My Review of Accessible EPUB 3

Originally submitted at O’Reilly

Best Practices for Creating Universally Usable Content

Good content about a new standard

By Jim Schubert from Richmond, VA on 2/22/2012


4out of 5

Pros: Accurate, Concise

Cons: “however”

Best Uses: Novice, Student

Describe Yourself: Software Engineer

I reviewed Accessible EPUB 3 as part of the O’Reilly Blogger program. This book is actually an excerpt from the upcoming EPUB 3 Best Practices.

The content of this excerpt is undeniably rich. The first 25 pages or so may be ‘review’ material if you’re already pretty familiar with HTML5. If so, skim these pages for the EPUB-specific additions.

Knowing very little about the changes in EPUB 3, I was very intrigued by the audio and video capabilities that mirror those of HTML5. I would have liked to see more discussion about the support of these elements in readers on the market. There were a few places where the author warned about new features not being fully available in many readers, but the lack of statistics made me wonder if this is merely speculation or if any readers currently support the new features.

I thought the Text-to-Speech section was very informative. The concept of having a lexicon as a pronunciation index coupled with inline SSML will make EPUB 3 very usable on readers. I sometimes turn on a screen reader just to see how elements are read aloud, laughing at mispronounced words or phrases. If authors and publishers put in the effort to add these features of EPUB 3, text-to-speech engines will make only a fraction of the pronunciation mistakes.

I would have given this excerpt five stars, but the language was occasionally difficult to read. For instance, the author really enjoys ending sentences with “however” as if it is a filler word. After encountering this a few times, I ended up reading over sentences (sometimes spanning 2-3 lines of a paragraph) and replacing the ending “however” with synonyms to see if it made sense. Mostly, it didn’t. I think this really detracted from the overall content, because I found myself retracing so much text to understand how the disjointed conjunctive adverb made sense that the content ended up feeling choppy.

Since the end result is still in production, I would imagine this text has already gone through a few rounds of editing.