How to design workflows for accessibility. Interview with Mondadori Group
During the last edition of Bologna Children’s Book Fair last, Fondazione LIA organized the seminar Let’s get accessible!, with the goal to present the advantages of making content accessible to people with visual disabilities, thus creating an inclusive editorial proposal for every reader.
The event, organized in the framework of Aldus UP, provided an overview of the recent evolution of the legislation on the subject and the best practices for producing quality and accessible publications. Elisa Molinari (Project Manager of Fondazione LIA) had the chance to delve into these aspects with Marta Fornasero (Editor of DScuola) and Filippo Floridia (Ebook Production Coordinator for Mondadori Group).
Mondadori Group was one of the first Italian publishing houses to join LIA and embrace accessibility in 2011. To improve the quality and inclusiveness of their digital products, in 2019 the Group was the first major publisher in Italy to switch to the EPUB 3 format, tracing a path that Italian publishing is now following to adapt to the rest of Europe.
Filippo Floridia coordinates the workflows and the supply chain for all the imprints of Mondadori Group: Mondadori, Rizzoli, Einaudi, Piemme, Sperling & Kupfer e Mondadori Electa and works daily to provide the best reading experience and the best product for their digital readers. We asked him to share how they take care of accessibility and how their workflows have changed over time.
Filippo Floridia (Mondadori Group)
When did you start to take care of the accessibility of your digital publications?
We have been working on accessibility for 10 years, since we started collaborating with LIA. Since then, our workflows have been rebuilt from the ground up in order to meet accessibility standards, with a view to automation, standardisation, and simplification for all our brands.
One of the main goals for our Group is accessibility, along with the optimization of production processes: for us, accessibility is one of the reason for ebooks to be relevant.
How did it affect your production and distribution workflows?
Until 2013, we used to work mainly in order to validate files with EPUBCheck, trying to optimise the e-book production management and solve layout issues. Over time we realised we needed to standardise the workflows of our various brands and understand how we could improve our EPUBS. When we started to work with LIA, we took the chance to implement specific changes and routines in a more systematic way.
After mediating between internal technical specifications, accessibility requirements by LIA and the editorial needs, we created guidelines for suppliers, mapping InDesign styles and developing precise rules for their conversion into a single template. As an example, a main element of this mapping is the hierarchy of headings.
Moreover, in order to provide suppliers with a file structure compliant to our requirements and easy for them to manage, we use an InDesign script to prepare a package with all the files compiled according to precise policies. In particular, the preliminary pages (cover, synopsis, biography, copyright) are revised and correctly tagged by us before being sent to the suppliers. As the specifications change, the script is updated as well.
That is the reason why the transition to EPUB 3, which took place in September 2019, was a major effort in terms of developing new guidelines and new templates. Speaking of workflow, however, it did not require an excessive amount of work since we had already adjusted our structure for accessibility and most of the interventions concerned “fixed” parts of our templates: we only had to train the suppliers and update our scripts and apps.
How does your team in particular take care of accessibility?
We keep us up to date with LIA’s courses and news from the W3C, and, when possible, we bring suggested innovations into our guidelines.
In our day-to-day routine, we prepare layouts according to our policies, which include specifications for accessibility. Furthermore, we edit the PDF files of the most complex titles with comments to explain to suppliers how to deal with certain peculiarities and exceptions in layouts.
As digital sales office, we also list important upcoming titles on which LIA performs a priority check, and if requirements for validation are not met, we make manual corrections, possibly before the release date.
Mondadori Group publishes hundreds of e-books per year: how do you handle this aspect?
First of all, we have set up the already mentioned semi-automated process in handling files and packages for suppliers; secondly, for marketing needs, we give priority to the validation of certain titles and then we retrieve the backlist ones.
To provide an overview on volumes, Mondadori Group has been publishing approximately from 150 to 200 new titles per months, in EPUB 3 for some time now; most of our catalogue still consist of EPUB 2 (about 75%), but we are slowly renewing some key backlist titles converting them to the EPUB 3 format. Percentagewise, we have many more validated EPUB 3 (more than 70%) than EPUB 2 (still 60%). So, it is clearly shown that switching to this format is worthwhile: a better quality of semantic tags is achieved thanks to open web platform technologies.