Blind People Have Won the Right to Smash DRM Ebook. In 3 years, they will have to start over
This rarely happens. Instead, a screen reader stumbles upon these static images, occasionally reciting filename gibberish, leaving a blind reader with no possible way to discern the meaning. This assumes, again, that an accessible version of the manual exists to begin with. If there is one, it may only be available on certain platforms.
The inconsistencies can be maddening. To take Calculus: first transcendentals, a popular textbook from publisher Cengage Learning. The “eTextbook” available on Amazon is actually just a scan of the book, without any text-to-speech functionality. Bookshare, an accessible online library, has a version of the book, but even that copy is not fully accessible because it does not contain alt text descriptions of these static images.
Brad Turner, vice president and general manager of global education and literacy at Benetech, the nonprofit behind Bookshare, says that while his company sometimes injects accessible functionality into books electronic without the cooperation of a publisher, it will not write its own descriptions for the images.
“Our deal with the editors is to give us your content and we promise not to edit it at all. We’re just going to make it accessible,” Turner said. “For many images, charts, tables, charts, formulas, equations, we are not qualified as the author or publisher.”
Emily Featherston, director of corporate communications at Cengage, says the company is committed to providing accessible versions of its eBooks and that it has “accessibility guidelines and an in-house team of specialists in it. digital accessibility and learning design ‘to support its product and technology. teams. Readers who purchase and access text through Cengage’s own platform will have access to TTS and alt text, but these features are not guaranteed by the third parties that people are more used to buying from.
“While this work helps demonstrate our commitment to providing accessible solutions, we also recognize that accessibility is a journey, not a destination, and that there is always room for improvement,” said Featherston.
It was a very long trip. Technological interventions have been available for years – some people use tools like Kindle Converter or Codex to get through digital rights management, turning proprietary ebooks into accessible formats – but the central problem is actually very simple. Publishers could provide fully accessible digital versions of their books. They don’t have to, and often they don’t.
Thus, advocates for the United States are stuck asking for an exemption from a 23-year-old law, signed a year before Napster’s founding and long before the era of smartphones, when one of the main concerns over Copyright was that children ripped music onto CDs. This month’s recommendation to extend the copyright exemption for accessible eBooks is good news, but the whole process will repeat itself in three years.
By then, a permanent solution might be closer. In 2019, the European accessibility law became law in the EU. It will be implemented in June 2025, requiring that all e-books published in the EU after that date be fully accessible. Some are hoping it might set a precedent here.
“We passed a seat belt law. We have passed a law on unleaded gasoline. Why can’t we pass an accessible book law? Turner said.
Meanwhile, the Bridges look to the future, with some trepidation.
“The math is going to be nasty,” says Rebecca. “There is no doubt in my mind.”
More great WIRED stories