It's Canadian Library Month! To celebrate, and with the help of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia (ABPBC), we've just released 455 titles in EPUB format. The BC eBook Collection includes 91 titles from Greystone Books, 18 from New Star Books, 233 titles from Orca Books, 61 from Heritage Group (including 9 from Heritage House, 11 from TouchWood Editions, 6 from Brindle and Glass Publishing, and 35 from Rocky Mountain Books), 23 from Tradewind Books, and 27 from UBC Press. Our sincere thanks to these publishers for working with us. New Star and Tradewind even sent us books at a discount or for free, and offered to send us their future publications.
Our goal with this project is to create reading options and choice for readers who need accessible formats. Most public libraries already offer access to digital content but it is often inaccessible to readers with print disabilities due to problems with the lending platform, digital rights management (DRM), or with the formats and technology themselves.
We wanted to purchase books specifically in EPUB format because they are more accessible than other digital book formats, and because we typically have to do less work to convert them to other formats for readers who request them. Furthermore, the absence of DRM means NNELS users are more likely to have a straightforward reading experience.
We first approached the ABPBC in the spring of 2017 to find out if they would be willing to help us work with BC publishers and coordinate purchasing a batch of eBooks. We are so glad they agreed to help!
With the project complete, we asked Heidi Waechtler, Executive Director at the ABPBC, about her experience with working with us:
It was eye-opening for me personally to learn that less than 5% of published works are available in accessible formats. The Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia is proud to have worked with the BC Libraries Cooperative to help make an additional 455 BC-published titles available to NNELS users. We wanted to do our part to ensure that BC books were better represented in the NNELS collection, so that all readers have easy access to books that reflect their local perspectives and experiences. What's more, many of our publishers are now highly motivated to examine their print and ebook production processes to take readers with print disabilities into account, and to begin exploring audiobook production. As an association, we'll hope to support our publishers in exploring best practices through professional development workshops.
These BC eBooks are for children, teens, and adults, and include fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. There are books for deepening our understanding of reality, and books for escaping from it. They join collections from Atlantic Canadian publishers, as well as titles from Alberta publishers. Adding these 455 books to NNELS moves us closer to our goal of Canadians with print disabilities borrowing Canadian books from their local public library, just like everyone else.
The EPUB file format is still new to many people, but here are some of its benefits from our perspective as librarians:
- They have potential for rich navigation.For example, EPUB can include navigation lists of tables, figures, illustrations, maps, and so on. It can also support video and audio, so text can be synchronized with an audio file, just like DAISY. This means that books in EPUB format that use EPUB’s accessibility features can be read by people who read with their eyes, ears, or fingertips (Braille).
- They’re flexible. Typically, books in EPUB format work with a variety of electronic reading devices, including DAISY players, computers and laptops, reading apps for iOS and Android devices (including Voice Dream Reader).
- Anyone can use this format. EPUB is a non-proprietary, open standard, which means anyone can create an EPUB book based on the specifications. Furthermore, anyone can design the machines to read this format; no special license is required. Consequently, there are many tools, both open source and proprietary, which can be used to read books in EPUB format. Assistive technology, such as a screenreaders, Text-To-Speech (TTS) and refreshable braille can be supported.
- EPUB 3 is superseding DAISY as the preferred format for accessible publications and documents, and books that include EPUB accessibility elements can be read with modern DAISY programs and players. Older DAISY players can’t play EPUB files, so if someone is looking for a DAISY book, we can still convert the file to DAISY upon user or library request.