Obtaining and consuming digital content has changed. In addition to desktop computers, laptops and e-readers, people gain access to published content on their smartphones, tablets, phablets, MP3 players or other similar devices.
The creation of interactive digital publications that can be transferred and used across several devices presents challenges for both content developers and device manufacturers. The promise of a consistent accessible reading experience that is the same on multiple reading devices and platforms can only be achieved by following standards and guidelines.
This is not easy as publishing standards such as the international EPUB 3 format and end user needs continue to evolve. The EPUB 3 standard that is being increasingly adopted, rapidly in Asia, comes with global language support including right-to-left reading, vertical writing, and enhanced annotation. With e-publications that need to appeal to global audiences, improved multiple-language support is a must-have. By incorporating HTML5 and additional markup, EPUB 3 allows the creation of texts with more interactivity and features than ever before.
Developing and sharing standard implementations for specific user groups such as the EDUPUB Output Profile is also helpful to other sectors of the publishing industry. Publishers face similar challenges related to evolving metadata management, content distribution platforms, accessibility issues and switching to XML-first workflows. Scientific, financial and technical publishers may use different terminology but they all face the growing need for semantically rich content.
Born Accessible Publications
DAISY Consortium members serve the standards and technology community by making sure that the requirements of individuals with print disabilities including visual impairments, learning disabilities and literacy challenges are incorporated into technologies.
These user groups benefit from several enhancements that can be included in a publication created in EPUB 3 format. EPUB 3 enables accessibility features from the start including better semantics, pronunciation suggestions, Media Overlays and text-to-speech support.
Media Overlays allow easy integration of supporting audio and video information, so that texts can provide an interactive experience for readers. Beyond accessibility benefits, multi-modal reading offers a rich experience.
Functionally, the EPUB 3.0.1 Media Overlays specifications are somewhat similar to the DAISY specifications. In both specifications, the synchronization between text and audio is achieved through a SMIL file, which is called a ‘Media Overlays Document’ in EPUB 3.
But there is also a difference. The flow of control in EPUB 3 Media Overlays is a little different from that in DAISY specifications. Unlike DAISY specifications, the Navigation Document does not refer to the SMIL files directly in EPUB 3. Instead, the Navigation Document refers to the Content Document, and the Content Document is associated with the corresponding SMIL file. Therefore, the control of synchronized media in EPUB 3 will take place through the Content Document.
Within the DAISY Consortium, hundreds of thousands of titles have been produced that are audio-only with navigation features that conform to the DAISY 2.02 or the DAISY 3 specifications. It is expected that over time these will be converted to the EPUB 3 audio-only specification. The commercial audio book industry may find this set of guidelines useful in the future developments of audio books.
The main promise of EPUB 3 and accessible digital publishing is the opportunity to reach more people. This is true whether you are trying to bring your content to global audiences or try to reach users with accessibility challenges. Interactive, accessible publications unlock information for more readers at home, businesses, in classrooms and beyond.