W3C Publishing Summit 2017

Guest blog by Evan Owens

The first-ever W3C Publishing Summit took place in San Francisco, November 9 to 10, to discuss how web technologies are shaping publishing today, tomorrow, and beyond. Publishing and the web interact in innumerable ways. The Open Web Platform and its technologies have become essential to how content is created, developed, enhanced, discovered, disseminated, and consumed online and offline.

Background on IDPF and W3C

During February 2017, the IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) merged into the W3C. IDPF members are now joining W3C with new committees formed, including the W3C Publishing Working Group, EPUB Community Group, and others.

Keynote: The Future of Content by Abhay Parasnis – CTO, Adobe

The internet is wide open to all world communications. “Content publication” has expanded to a very broad level via the Internet. Businesses are trying to reach out in personalized fashion. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are important for content location & delivery and personalization. W3C does important standards development, but as technology is moving fast how should we coordinate successfully?

A major goal of the W3C is to define a new Portal Web Publication (PWP) content format that will merge HTML and EPUB and replace PDF. EPUB 4.0 is likely to become a subset of that new PWP standard.

Following are some of my observations from the various presentations and discussions from the conference. Feel free to add your thoughts and takeaways in the comments section!

Content Platforms and Publishers

  • Majority of eBook content is still in EPUB2
  • EPUB3 is big  in Japan and China but not common in English-language publications yet
  • Most failed EPUB content is from USA publishers
  • Publishers tend to overuse fixed layout, especially academic or instructional content
  • Future will be CSS, interactivity, and accessibility

Digital Publishing in Asia, Europe,and Latin America

  • UK the biggest eBook market with 575K new eBooks per year
  • Amazon is leading EU bookseller (90% of UK sales)
  • Japan produces approximately 500K eBooks
  • Japan has been using EPUB 3.0 since 2011; 100% of old files were migrated to the new format
  • The market is growing in Korea and China
  • In Latin America ebooks are primarily EPUB 2.0; 3.0 hasn’t been adopted yet
  • 55% of publishers in Latin America have not yet started digital content production

Accessibility in Publishing and W3C

  • Accessibility in digital publishing is a key issue that was included in EPUB
  • W3C implementation goals include supporting EPUB3 accessibility and collaborating with the W3C WCAG
  • DAISY has built a checking tool called “ACE”; it is now in beta and available for testing
  • Cenveo Publisher Services provides accessibility services and testing

Educational Publishing

  • Personalized learning challenges include the learning platform and the metrics
  • There is now a major move from books to digital e-learning platforms
  • Learning is now subject to data-driven insights: analytics add value by these tools

Creating EPUB Content that Looks and Works Great Everywhere

  • Microsoft added an EPUB reader into Windows 10 MS Edge web browser
  • Almost 90% of ebooks are EPUB2 and recent content in 2017 is only 62% EPUB3
  • Issues for EPUB content creation and rendition include
    • Many different screen sizes and orientations (e.g. phone, table, computer)
    • Reader requirements: mobility, classroom usage, accessibility
    • Pagination works differently in different reading systems
    • Tables and anything with fixed width is risky
    • Captions not staying with images due to page breaks
    • Background images break when flowing across pages
    • CSS layout for colored text failures
    • Supporting audio reader software by language metadata
    • Fixed layout never 100% perfect
    • Don’t use SVG for text layout
    • Test content in several epub reader devices, etc.

Publication Metadata

  • Consumer metadata versus academic metadata remains a key challenge
  • Standards are only slowly adopted; e.g. ONIX 3 published 2009 but by 2017 only about 50% adopted
  • Autotagging versus human tagging; machines more consistent
  • 105 metadata standards

Cenveo Publisher Services is a proud member of the W3C Publishing Working Group. The issues discussed at the W3C Publishing Summit are ones we address everyday with academic, scholarly, and education publishers. We look forward to working with you in 2018 on innovative publishing solutions that improve editorial quality and streamline production while continuously addressing costs. Let us know how we can help.

 

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Mike Groth

Michael Groth is Director of Marketing at Cenveo Publisher Services, where he oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and implementation across digital, social, conference, advertising and PR channels. Mike has spent over 20 years in marketing for scholarly publishing, previously at Emerald, Ingenta, Publishers Communication Group, the New England Journal of Medicine and Wolters Kluwer. He has made the rounds at information industry events, organized conference sessions, presented at SSP, ALA, ER&L and Charleston, and blogged on topics ranging from market trends, library budgets and research impact, to emerging markets and online communities.. Twitter Handle: @mikegroth72

Accessibility: Because the Internet is Blind

Like the visually impaired, the Internet cannot “see” content the way a sighted human being does. It can only discover relevant content via searchable text and metadata. When publishers take the right steps to make content accessible, they also make it more discoverable.

