BNGO Books

Print design and ebook development

Upcoming Events and Publications

ebookcraft InDesign, Accessibility, Training, Editorial, eBook DesignBNGO BooksComment

BooknetCanada: Proceed with Intent Bring Order to Your Accessible Workflow. This is a post I wrote in support of my upcoming speaking engagement at ebookcraft in March 2018 in Toronto. 

InDesign Magazine: I wrote the cover story for the December 2017 issue. Topic: Building Accessible EPUBs with InDesign. Click here for more information and to subscribe.

March 21-22, 2018, ebookcraft: I'm happy to say that I'll be back at ebookcraft, leading a session on accessibility and InDesign:

Editors Canada: I'll be conducting a webinar over 4 days in July 2018, discussing the editor's place in ebook development. I'll focus on how editors can add value to ebook editions, and how they can rethink processes and collaborate with design and production colleagues.

The Editorial Freelancers Association: I'll be conducting 3 webinars for the EFA in 2018. The first will be a 4-session introduction to ebooks (beginning January 10, 2018); the next is one session on accessible ebooks (April 25); and the third will include 4 sessions showing editors how to diversify their skillsets by including accessibility and general ebook knowledge (beginning Sept 5).

InDesign Magazine: I've written another article for InDesign Magazine, in the June 2018, this time on getting clean, useful CSS using InDesign's style sheets. Click here for more information and to subscribe.

EPUB Accessibility 1.0: New Opportunities for Authors, Publishers and Readers

BNGO BooksComment

Following the shuttering of the Digital Book World blog, I'm reposting recent pieces about Accessibility. This piece concerns the legal requirements of A11Y-enabled ebooks.

The Metropolitan Opera in New York displays supertitles on small screens mounted to seatbacks. Also in New York, The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park projects a play’s text on monitors flanking the stage. And The MIT Press is committed to making its digital publications accessible to as wide an audience as possible.

Each of these efforts serves different communities and expands customer base. One result: more people buy tickets and books. And the potential audience grows, bringing in those who were previously ignored or underserved.

Accessibility: Equal Opportunity and Sales Opportunities

Closed-captioning from the Met and the Public Theater offer deaf theater-goers a chance to participate, while The MIT Press provides those with sight disabilities routes into their books.

Does it matter which result — sales or equal opportunity —  management was looking for? Not really; the job gets done. Translations of librettos from unfamiliar languages also helps the hearing audience, enticing those who weren’t interested in something they couldn’t understand. The Shakespearean closed captioning helps all in the theater better appreciate the rapid-fire pentameter of the plays.

That’s accessibility in action. More people in seats, understanding more than they had before.

What matters is that more folks are reading books or attending the opera. More people are enriched. Culture, learning, and entertainment are distributed more widely. These theatrical practices show what great opportunities there are for book publishers as they adopt accessibility.

Expanding Our Notions of a Book

The EPUB Accessibility 1.0 standard uses web technology (the foundation of ebooks) to make publications available to the many readers who can’t access print materials. It’s a marriage of technology and content, and can serve as a means to expand and enhance what we think of as a book.

Book editors are used to omitting text to fit a desired page count; paper is expensive. That disappears with ebooks.

There can be expanded navigation: numerous tables of contents (chapters, illustrations, tables). More comprehensive indexes, more thorough descriptions of images, more thoughtfully tagged asides, backmatter, and citations. More material that authors and publishers should only see as added value.

We know what parts of a book are: title page, preface, part opener, chapter, and so on. To be accessible, an ebook needs correct labeling. All an editor needs to do is correctly mark up a manuscript so the ebook developer can apply the correct EPUB type.

Connect Authors, Publishers, and Readers

These features are wonderful, but they don’t just appear. Tables of contents need to be built. Indexes have to be written, with hyperlinks built in when the Index is created. Book sections need to be labeled.

But these are familiar tasks. They just need some extra planning at the start of a project to be fully implemented. While they require a bit more work, they also remove limits on what a book can be.

