BookMachine Unplugged: Talking Production
On Wednesday evening Inspired Selection attended the first Bookmachine event of the year, and what a fantastic, event it was! Ken Jones, Director of Circular Software hosted and produced the evening – ‘Talking Production’ and presented a superb panel of guests: Huw Alexander, COO and Co-Founder, Textbox; Stacy Rowe, Service Manager, RNIB Bookshare and Alicia Wise, Director, Information and Power and Founding Member of ABC.
We were here to identify with how publishers can create accessible content, examining the standards, legislation and technical issues that companies of all sizes face which leads me on to a rather poignant point from Ken - “the business of accessibility is that content that is more useable, is more valuable!” A publisher’s job is to create content that has the ability to be accessed.
10-30% of the world are living with some kind of disability, and there are over 270 million people who are visually impaired. Wow. That is potentially 10-30% of the world who are not able to access the content in the way in which they should.
In fairness to accessibility - this indeed started many years ago. Brail was invented in the 1820s and the RNIB has been around for over 80 years.
We heard from Stacey Rowe at the RNIB and she was keen to take us on a journey to help understand the limits, and the no bounds of accessibility. At university 10 years ago Stacey would have to take her academic books and put them page by page with a scanner so she could use text to speech technology. This actually prompted a course change for Stacey and she ended up doing maths instead! Technology has come so far now. In education you only really get one shot, one path and you need the tools to take you on that path. Stacey then demonstrated a text to speech device that could Bluetooth from your phone and read out a book from the screen - incredible!
Alicia Wise, founding member of ABC was up next - having worked for the PLS, Pearson and JISC amongst others she was keen to share with us the legal aspect of accessibility and where publishers might be open to litigation. It is important that by making books accessible - they have clear benefits and are at a reasonable cost.
Clearly there is an ethical requirement, but there are also now laws at an international and national level that we must be aware of. What does this mean for the impact for publishers? It means the content needs to be accessible but we also need to be mindful about our websites, these are the shop windows where people view our content for the first time and it is so important that the customer experience is an excellent one.
Huw Alexander, COO and cofounder of Textbox - an accessible image description company. Imagine you are studying an Art History Degree, you read the textbook and instead of images, you have text which simply says ‘Image 17’. It goes back to starting on the right path - and through image description this content could be so much more accessible. By using companies like Textbox, and giving as much information about the picture in written form - it is helping to be so much more accessible.
It is important to tell your story with content, using well-structured ePub3 with image descriptions and make sure your information available on your website – tell people you are doing a brilliant job with accessibility! Customers appreciate it.
In summary - accessibility will improve your discoverability and will improve your sales. It is super rewarding and ultimately, accessibility will mean that your books will have a longer lifecycle and reach more readers.
The awards at the end of the evening were presented by Alastair McNaught, Subject Specialist, Accessibility and Inclusion at JISC - huge congratulations to all the winners!
Being so close to all parts of the publishing industry, it is hugely important to us to provide thought leadership to the industry – accessibility, diversity and inclusivity being a key part of this. Celebrating our 20th year this year, Inspired Search & Selection are hosting our own Seminar at London Book Fair, as part of the People Development Seminar Stream on Building an Inclusive, Diverse Workforce for the Future – this is on Wednesday 13th March at 13:00 and we would love to see you there.