Guest blog by John Parsons

In the past four blogs, we’ve discussed how to make different types of published content accessible to visually and cognitively impaired users. Throughout the series, we’ve covered the reasons why publishers should do so, including the moral argument and its related compliance requirements, such as Section 508, NIMAS, and WCAG 2.0. While digital workflows and service providers have made such compliance affordable and practical, there is another argument for accessibility—one that is a compelling benefit in the age of digital content: discoverability.

The Nature of the Internet

We tend to think of the Internet in general—and Web content in particular—as a visual experience. We view the screen as we would a printed document, albeit with far greater capabilities for interactivity and connection to other information. The tools for searching and discovering content are all visual as well. Typing in a phrase, scanning the results, and choosing what we want, are all familiar, visually-dependent habits.

However, what we are seeing is not the content, but an on-screen rendering. We’re seeing the programmed user interface. It may be highly accurate and functional, but it’s a product of underlying data. The technology itself does not “see” or experience the content as we do. It only handles data and its related metadata.

Discoverability Is the Key

In order to be found on the Internet, a piece of published content must have a logical, and keyword-prioritized structure. It must not only have text strings that a search engine can find, it must also have standardized and commonly used metadata that correspond to what human users expect to find. Well-structured XML serves that purpose for nearly all types of published content.

The good news is that accessibility and discoverability have the same basic solution: well-structured content and metadata. Best practices for one solution are applicable to the other!

Every area of publishing benefits from greater discoverability.

This changes the equation for publishers faced with accessibility compliance issues. If they apply a holistic approach to well-structured XML content, they will improve their overall discoverability, and lay the groundwork for systematic rendering of their content in multiple forms—including HTML and EPUB optimized for accessibility.

Multiple Benefits

Every area of publishing benefits from greater discoverability. For journal and educational publishers, well-structured content can be more easily indexed by institutions and services, leading to higher citation and usage levels. For trade book publishers, discoverability translates to better search results and potentially more sales. For digital products of any kind, it means a better overall user experience, not only for the visually impaired but also for all users.

This is especially the case when it comes to non-text elements of published content. The practice of adding alt text descriptions for images and videos benefits not only the visually impaired reader. It also makes such rich content discoverable to the world.

Best practices for structuring content do not happen automatically. They require forethought by authors, publishers, and service providers. More importantly, they require a robust, standards-based workflow, to include searchable metadata and XML tags—automatically wherever possible, and easily in all other cases.

The issues of accessibility are really only problematic when viewed in isolation. When viewed as a subset of a more compelling use case—discoverability—they become a normal and positive part of the publishing ecosystem.

 


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Mike Groth

Michael Groth is Director of Marketing at Cenveo Publisher Services, where he oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and implementation across digital, social, conference, advertising and PR channels. Mike has spent over 20 years in marketing for scholarly publishing, previously at Emerald, Ingenta, Publishers Communication Group, the New England Journal of Medicine and Wolters Kluwer. He has made the rounds at information industry events, organized conference sessions, presented at SSP, ALA, ER&L and Charleston, and blogged on topics ranging from market trends, library budgets and research impact, to emerging markets and online communities.. Twitter Handle: @mikegroth72

Accessibility for Trade Book Publishers

The venerable world of trade books has had accessibility options since the early 19th Century invention of Braille. However, only in the digital age has it been possible to make all books accessible to the visually impaired.

Guest blog by John Parsons

In the 1820s, Charles Barbier and Louis Braille adapted a Napoleonic military code to meet the reading needs of the blind. Today’s familiar system of raised dot characters substitutes touch for vision, and is used widely for signage and of course books and other written material. By the 20th Century, Braille was supplemented with large print books and records. For popular books these tools became synonymous with trade book publishers’ efforts to connect with visually impaired readers.

However, these tools—particularly Braille—has significant drawbacks. Before the advent of digital workflows, producing a Braille or even a large print book involved a separate design and manufacturing process, not to mention subsequent supply chain and distribution issues. But that has changed with the digital publishing revolution.

