease.
What is an ePUB format?
An ePUB or electronic publication is essentially a file format that is the existing industry-standard in digital publishing.
It is considered a standard format that can seamlessly support the digitization of traditionally printed books. It enables digital content to reflow according to the screen size and enhances the content with multimedia and HTML interactivities.
This makes ePUB an ideal format for displaying your digital publications on smartphones and other smart devices with different screen sizes.
Why should ePUB files be accessible?
Accessibility in the digital world refers to the process of ensuring that the products, devices, and services are accessible, usable, and comprehensible to everyone, including people with disabilities.
In simple words, ePUB accessibility primarily defines parameters such as discovery and content accessibility requirements for various ePUB publications. The key advantage of this approach is that it keeps your ePUB files aligned with the standards set for web content accessibility.
How to create accessible ePUB files
The process of creating an accessible ePUB involves multiple steps based on the type of content authoring tools you are using and the features you want to include.
In this post, we outline the most frequently utilized techniques for authoring accessible ePUB files.
Here is the stepwise procedure to create an accessible ePUB file-
1. Setting up the software and tools
To be able to create an accessible ePUB, you can use various free software and tools available. The choice of this software will primarily depend on the type of content to be authored, the technical skills of your employees, access to resources, and the final output you desire.
For instance, while some ePUB authoring tools require detailed knowledge of languages such as HTML or CSS, others emphasize simplicity over versatility.
2. Defining the content adaptations
When creating accessible ePUB content, another important thing to think about is how the content will be adapted to make perfect use of the accessible format.
Also, pay attention to modifying the traditional ways text is presented so that they are easily accessible to people with various types of disabilities/ learning styles.
3. Working on compatibility
Without compatibility with various screen readers and text to speech (TTS) devices, an ePUB file is of little to no use for the visually impaired.
An accessible ePUB file should allow users to listen to all text and view the text with simultaneous narration. Narration can either be done by synthetic or human voices based on the text-to-speech device. However, the end outcome should be the same; it should allow a user who cannot read the file to access the material and the information presented in it.
4. Digitizing and converting
Digitizing your content is another important aspect when you are preparing your content for conversion to ePUB.
In the case of ePUB, there is a wide range of processes and tools that you can use to convert your printed text to the digital format, which you may then embed in the ePUB file.
5. Setting up a template
There are several templates available online that you may download as a beginning point for your accessible ePUB.
Alternatively, you can also use an authoring tool for generating a complete ePUB package. However, it is essential to remember that authoring tools must be used carefully; they are likely to generate a lot of superfluous code in the overall ePUB package and take more time to convert the publication to an accessible file.
After the setting up process is done to create your accessible ePUB, there are multiple authoring/ editing tools available which you can use. Among these include Calibre, Sigil, Sublime Text, and more.
The benefit of the authoring process is that it is suitable for reflowable files where either the images/videos are embedded inline within the flow of text and headings are left-aligned.
7. Adding standard accessibility to the file
Once your content has been authored, you need to use the chosen authoring tool to add various accessibility features, including-
- Metadata info– To indicate the publication is accessible and features accessibility components such as the title of the publication, language used, date of ePUB creation, author, etc.
- Alt text description for images
- Navigation– For instance, Use <section> and <aside> tags in the content along with <itemref linear=”no”> tag in the manifest file to ensure a logical reading order. This is especially important for educational and academic texts.
- Semantic HTML markups
- Accessible fonts
The idea here is to author your content according to accessibility best practices, including descriptive hyperlinks and properly nested headings, apart from the things mentioned above.
8. Packaging your ePUB file
Once the ePUB authoring process is complete, you need to ensure that you package the ePUB file by following the ePUB packaging guidelines, especially if you are setting up your ePUB as a text package.
9. Validating your ePUB file
In the last step, you must check whether your ePUB conforms to all the standard accessibility requirements. To do this, you can use an ePUB checker that will help you identify issues, if any, and correct them before distribution.
Alternatively, you can also test your ePUB file through a program called a validator, which uses internationally approved processes to ensure that eBook stores only accept valid digital publications.
We have outlined here the complete process of creating an accessible ePUB file. However, the work does not end just here. An equally important part is to test your ePUB file with real users to learn about the accessibility issues. It can give you various insights on what you need to change in your ePUB file to make it more accessible and appealing to users.
Another important aspect is to test the final ePUB file using the target reader (tablet/desktop) you wish to distribute your content on. This is important as varied reading environments can also affect how your ePUB is perceived and consumed.
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