Over the next few posts I’ll explore not just the opportunities accessibility brings, but also legal requirements and practical considerations. Making ebooks accessible can build a stronger alliance between authors, publishers, and their audience.

ebookcraft and TechForum 2018: Toronto, March 22

Accessibility, Design process, eBook Design, SpeakingBNGO BooksComment


After enjoying myself tremendously speaking at ebookcraft earlier this year, I'm happy to say that I'll be back next year. Aside from my talk, Simply Accessible, all about the straightforward path from InDesign to accessible EPUB, I can't wait to hear from industry experts. Follow this link to see the lineup for ebookcraft and TechForum 2018.


9 Reasons Why We All Need Accessible Ebooks

BNGO BooksComment

Following the shuttering of the Digital Book World blog, I'm reposting recent pieces about Accessibility. 

Books want to be read. They don’t care who reads them, or what skills or challenges readers have. The more people curl up with a paperback or a Kindle or a browser, the better for all books.

But not every book is readable by every potential consumer. This is true of books in every format: all kinds of print, audiobooks, and ebooks.

Accessibility lets us make one book for all users. Instead of having the print edition and the braille edition and the large print edition and the audiobook, we can include everyone in our audience with one format: the ebook.

In previous posts (links below) I’ve described the legal and business reasoning for making fully accessible ebooks, but that discussion doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter. We want to be making books that can be read by anyone who wants to read them, wherever and however they want to read them.

By the way, a term that is often swapped in for accessibility is A11Y.  Where’d it come from? It’s an abbreviation of the word “accessibility.” The first letter in the word is A, it’s followed by 11 letters, and concludes with Y: A11Y.

Who Benefits from Accessible Ebooks?

A11Y-conforming EPUB3 ebooks open the door to many underserved populations, populations we are all part of. Here are nine of them.

  1. Blind readers are locked out of the print reading experience. That’s why an ebook reading device’s text-to-speech engine is such a boon. Well made ebooks go far in providing a quality experience.

  2. Another audience: those with poor eyesight. They don’t necessarily need to use text to speech, but they can do with some help with text legibility. Ebooks are fantastic alternative for these readers. Font choice and resizability, device orientation alternatives, white vs. sepia vs. night viewing,  all contribute to making content more seeable. There are best practices in accessible ebook-making that take advantage of how devices are used.

  3. The population is aging. Wherever you are, whoever you’re selling to, there are older people who could use some help with reading. Whether they utilize text to speech, large font sizes, or a combination, they can continue reading as much as they ever did. Well thought-out ebooks create a great opportunity to keep these readers engaged.

  4. Color-blind readers can be underserved in print as well as ebook editions. While using color to give editorial meaning in print can be problematic, it’s downright wrong in ebooks. For one thing, e-ink devices don’t display color. For another, telling color-blind readers that the red column in a table indicates stop while the green column means go makes the content all but useless. Again, A11Y-conforming ebooks that are well planned and executed avoid these problems.

  5. Dyslexic readers are helped by fonts designed with their needs in mind. For example, OpenDyslexic is a Kindle font that has been included in the software for a couple of years. Here’s a screenshot of a paragraph in OpenDyslexic on the Kindle App for Macintosh, with sepia background (from Eat Pray Eat, by Mona Wasfy; available on the Kindle store).

  6. Customers with motor skill impairments benefit from correctly structured ebook files. They use a keyboard or voice or eye commands to move through a book, and the success of that depends on well-made files.

  7. The deaf can benefit as well. Digital books that contain audio should have captions built in so all content is readily available. Video should be described as well. In short, there should always be a fallback way for every reader to access the content.

  8. People listening to a book with text-to-speech will not have visual cues that a new language has been introduced. Language shifts — when the dominant language is interrupted by a word or phrase in another language — should be tagged in the markup so a reading engine knows to access its dictionary, if one is installed.

