2023-24. ABE Lab – Accessible Backlist Ebooks Laboratory
The project ABE Lab – Accessible Backlist Ebooks Laboratory is a small-scale European Cooperation project. Coordinator of the project is European Digital Reading Lab (EDRLab), partners are Fondazione LIA and Koninklijke Bibliotheek (the National Library of the Netherlands).
Project partners are experts in various fields: accessibility for Fondazione LIA, technology for EDRLab and public services for the National Library of the Netherlands. Their knowledge and experience of different markets and contexts (France, Italy and the Netherlands) will also be useful for the success of the project.
ABE Lab an 18-month research and development project, starting in January 2023 and ending in June 2024.
The aim of the ABE Lab project is to provide guidelines to European publishers for boosting the remediation of their ebook backlist and convert them into accessible.
By June 2025, the European Accessibility Act (EAA) will come into force and it will be a requirement for all ebooks sold in Europe to be fully accessible. The publishing industry, worldwide, agrees that EPUB is the only digital book format which allows, with a few efforts, the creation of fully accessible ebooks. Most titles are already published in EPUB, and the first accessible titles are now on sale.
There will still be an issue with most ebooks published before 2025 (a “backlist” of probably 2.5 million files in Europe). Since the objective of the directive is to end the “book famine” endured by visually impaired people, it is necessary to transform as many titles as possible into accessible EPUB files before 2025. Because making some ebooks accessible requires an important human work, the EU has evaluated the cost of transforming an “old” ebook into an accessible EPUB at 400 € per title. Since the blacklist is hardly profitable for publishers, the removal of most of these titles from the market is a risk, with the consequent loss of cultural diversity in Europe.
The main objective of the project will be achieved by analyzing and testing the processes and workflows by which ebooks of different types and formats can be transformed into accessible EPUB in the easiest and less expensive way. During this phase of the project, multiple tests will be developed and carried out, using existing open-source and commercial tools. The study will consider different levels of complexity of source ebooks and will evaluate the associated costs of remediation.
To do so, different activities will be undertaken:
- Collection of data on ebooks backlists at a European level;
- Identification of recurrent accessibility issues and development of workflows to remediate each typology of issue;
- Identification of available open-source and commercial tools for remediating inaccessible ebooks;
- Testing of the tools to identify shortcomings and potentials and define the most effective workflow depending on the ebook level of inaccessibility and complexity. The study will in fact consider different levels of complexity of source ebooks to evaluate the associated costs of remediation.
Activities will not be limited to collection of data and testing in a controlled environment: during the span time of the project, 5 workshops and 3 events will be organized to disseminate the progress and results of the project.
We will bring you updates in this page soon, as the first results of the tests and any developments on the project come in. Informations on events open to the public will be updated by the partners on their social media and communication channels.
Detailed information about this Creative Europe funded project can be found on the dedicated ABELab webpage.