Enhancing Reach: The Fundamentals of eBook Accessibility

February 15, 2024
Ingram Associate
Enhancing Reach: The Fundamentals of eBook Accessibility

While print books are still very popular with all kinds of readers, eBooks are also taking over a significant portion of the publishing space. They are growing in value and interest because they give readers options outside of purchasing books in print. An e-reader, for example, can store and carry hundreds of books, so it's a great choice for travel and for small spaces where storing a lot of physical books isn't possible.

Outside of convenience, eBooks are becoming more popular because they have settings and options that can be used to adjust the reading experience, unlike paperback or hardcover books that have no way to adjust things like text size or contrast settings to accommodate low vision readers. Here are a few things to consider when thinking about eBooks and accessibility.

Adjustable Fonts and Text Sizes

Font styles and text sizes can both be changed with the majority of eBooks, making them very accessible for a wider range of readers. eBooks are typically the best choice for anyone who needs large print or may need help reading a less-standard font. It's not just low vision that's a consideration, either. Some readers simply want to personalize something they're reading, making it more comfortable for them to enjoy.

The ease and simplicity of font and text style changes on e-readers is a huge selling point. Readers get what works for them, and then can change the size and style for the next book on their reading list as they please. Both the personalization and convenience are significant reasons to choose eBooks, making reading an even more enjoyable and individualized experience.

Alternative Text for Images

Descriptive alternative text, commonly called alt text, can be easily included in an eBook, helping readers understand everything they're seeing. Authors and publishers will want to create meaningful image descriptions to ensure readers get the most information possible from that text. The specifics of the image can easily be included in the alt text, telling readers about the colors, shapes, and images included.

When there are text-to-speech options, the alt text is read along with the other words on the page. That means someone listening to the book would receive data about the pictures, charts, and other visuals on the pages. This can add to how complete the story feels as well as increase their knowledge of a subject they're studying.

Semantic Structure

Another important note about eBooks is that they need to have the right semantic structure. This increases the ability for anyone using assistive technologies to navigate the book. They can find chapters, specific phrases or ideas, and more. The right structure helps create a type of index that means people with low vision and others who experience vision or reading issues locate what they need within the eBook's contents.

Metadata and Language Information

Metadata offers crucial information about eBooks and ensures that accurate language information is used. That creates more opportunities for diverse readership, and helps people decide whether a particular book is right for them and their needs. The metadata is one of the best ways for readers to choose what books interest them by telling them about other data, such as the ownership, creation, location, meaning, and more.

Text-to-Speech Functionality

Among the largest and most valuable benefits of eBooks when it comes to accessibility is how the text-to-speech function can help people who have low vision conditions or other visual impairments. Not only can readers have eBooks read to them, but the alt text for images is generally included in that. This helps readers visualize any images in the book, so they can have a more complete experience of the story and enjoy it more fully.

For non-fiction or more technical types of books, text-to-speech that includes alt text can help readers with low vision understand the charts and graphs that are included, along with other types of images that may paint a bigger or more complete picture of the information in the book itself. Having text-to-speech opens up a whole new world for those who cannot read comfortably, taking them beyond the font and style settings offered by most e-readers.

Future Outlook: Advancements in eBook Accessibility

The interest in eBooks continues to grow. In 2023, for example, eBook check-outs from libraries rose 12%. Additionally, in 2022, there were more than $1 billion in eBook sales. Not only are people checking them out from libraries, but they're also buying them in large numbers.

While it may take some time before their sales surpass print books, and many people still enjoy the feel of a physical book in their hand, having an e-reader can be a great way to carry a lot of reading material and information in a small space, as well as providing support for readers experiencing low vision concerns.

Enhancing Reach: The Fundamentals of eBook Accessibility
Ingram Associate

Ingram Associate

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