All Books Are “Born Digital”

With notable exceptions, trade books published since the 1980s started out as digital files on a personal computer. Word processors captured not only the author’s keystrokes but, increasingly, their formatting choices. (In the typewriter era, unless you count backspacing and typing the underline key, italics and boldface were the province of the typographer.)

On the PC, creating a larger size headline or subhead, or a distinct caption, evolved from a manual step in WordStar or MacWrite to a global stylesheet formatting command. When these word processing files made their way to a desktop publishing program, all the 12-point body copy for a regular book could become 18-point type for a large print version—at a single command.

Other benefits of digital-first content included a relatively easy conversion from Roman text characters to Braille, although that did not solve the actual book manufacturing process.

What really made the digital revolution a boon to accessibility was the rise of HTML—and its publishing offspring, eBooks. Web or EPUB text content can be re-sized or fed into screen readers for the visually impaired, but that’s only the start. It can also contain standardized metadata that a publishing workflow can use to create more accessible versions of the book.

Workflow Challenges

Trade books tend to be straightforward when it comes to accessibility challenges, but there are caveats that publishers and their service providers must address. The simplest of course is a book that is almost entirely text, with no illustrations, sidebars, or other visual elements. In those cases, the stylesheet formatting done by the author and/or publisher can be used to create accessibility-related tags for elements like headlines and subheads, as well as manage the correct reading order for Section 508 compliance.

Where things start to get tricky is when a book includes illustrations, or even special typographic elements like footnotes. To be accessible, the former must include descriptive alt text, which is usually best provided by an author, illustrator, or subject matter expert. Increasingly, just as writers became accustomed to adding their own typographic formatting, they may also include formatted captions containing this valuable, alt text-friendly information.

For other visual elements, service providers must fill in the accessibility gaps that authors cannot easily provide. This may include a certain amount of redesign, such as placement of footnotes at the end, to ensure continuity of reading, and defining the logical flow of content and reading order for page elements like sidebars. Service providers also add semantic structuring, alt text image descriptions not included by the author, and simplification of complex elements like tables.

It’s All About Format

Book publishers are already well ahead of the curve when it comes to accessibility. As mentioned in a previous blog, the page-centric PDF format is problematic. Fortunately, except for print workflows, trade publishers do not use it for their end product. In most cases, books are also produced in EPUB format, which is a derivative of HTML. These formats are accessible by default, although they need to be enhanced to meet the requirements of WCAG 2.0 standards. The gap is small, however, and can be easily bridged by focusing on design, content structuring, and web hosting.

Book reading for the visually impaired is no longer restricted to the popular titles, and compensatory technology of past centuries. With the advent of digital publishing, and the workflows that support and enhance it, accessibility for all books is an achievable goal.

 


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Mike Groth

Michael Groth is Director of Marketing at Cenveo Publisher Services, where he oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and implementation across digital, social, conference, advertising and PR channels. Mike has spent over 20 years in marketing for scholarly publishing, previously at Emerald, Ingenta, Publishers Communication Group, the New England Journal of Medicine and Wolters Kluwer. He has made the rounds at information industry events, organized conference sessions, presented at SSP, ALA, ER&L and Charleston, and blogged on topics ranging from market trends, library budgets and research impact, to emerging markets and online communities.. Twitter Handle: @mikegroth72

Accessibility for Education Publishers

K-12 and Higher Ed publishers provide complex content that is deeply intertwined with Learning Management Systems and other digital deliverables. That makes accessibility harder—and potentially more rewarding.

Guest blog by John Parsons


Accessibility for educational publishers

In our recent blog, we tackled the issues of accessibility—for visually and cognitively impaired readers—in the realm of scholarly journal publishing. The solutions are (fairly) straightforward for that industry, because you’re dealing mostly with documents, and lots of text. Other types of publishers deal with a broader range of issues and output channels, so for them accessibility is more complex. Near the top of this difficulty scale are education publishers.

Even before the rise of digital media, education textbooks—notably in the K-12 market—posed significant accessibility challenges. Complex, rich layouts, laden with color, illustrations, and sidebars, made textbooks a rich, visual experience. Such books can be a treat for sighted students, for whom publishers have invested much thought and design research. For those less fortunate, however, a rich visual layout is an impediment.

Going Beyond Print

For printed textbooks, traditional accessibility fixes like large print and Braille are usually not cost-effective. Recorded audio has been a stopgap solution, but still a costly one, unlikely to handle the ever-increasing volume of educational material. Fortunately, the advent of digital media has far greater potential for making textbooks accessible.

