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Accessible EPUB3 (2012): Soundtracks for the Blind

Matt Garrish, Accessible EPUB3 (O’Reilly Media/Tools of Change, 2012)

As always with O'Reilly books, an animal sits on the cover, staring at the audience.

What’s gnu in epub3? (Sorry…)
photo credit: shop.oreilly.com

Garrish tells us at the end of Accessible EPUB3 that is is, in fact, a teaser for the full-length EPUB3 Best Practices. That’s the wrong place to put that information; it should have been in the beginning, and masking it until the end revised my rating of this book down by a non-trivial amount. Since (presumably) you are reading this review, you won’t have to worry about that, so take that into account as we go along. I was kind of amused that O’Reilly Media decided to release this and HTML5 for Publishers in the same whack of free material, since the two books are basically opposites; in fact, one of the big features the latter highlights, canvas, is specifically targeted in Accessible EPUB3. “Although a potentially interesting element to use in ebooks, at this time the canvas element remains largely a black hole to assistive technologies.” Reading the two of them in tandem is probably a good idea, assuming you care about accessibility issues (and if you’re publishing ebooks, you probably should). Oh, that reminds me: take note of the use of the word Accessible in the title. When I grabbed this, I was thinking of it as “we’re going to take this ridiculously complex specification and lay it out for you in layman’s terms”, when in fact it is used in the Microsoft Control Panel sense of “here’s a high-level overview of making your ebooks readable by folks who will not be approaching them from the normal way (e.g., the blind)”. And a high-level overview it is, though unlike HTML5 for Publishers, there’s enough meat on Accessible EPUB3‘s bones to make it worth your while. You will, once again, find yourself delving into more detailed work to make a full go of it (and preferably a different one than the full-length of this, since anyone who uses the phrase “best practices” in a non-ironic sense does not deserve one penny of your money), but this is at least a halfway decent starting point. Just be aware that it is not the full monty. **

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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