Accessible Italian eBooks in the launching pad

Accessible Italian eBooks in the launching pad


The LIA project – Libri Italiani Accessibili (Accessible Italian books) by AIE (Italian Publishers’s Association) aims at creating a service to increase the availability ebooks for blind and visually impaired readers, by exploiting the opportunities offered by technologies. The project promotes a cultural change in the way the publishing value chain actors deal with the issue of accessibility.

Ebooks and digital technologies can offer new reading opportunities to blind and visually impaired readers, too. As a matter of fact any ebook could be read through a wide variety of devices: from personal computer to mobile devices, such as Smartphone and Tablets, and e-ink readers.

Furthermore ebooks, if properly designed, can be very versatile from a experiential perspective: enlarged characters, text-to-speech and digital braille solutions are available nowadays.

Three are the major challenges that are being addressed: Content, Distribution and Purchasing Experience.

Content. The Content need to be produced according to quality standards that guarantee accessibility by third party software solutions and final users. AIE together with Publishers, IDPF and other institutions has designed some guidelines for ePub format so that ebooks can be accessed by both the usual readers and by users with reading disabilities. Interestingly, the very same file can be used by readers of all kind (straight text, not illustrated content of course), so that there is not a major impact in the Publisher’s digital asset management. It’s now up to the Publishers to adopt such guidelines and start publishing eBook in such way.

Distribution. The accessible content need to be available for sale. The innovative aspect here is that it’s potentially open tp  wide distribution on all major online retailers in Italy (one caveat being the guidelines apply to the industry standard ePub, and not to proprietary standards such as mobi for example). This is the first initiative in the world that addresses the distribution of accessible ebooks through the standard trade online channels. Basically any e-retailer, operating in Italy, can get in touch with AIE and get a package of services to identify, track and sell ebooks that are accessible. Accessible ebooks need to be somehow flagged and distinguished from standard ebook. Usage of normal metadata is not reliable enough for such purposes. AIE’s role is to ensure and certify that an ebook is really accessible. It’s up to the Booksellers and AIE to establish such connection.

Purchasing Experience. The most daunting hurdle, not fully solved yet, is the online ebook purchasing experience. Booksellers website are generally not designed to be 100% accessible. So even if ebooks are accessible themselves, they are very hard to be found, browsed, “pre-viewed”, bought and downloaded by users with reading disabilities. They still need the help of a visually unimpaired person to guide them and buy the content they want. The overall discoverability and purchasing expiring of websites (and forget about the booksellers’ sites on mobile device and e-ink readers)  need to be rethought in order to be accessible. There should also be a catalogue for accessible ebook to be searched for. So AIE will also work with e-retailers to ensure accessibility, at various level, on their websites (from some/all hw platforms desktop, mobile, tablet...). 

LIA project is really in the launching pad. There will be a lot to do and learn for the entire book publishing value chain. But we are all excited about the perspectives that it can unveil for all readers...

Do not  underestimate the relevance of accessibility – virtually any of us is at times visually impaired while he/she can still speak and listen. An example thereof? here you go... Why not e-shopping/e-surfing/e-anything while driving on a long boring highway and keeping your hands on the wheel? To do that you need accessible websites/search engines/social networks… got it?

Almost all top Italian Trade Book Publishers are already involved with this innovative project. By beginning of 2013 a selection of at least 3,000 best-selling titles of fiction and narrative non fiction (straight text) will be available for sale and accessible in Italy.

If you want to know more about the LIA Project check this out: 

Finally the LIA Project will be presented in two events at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

·         E-publishing: Making Accessibility Mainstream

  • 9th October 2012, 10.30-11.20 am, Frankfurt Marriott Hotel (Hamburger Allee 2)
  • more info

·         A new market: accessible ebooks in mainstream channels. Discover the mainstream opportunities that digital publishing can offer readers with print disabilities