  9. And then there are the treadmill readers: folks who listen to books while exercising or driving or cooking or holding a crying baby, for example. They switch between sighted reading and having content read to them depending on the situation they find themselves in (hence the term ‘situational reading’). Making an ebook accessible just provides another way for them to consume content.

Like Pedestrian Curb Cuts, Accessibility Is For All Of Us

A common analogy to fully accessible ebooks is the pedestrian curb cut. When I was in Toronto for ebookcraft this Spring, I walked a mile from the train station to my hotel, pulling my suitcase behind me. About halfway along I realized how easy it was to navigate downtown. Every corner had a very generous curb cut. I’m used to curb cuts, but at home in New York I’m aware of intersections without them, or with broken or what seem to be very small cuts. In my neighborhood, I sometimes see elderly people with their walkers in the street, because there was no cut available to get up on the sidewalk.

So with ebooks. When we make every ebook as accessible as possible, we ensure their usability for everyone who wants to read them, when they want to read them.

Make Friends With A11Y

I’ve mentioned well made ebooks, properly built ebooks, well thought-out ebooks. In my next posts I’ll look at what that means for the publishing team. Editors, designers, production editors, and authors already have the know-how; they just need to re-orient how they look at a book to make it A11Y-friendly.


BISG Quick Start Guide to Accessible Publishing

An informative recent epubsecrets A11Y post

EPUB3 Accessibility FAQs

Global Certified Accessible ebooks

BNGO BooksComment

Following the shuttering of the Digital Book World blog, I'm reposting recent pieces about Accessibility. 

The publishing world is already serious about this issue. How serious? One indication is the new accessibility certification program developed by Benetech in collaboration with many industry leaders.

An International Agreement

Over 170 nations have ratified the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It states:

The purpose of the present Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity. 
Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

For the international publishing industry, this is a straightforward mandate: Make accessible books available to everyone who wants them at the time and place of their choosing.

Global Certified Accessible

The  EPUB3 Accessibility specification lays the foundation for publishers to build on. The Global Certified Accessible initiative will be a way for them to test and validate their products to ensure they fill those requirements.

Benetech, a nonprofit tech company that focuses on bringing content to disabled communities, has created the program to examine ebook files and certify — or not —  their accessibility.

Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan Learning, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Royal National Institute of Blind People, and Ingram Content Group are a few of the entities that will put this program to work. (See a complete list at the end of this piece.)

While initially focussed on the school market, it will immediately involve the larger trade market. Publishers like HarperCollins and Penguin Random House will certify trade ebooks that are often purchased for classroom use — think 1984 or To Kill a Mockingbird. Lisa McCloy-Kelley, VP Director Ebook Product Development & Innovation at Penguin Random House provides their rationale:

Our goal at Penguin Random House is to bring our authors' stories and ideas to readers wherever they are and in whatever format they want to read. That includes ensuring that our titles are readily and easily accessible for people with reading disabilities and for classroom use. Together with Benetech, we have identified opportunities to improve our content-development processes and the accessibility of our ebooks, as we continue to better understand and address the needs of this community.

From a production point of view, once publishers with large lists include accessibility in their workflows for some books, there’s little doubt that the same attention will be paid to every ebook published.

And, once these titles are accessible and bought for use in classrooms, libraries, and book groups around the world, the business case will be obvious.

Third-Party Validation

The EUB3 Accessibility specification is the standard, and Benetech’s testing suite serves as a third-party validator of how it is utilized. The certification will match an EPUB against the specs to see if semantics are sound, markup is correct, and content is fully available to every reader.

In short, the certification will indicate to institutional and individual consumers that a book is available to every consumer at the time and place of their choosing.

Benetech will work with individual publishers to set pricing, which will be based on a number of variables: number of titles, book length, complexity of content.

Added Value

According to Brad Turner, Benetech’s VP of Global Literacy, each evaluation highlights missing accessibility elements and provide suggestions on how features that have been incorrectly implemented should be remediated. The complexity of each book is taken into account, so text-only books will be tested on only those features they have.

