Electric Book Works Publishing reinvented for the digital age

Electric Book links: reading without sight, vanishing ebooks, and a new reading app

For many publishers, creating ebooks has opened up a long-neglected market: people with visual disabilities, who use audible screen readers and other technologies to read books. If we care about this new audience, as we should, we can all learn more about how to make ebooks accessible. (For instance, did you know fixed-layout epubs are bad for accessibility?) And we should think about accessibility broadly, to include people on low-powered phones and tight data budgets. This month’s links point to several pieces in that puzzle.


In this fascinating, stirring 99% Invisible podcast, McSweeney’s editor Andrew Leland tells us some of the history of accessible publishing, and his personal journey as he progressively loses his own sight.


Wonderbly is a phenomenon by now, not least because their books are just so beautiful. When you order one, it’s fully personalised with your (child’s) name. As co-founder Asi Sharabi explains in this fascinating podcast interview, their success is in large part because they constantly refine each book they publish. Which leads us to ask: what if most books had a new edition every few weeks, rather than years? Technically, that’s doable now with digital-first workflows.


This month Microsoft closed its ebook store, and if you bought an ebook from them, you’ve lost it. Not just that, but you lost your highlights and annotations, too, and Microsoft paid you a meagre $25 for the inconvenience. Which begs the question: who owns your annotations, and what are they worth? Ten years ago, Amazon settled a case about lost notes for $150000, and offered users a $30 refund.


Julie Blanc’s visual timeline of publishing technologies is a wonderland for publishing geeks. She’s also part of the team behind the Paged Media initiative, which is doing very exciting work in innovative book production.


I love that Google’s new reading app for kids, Rivet , uses loads of Book Dash books. This means the tech giant is helping to spread beautiful, progressive, African children’s stories.


Do you know a brilliant front-end developer who wants to work on beautiful books and tools that make a difference? Here’s a post about that role with us. Please pass it on.


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Arthur Attwell 15 July 2019