A new resource from eBound Canada is a one-stop-shop for independent Canadian publishers looking to further their work in accessible publishing.
The Accessible Publishing Learning Network (APLN), which launched last month, is a comprehensive repository of plain-language articles and information on all aspects of accessible publishing, from e-book production to audiobook production, and includes articles on how publishers can ensure their websites and digital marketing efforts are also accessible.
Laura Brady, Accessibility Training Manager at eBound and APLN Community Librarian, explains that the network “is designed from the ground up to be a plain language repository of short and quick ways to learn very specific things. accessible edition”.
The project grew out of a funding announcement from the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Canada Book Fund in the 2019 federal budget. Accessible digital books allocated $22.8 million over five years to support independent Canadian publishers in the creation and distribution of accessible e-books.
Shortly after the announcement, eBound Canada undertook a landscape report to determine the state of accessible publishing among Canadian independent publishers. The report, produced in partnership with the National Network for Equitable Library Service (NNELS) and the National Association of Book Publishers (ANEL) and released in 2020, found that many independent publishers were just beginning to make their e-books accessible.
“They’ve really expressed a clear interest in entry-level content so they can figure things out and work their way through the publishing process in a more inclusive way,” Brady says.
The APLN, which is funded by the Accessible Digital Books initiative, is more than an online repository of useful information. It also includes a community hub where publishers can work together to solve specific accessible publishing tasks or find information or examples from others in the industry.
Jessica Albert, digital and art director at ECW Press, explains that before the APLN existed, if she encountered a question about accessible publishing, it often meant reading technically very specific materials for hours to find the answer.
“The community hub is a very immediate example, even in the early days of the APLN, of how it’s really going to be useful,” says Albert.
In addition to the website and community hub, the APLN also provides subscribers with a regular newsletter that Brady sets up.
“Part of life in digital publishing is that the sands are always changing a bit,” says Brady. “Best practices evolve and change, so the newsletter is a way to communicate with people who register on the site [about] new positions.”
Feedback from early adopters of the network has been genuinely enthusiastic, says Brady. People whose work includes accessible publishing are happy to have an authoritative resource to consult.
“A lot of people in the industry don’t know much about e-book production,” says Nicole Lambe, production coordinator at House of Anansi Press and Groundwood Books. “When we try to solve a problem, there is no one to contact. More often than not, it’s a lot of troubleshooting between us and not having the resources to bank that knowledge. The APLN is a really great, centralized place to find everything.
APLN is fair one of many accessible publishing projects who can attribute their existence to the five-year accessible digital books initiative, but Brady points out that focusing on making books available from their earliest development is something publishers must continue to do even after funding, which should end in 2024, is no longer available.
“Once the money runs out, I want people to keep doing this,” she says. “Publishers really need to work on developing their accessible publishing muscles. This is where the APLN can intervene and be a continuous support to solve the problems in the way of doing [accessible] publish very well.