The Global Accessibility tool will also check an EPUB for structure and general EPUB validation requirements, although it won’t provide retailer-specific guidelines that tools like Flightdeck provide.

Metadata fields describe a book’s accessibility features, tell whether or not it’s been tested and by whom, and provide reasons why some features were not included. Books that are certified by Benetech will be designated as such in metadata, as well as on Ingram Content Group’s VitalSource® and CoreSource®, if distributed through that channel.

Participants at the launch of Global Certified Accessible

The first adopters and participants in developing Benetech’s program are The Los Angeles Unified School District, Elsevier, HarperCollins Publishers, Harvard Business Publishing, Macmillan Learning, Penguin Random House, Apex CoVantage, Amnet Systems, Dedicon, Royal National Institute of Blind People, and Ingram Content Group’s VitalSource® and CoreSource®.

This is a big leap towards universal access to publications. Publishing accessible ebooks makes economic sense, and makes distribution of content as democratic as possible. Making ebooks accessible today means increasing their shelf lives far into the future so that readers in the future will be able to enjoy and learn.

As large and small publishers realize that implementing the EPUB3 Accessibility spec adds value to their product at a reasonable expenditure of labor, this tool and any others like it will be go-to resources.

A final word from Bill Kasdorf of Apex CoVantage:

This is a watershed moment for accessibility. Benetech has long been a leader in fostering ‘Born Accessible’ publishing. Its development of the certification standards for the Global Certified Accessible program brings long-needed clarity to the process of creating and procuring properly accessible publications.


UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities


EPUB3 Accessibility Specification

Ebook Accessibility and the Law

BNGO BooksComment

Following the shuttering of the Digital Book World blog, I'm reposting recent pieces about Accessibility. This piece concerns the legal requirements of A11Y-enabled ebooks.

It's the Law: Accessibility Mandated For Digital Books

With this series of posts, I hope to make abundantly clear the value, importance, and, hopefully, the inevitability of creating fully accessible ebooks. EPUB3’s Accessibility Standard provides a clear route to adding substance and usability to published material.

I’ve pointed out some of the practical and business opportunities afforded by including a11y in ebook publishing. Then, I described Benetech’s new certification program, which will both check conformance to the accessibility standard and provide a marketing tool via third-party evaluation. Many international publishers and end-users took part in this initiative. (See links to these articles at end of this post.)

Next up: legal requirements. Without trying to be comprehensive, I want to illustrate the law underpinning  the requirements.  A number of statutes, the first enacted in 1973, established a foundation in the US. Based in part on those, an international agreement housed in the United Nations has seen tremendous world-wide support.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The US Rehabilitation Act of 1973 took the first steps toward making everyday life more accessible to Americans. In particular, two sections targeted making content available to all.
Section 504 tells educational programs that receive federal funding:

No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…

This is largely directed at educational material, and so is administered by the Department of Education. Preschool through universities are bound by the law, engaging educational publishers. And as I mentioned in a previous post, trade publishers such as Penguin Random House and HarperCollins are joining the effort to make ebooks used in the school market accessible, which points to larger shares of their general lists being certified accessible.

Section 508, amended to the Rehabilitation Act in 1998, dictates that Federal agencies make their electronic and information technology offerings accessible to people with disabilities. Any material published by or distributed to the Federal government must comply with these statutes. Websites and PDFs were the initial focus, but ebooks have an obvious place in this conversation.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

While the Rehabilitation Act deals with government organizations, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 broadens the accessibility mandate to non-governmental entities, such as corporations.

In 2008, the ADA was amended to specify that the Act covers anyone participating in major life activities. These include "caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working."

It’s pretty clear that the ADA covers digital publishing.

International Action

The UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted in 2003. Over 170 nations have ratified it, including Canada, Australia, Russia, China, India, and EU nations. While the Convention was modeled in part on US law, the US has signed but has not ratified the agreement.