When textbooks are produced as HTML or EPUB (but not PDF), the potential for greater accessibility is obvious. Type size can be adjusted at will. Text-to-speech can provide basic audio content with relative ease. Illustrations can be described with alt text—although care must be taken to insure its quality. Even reading order and other “roadmap” approaches to complex visual layouts can make digital textbooks more accessible than a printed version could ever be.

The real key is digital media’s inherent ability to separate presentation and content. Well-structured data and a rich set of metadata can be presented in multiple ways, including forms designed for the visually and cognitively impaired. Government mandates, including the NIMAS specifications, have accelerated this trend. Publishers themselves have developed platforms and service partnerships to make the structuring of data and metadata more cost-effective—even when the government mandate is outdated or insufficient. (The reasons for doing this will be the subject of a future blog.)

The LMS Factor

What makes accessibility for educational publishers far more difficult is not textbooks, however. Particularly in higher education but increasingly in K-12, textbooks are only part of a much larger content environment: the Learning Management System or LMS. Driven by the institutional need to track student progress, and provide many other learning benefits and related technologies, the LMS is typically a complex collection of text content, media, secure web portals, and databases. Although textbooks still form a large portion of LMS content, studies from the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) indicate that the field is undergoing a radical shift.

This has massive implications for accessibility. Not only must publishers provide reading assistance for text and descriptions for images, they also must deal with the interactive elements of a typical website. This includes color contrast, keyboard access, moving content control, and alternatives—probably alt text—for online video and other visually interactive elements. A sighted person might have no difficulty with an online quiz, but the process will be very different for the visually impaired.

Fortunately—at least for now—the online elements of most LMSs are deployed on standard desktop or laptop computers, not mobile devices. The BISG study indicates that this is because more students have access to a PC, but not all have a tablet or e-reader. This makes the publisher’s task “simpler”—with fewer variations in operating systems and interfaces—but that will change as mobile device use increases. LMS features on smartphones are the start of new accessibility headaches for publishers.

Workflow—Again

As I pointed out in the previous blog, service providers have a major role in making accessibility affordable. This is especially true for educational publishers. Automating and standardizing content and metadata are usually out of reach, even for the largest publishers. Even keeping up to date with government and industry mandates, like Section 508 and WCAG 2.0, are best handled by a common service provider.

As with journal publishing, the overall workflow will make accessibility cost-effective in the complex, LMS-focused world of educational publishing. Fortunately, given the size and scope of that industry’s audience, it also makes the goal of accessibility more rewarding.

 


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Mike Groth

Michael Groth is Director of Marketing at Cenveo Publisher Services, where he oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and implementation across digital, social, conference, advertising and PR channels. Mike has spent over 20 years in marketing for scholarly publishing, previously at Emerald, Ingenta, Publishers Communication Group, the New England Journal of Medicine and Wolters Kluwer. He has made the rounds at information industry events, organized conference sessions, presented at SSP, ALA, ER&L and Charleston, and blogged on topics ranging from market trends, library budgets and research impact, to emerging markets and online communities.. Twitter Handle: @mikegroth72

Accessibility for Journal Publishers

The terms “access” and “scholarly journals” are often linked to Open Access publishing. Less often discussed—but still very important—are issues and challenges of making journal content accessible to the visually, cognitively, or otherwise impaired.

Guest blog by John Parsons


content accessibility for journal publishers

Peer-reviewed, scholarly journals are a specialized slice of the publishing universe. Worldwide, it is a $25 billion market. Unlike consumer and trade magazines, journals are not supported by advertising revenue, but rely on subscriptions, institutional funding, and/or open access funding mechanisms. Readership varies widely in size and scope, and includes students, journalists and government employees as well as researchers themselves. They are also delivered by a wide array of specialized digital platforms and websites.

What they do share with other publications is the assumption that their audience can read words and images on a page or screen. For the majority of journal readers, this poses few problems. However, for readers with visual or other impairments, content accessibility is a major concern.

Justifying Journal Content Accessibility

Some might argue, without foundation, that scholars qualified to consume peer-reviewed content are less likely to be impaired in the first place, making the number of affected users too low to justify the added costs. (If cost were the only issue, one Stephen Hawking in a journal’s potential audience would more than justify the cost of making scholarly exchange possible for disabled readers. Also, as was mentioned, scholars and researchers are not the only readers in the equation.)

