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EPUB 101

  • Does EPUB support page navigation?
There are two dependencies for page navigation to work with EPUBs. The publishers must add the appropriate page information markup, and the reading App must use that markup. Formally, EPUB 3 supports direct page navigation provided the publisher adds the proper markup. If a print version of an EPUB 3 exists, in order to conform to the EPUB Accessibility specification, the publisher must insert a page list in the navigation table of contents and the target in the chapters where the page break is located. The Reading App can then take advantage of this page list by going directly to a page in the title either from the Table of Contents or through a “Go To Page” function.For more information, see the Accessible Publishing Knowledge Base on page navigation at: http://kb.daisy.org/publishing/docs/navigation/pagelist.html
  • Where can I find information about EPUB Readers?
There is a wide range of EPUB reading Apps available on all platforms. Many of the readers are associated with products, such as Apple Books, Google Play, VitalSource etc. Other Reading Apps are designed for general use and have accessibility features, such as Dolphin EasyReader and Voice Dream Reader. These Apps are continuously being evaluated for conformance and accessibility. You can find the latest results at: http://www.inclusivepublishing.org/read
  • Why are publishers using EPUB instead of PDF?
The EPUB Standard evolved from a need to produce digitally published materials that could be used on a wide range of computers, cell phones, tablets, and dedicated devices. The tech companies, organizations in the disability community, people from the education sector, and publishers were the drivers of the development. PDF was already broadly used, but because PDF was developed for faithful printing, it did not support reflow to fit different size screens, and it did not carry publishing semantics, and PDF is largely inaccessible. Everybody wanted a single file format that could be distribute to all outlets and used anywhere. The EPUB Standard is now maintained at the W3C, the same body that maintains HTML. The EPUB 3 Community group is free to join and all are welcome. New features, testing of best practices, and maintenance is conducted there. Visit: https://www.w3.org/community/epub3/
  • Is EPUB accessible to persons with disabilities?
EPUB has been designed to be fully accessible to persons with disabilities. People with disabilities, including people who are blind, were involved from the very beginning to ensure that published digital books and publications would be accessible right out of the box. There are three things that come together: The EPUB itself, a Reading App, and Assistive Technology. Testing is conducted with a wide range of Reading Apps and Assistive Technology, such as JAWS, NVDA, VoiceOver, refreshable braille devices, and screen magnification, and more. Anybody is welcome to join in the testing process, and you can learn more at: http://www.epubtest.org
  • Are there Accessibility Standards for EPUB?
The EPUB 3 Community Group is maintaining the EPUB Accessibility Conformance and Discovery Specification. This is a formal specification under the W3C. It builds on WCAG and adds additional requirements essential for published materials, such as page navigation. There are a set of principles that do not change too often, and a set of techniques that can change as best practices evolve. Included in the specification is a set of accessibility metadata that is required to be inside any EPUB that conforms to the specification. Publishers can make accessibility conformance claims in this metadata. The Accessibility Checker for EPUB (Ace by DAISY) is designed to report about the EPUB as it relates to the EPUB Accessibility Specification. You can find the specification at: https://www.w3.org/Submission/epub-a11y/
  • Is there any software to test that the EPUB is accessible?
The Accessibility Checker for EPUB (Ace by DAISY) is the open source tool to evaluate EPUB files for their accessibility. It is widely used in the publishing industry. Ace can test many elements in an EPUB 3 automatically. It produces reports that shows the minor to critical errors. It also points to authoritative information in the DAISY accessibility Knowledge Base, which explains the proper way to represent the information. The report also generates information about the items that cannot be checked automatically and needs to be examined by a person. To learn more about Ace by Daisy go to: https://daisy.github.io/ace/
  • What is inside an EPUB?
The EPUB format uses the common zip packaging specification to collect all of the HTML, CSS, image files etc. as the distribution format. You can rename the .epub extension to .zip and then extract the files. Normally there is a collection of folders with css or styles, images, and a text folder. You can browse around to find the files with the extension .xhtml, which contains the chapters that make up the title. You can open the xhtml files in a browser.
  • Does Amazon Kindle use EPUB?
The popular Amazon Kindle reading platform ingests reflowable EPUB 3 and their own KF8 format. The ingestion process converts the files into their own proprietary format with the extension .azw. The Amazon Kindle developers highly suggest Born Accessible EPUB 3 as a great format for input to their platform. Publishers can distribute EPUB 3 to Amazon Kindle, and to the many, many other distributers of digital book content.
  • What are the accessibility features of EPUB?
There are many features in a Born Accessible EPUB that makes it the most accessible format ever developed. This includes: Conforms to EPUB 3 at the WCAG Double AA level; Fully navigable table of contents; Fonts can be enlarged for easy viewing, essential for low vision users; Text reflows so there is no zoom or pinch needed; Alt text on images; Tables that are navigable with AT; Extended descriptions; Page navigation when a print version also exists; Accessibility metadata is disclosed and is transparent; Certified as accessible by a third party