Although the Convention was written before the widespread use of ebooks, it covers any person’s conditions that new technology may affect. Remember: new technologies like ebooks can present challenges – not just opportunities — to populations in unforeseen ways. From the Convention:

"... disability is an evolving concept and . . . results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others."

“Equally Effective” Access

Here’s the simple concept behind these accessibility laws: All material must be equally available when, where, and how any person wants to access it.

A 2013 agreement between the US Department of Justice and Louisiana Tech University stemming from an ADA-based complaint by a blind student states in part:

“Equally effective alternate access” to electronic and information technology for persons with disabilities is based on (1) timeliness of delivery, (2) accuracy of translation, and (3) delivery in a manner and medium appropriate to the disability of the person. Such alternate(s), to be equally effective, are not required to produce the identical result or level of achievement for disabled and non-disabled persons, but must afford disabled persons equal opportunity to obtain the same result, to gain the same benefit, or to reach the same level of achievement, in the most integrated setting appropriate to the person’s needs.


In 2012, a lawsuit was settled between the National Federation of the Blind and the Sacramento (California) Public Library. The basis of the suit: The library was distributing e-readers (in this case, Barnes and Noble Nooks) that lacked text to speech capability, violating both Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA. The settlement: The library system will deploy accessible e-readers to blind and print-disabled patrons. A similar suit was filed against the Free Library of Philadelphia, with a similar result.

It’s not the fault of libraries that the devices they can afford to buy lacked basic accessibility features. Dedicated e-readers are much less expensive than higher end, feature-rich tablets like iPad. So, libraries find themselves as proxies between the communities that need accessibility and the manufacturers and content producers who must supply it.

From a business perspective, the more accessible ebooks that libraries have on their shelves, the more patrons they’ll attract, and that will cause libraries to push publishers to produce more accessible content . . . and so on.

Do It Now

Accessible ebooks are legally mandated for much published material. And as I outlined in previous posts, accessibility brings business and editorial possibilities for all published material.

What publishers should do now is get on the a11y train and start making their books accessible today. Books without these features will be at a competitive — and probably legal — disadvantage in the not-too-distant future. And going back and retrofitting content will be a lot tougher than doing it now.

It’s important to note that when a university is sued for using inaccessible material, the publisher will not be included in that suit. But, it’s plausible to think that schools, universities, and libraries will not buy software and digital material if it is not accessible.

In future posts, I’ll be looking at specific editorial and production ideas, and at how accessibility features are put into action by reading systems.


For more information and encouragement, has published a number of accessibility posts. Start with this piece on producing accessible ebooks by Laura Brady editor-in-chief, then explore the site for much more in-depth writing.

The BISG Quick Start Guide to Accessible Publishing (a free ebook from the Book Industry Study Group)

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 508

Americans with Disabilities Act

Equally Effective Agreement, US Department of Justice

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Accessibility on Campus and in Educational Materials


Summer 2016 published projects

BNGO BooksComment

BNGO had a very busy Spring and early Summer this year. Here are just a few of the noteworthy projects!

Valley of the Dolls, 50th Anniversary Edition ebook.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. BNGO typeset the script book in top-secret sessions at Scholastic.

The AP Stylebook, 2016. BNGO once again adapted the Associated Press's landmark print edition for all ebook platforms.

From Edison to iPod, by Frederick Mostert. BNGO designed and produced the print edition and the ebook editions for all platforms.

Newest DBW post

Color in eBooks, Design process, eBook Design, Enhanced e-books, SpeakingBNGO BooksComment

I neglected to add my most recent DBW Daily post here; too busy prepping for my presentation at DBW here in NYC this week. I led a 3-hour conversation on using InDesign to export a solid, usable EPUB.

Anyway, my post is all about design in ebooks. Here's the link:

There'll be a lot more to come in the next weeks on this topic, so stay tuned.