In other words, one justification for accessibility is a moral argument. It’s simply the right thing to do. However, for most journals, this argument is moot. Government-funded research typically carries minimum accessibility requirements, such as those spelled out in U.S. Code Section 508.

Building content accessibility into a journal workflow need not even be a daunting financial question at all. Well-structured XML content and metadata has many benefits, of which accessibility is only one. (This will be the subject of another blog.)

Regardless of the reason, most journal publishers understand the why aspect of content accessibility. So, let’s focus on how best to do it.

Identifying the Pieces---WCAG 2.0, Section 508, and VPAT

To understand the scope of journal article accessibility, we need to know that it has two basic versions—a document (PDF or EPUB) and a webpage. These are similar in many ways, especially to a sighted person, but they have different accessibility requirements.

What each of these formats have in common are

  • accessibility metadata
  • meaningful alt text for images (including math formulas and charts)
  • a logical reading order
  • audible screen reading
  • alternative access to media content

Only two (EPUB and webpages) have potentially resizable text and a clear separation of presentation and content. (PDF’s fixed page and text size often can be problematic. But in areas where PDF is a commonly used format, notably healthcare, service providers can provide workflow mechanisms to remediate PDFs for Section 508 compliance.)

Webpages have the added requirements of color contrast, keyboard access, options to stop, pause, or hide moving content, and alternatives to audio, video, and interactive content. Most of these are covered in detail in the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 guidelines, many of which are federally mandated. Service provider solutions in this area include a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) for journal content. This template applies to all “Electronic and Information Technology” products and services. It helps government contracting officials and other buyers to evaluate how accessible a particular product is, according to Section 508 or WCAG 2.0 standards.

There are several “degrees of difficulty” when it comes to making journal articles accessible. Research that is predominantly text is the easiest, but still requires careful thought and planning. With proper tagging of text elements, clearly denoting reading order and the placement of section headings and other cues, a text article can be accessibility-enhanced by several methods, including large print and audio.

More difficult by far are the complex tables, charts, math formulas, and photographic images that are prevalent in STM journals. Here, extra attention must be paid to type size and logical element order (for tables). In the case of charts, formulas, and pictures, the answer is alternative or “alt” text descriptions.

Think of it as explaining a visual scene to someone who is blindfolded. Rudimentary alt text, like “child, doll, hammer,” would probably not convey the full meaning of a photograph depicting Bandura’s famous Bobo Doll experiment. Rather, the best alt text would be a more nuanced text explanation of what the images depict—preferably by a subject matter expert.

Automation in Workflow is Key

When Braille or even large print were the only solutions, journal content accessibility was not an option for most. All that changed, for the better, with the advent of well-structured digital content. Again, publishing service providers have done much to advance this process, and in many cases, automate it.

Not every issue can be automated, however. Making content accessible may involve redesign. For example, footnotes may need to be placed at the end of an article—similar to a reference list—to ensure continuity of reading. Other steps support the logical flow of content and reading order, semantic structuring for discoverability, inclusion of alt text descriptions for images, simplifying presentation and tagging of complex tabular data, and the rendering of math equations as MathML.

Journal publishers can facilitate this in part by selecting formats that are more accessible by nature. Articles published online or available as EPUB are accessible by default, although they need to be enhanced to meet all the requirements of WCAG 2.0. The gap is small and can be easily bridged by focusing on the shortcomings and addressing it in design, content structuring, and web hosting.

Many of the basic, structural issues of making journal content accessible can be resolved, more or less automatically, if the publishing system or platform enforces standardized metadata rules. Titles, subheads, body copy, and other text elements will have a logical order, and can easily be presented in accessible ways. For elements where knowledgeable human input is required (as with alt text), a good system will facilitate such input.

Accessibility is not just the right thing to do, for the sake of science. It is also an obtainable goal—with the right service provider.

 


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Mike Groth

Michael Groth is Director of Marketing at Cenveo Publisher Services, where he oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and implementation across digital, social, conference, advertising and PR channels. Mike has spent over 20 years in marketing for scholarly publishing, previously at Emerald, Ingenta, Publishers Communication Group, the New England Journal of Medicine and Wolters Kluwer. He has made the rounds at information industry events, organized conference sessions, presented at SSP, ALA, ER&L and Charleston, and blogged on topics ranging from market trends, library budgets and research impact, to emerging markets and online communities.. Twitter Handle: @mikegroth72