EPUB Experience for People with Learning Disabilities

  • Does EPUB offer any advantages for individuals with learning disabilities?
Individuals with learning disabilities benefit from the use of study skills tools, such as highlighting, annotations, bookmarking, and dictionary look up. Many EPUB reading systems provide ways for individuals to use these features once text has been selected on a screen. Another useful reading strategy for people with LD is listening to the text read out loud. There is an increasing number of EPUB reading systems that provide built-in text to speech functionality, which affords readers the ability to track each word that they are reading and confirm their understanding. Finally, for some students with reading-based learning disabilities, it can be very helpful to adjust the line and character spacing as well as changing the font. The EPUB format, in which text can normally be "reflowed" on the screen, makes performing these textual adjustments much easier than other formats.
  • Can I use text to speech with an EPUB?
Many EPUB reading systems provide a way for readers to hear the text read out loud. The "read aloud" feature in an EPUB reading system is typically associated with a play/pause button located somewhere in the reading app's user interface or else available from one of the app's menus. When "read aloud" is available from an app, readers will also be able to adjust the voice and the reading rate. For a list of some of the EPUB reading systems that support "read aloud", please visit the following website: http://epubtest.org/results. If an app does not have built-in text to speech playback, readers can try selecting text on the screen and looking for a "read selection" option from either the right-click pop up menu or a menu.
  • Can I look up vocabulary in an EPUB?
Most EPUB reading systems have a dictionary look-up functionality, which can be helpful for individuals with learning disabilities. The usual method of accessing a definition of a word is to select the word and then choose "Look Up Word" or "Definition" or "Search Dictionary" from the pop-up menu. Reading systems may vary in the name of the dictionary look-up feature in a pop-up menu and some apps may be accessing the the dictionary that is built in to a device's operating system. When a reading system uses a built in dictionary from a device's operating system, you may need to check the settings menu for the device to configure how the dictionary functions from within the reading system.
  • Can I open an EPUB in Kurzweil 3000?
Kurzweil 3000 has varying levels of support for EPUB, depending on which version of Kurzweil you are using. The Kurzweil 3000 for PC version supports the opening of EPUB as well as read aloud, text reflow, and dictionary look up. As of September 2019, the Kurzweil for macOS version does not support EPUB. Individuals with reading disabilities who are wanting to use more of Kurzweil 3000's study skills (highlighting, note-taking, and extracting notes and highlights to a study guide) should consider accessing their EPUBs from Kurzweil's Universal Library, which comes with Kurzweil's web license or cloud version of the program. When opening an EPUB from Kurzweil 3000's Universal Library, individuals will not have to save the EPUB as KES file in order to access the Kurzweil 3000 features such as highlighting and notetaking that they are accustomed to using. When using the Kurzweil 3000 for PC version, however, individuals with reading disabilities currently need to save the EPUB as a KES file before they can use the highlighting and annotation features. Please check back for more information about Kurzweil 3000's ability to support EPUB.
  • Can I highlight and annotate text in an EPUB?
Many EPUB reading systems provide a way for readers to highlight and annotate the text. Typically the highlight and annotation tools are accessed by selecting text in the EPUB and then choosing "highlight" or "make a note" from the pop-up menu. Sometimes, a highlight can be made simply by selecting a color from the pop-up menu. Reading systems may vary in the name and location of the highlighting and annotation features. For a list of some of the EPUB reading systems that support highlighting and annotations, please visit the following website: http://epubtest.org/results.
  • Which EPUB apps are best for individuals with learning disabilities?
There are many different EPUB reading apps and some may have features that are especially important for you. Use the summary of reading apps on Inclusive Publishing for an overview (https://inclusivepublishing.org/rs-accessibility), and the results grid at epubtest.org for detailed information. Most EPUB reading apps will allow you to look up words in the dictionary and highlight the text, but people with learning disabilities will be especially interested in other features such as extracting notes/ highlights and read aloud.
  • Can individuals with learning disabilities hear mathematics read out loud in an EPUB?
The EPUB 3 specfication supports MathML (math markup language), which makes it possible for students using assistive technology to hear math read out loud. Currently there is a shortage of EPUB reading apps whose "read aloud" tools can read out loud the mathematical content in books containing MathML. Another possibility exists however when the mathematical formulas are rendered as an image in the EPUB book and there is an alternative text description of the math. At this time of writing (September 2019), only a few apps that support this method of hearing math read out loud are Dolphin Easy Reader for PC and Vital Source Bookshelf.
  • How do I make bookmarks in an EPUB?
Bookmarking is a popular study skills tool for individuals with learning learning disabilities. Thankfully, most EPUB reading systems support bookmarking. We recommend checking http://epubtest.org/ to confirm whether the EPUB reading system supports bookmarking. Also, you may check iTunes or the Google Play store to read more about a reading system's features.
  • What makes EPUB better than other formats for individuals with learning disabilities?
EPUB is the recognized standard in the global publishing industry. Compared to other formats, a book that has been created in the EPUB format has the potential to contain a much richer set of information about the book than do any other formats. These features include the book's metadata (title, author, date of publication), its table of contents, its pagination, and other structural data (footnotes, learning objectives, glossary etc.). Individuals with learning disabilities thus have the potential to navigate directly to a desired item in the book. What's more, since EPUB is based on HTML, there is a lot more potential for publishers to include more dynamic content in an EPUB, such as audio, video, and media overlays. Lastly, individuals with learning disabilities often benefit from making adjustments to the size and appearance of the text, which is easier to do with EPUB formats compared to other formtats which are designed for print.
  • Where can individuals with learning disabilities purchase their textbooks in the EPUB format?
As knowledge of the accessibility features of EPUB 3 increases within the global publishing industry, there will be an corresponding growth in the number of outlets where individuals with learning disabilities can purchase EPUB books. We recommend visiting https://inclusivepublishing.org/ to learn about recent trends in the publishing world and where EPUB3 titles can be purchased. A few popular places where individuals with learning disabilities can purchase accesible EPUB titles are Apple Books, Google Play, Bookshare, VitalSource, eBooks.com, and Kobo eBooks. When purchasing EPUBs from an online retailer, the buyer should first inquire into what reading system and which operating system may be required to access the EPUB. Unless the book is available for free, the EPUB will most likely be protected and only usable from within a specific EPUB reading system. Therefore, individuals purchasing an EPUB from one of these locations will want to consult the reading system's level of support for the features that they need the most (e.g., Read aloud, highlighting, annotation, bookmarking, page navigation etc.).

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