Old forms of ePub still accessible?

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Could you tell me:

Is any book in an epub format accessible? If the epub file was created before epub 3.0 was released, will it still be as accessible? Does the publisher update their book files to the new standard? And if it's not updated, is there a way to find out what version the epub file was created in?

Thank you for your time. I appreciate your help very much!

To break down your questions:

1) I don't think there's a blanket statement about accessibility that can be applied to any ebook format. All content can be made poorly, in inaccessible and inconveniencing ways for the reader. EPUB 3 provides a lot of accessible features, but they have to be taken advantage of to truly make content accessible.

The quality of the markup is a key factor in the reader being able to follow the logical reading order, for example, and it requires care on the part of the content creator to ensure that all the key structures have been tagged properly. You could create an epub that is marked up using nothing but divs and spans, but you'd be hard-pressed to call it accessible.

The quality of the navigation aids is another factor. Providing text/audio synchronization through media overlays another. Enhancing the basic text-to-speech playback. The list goes on.

To be truly accessible there are many considerations to take into account, but EPUB 3 is a clear leader in terms of providing the needed features. It incorporates all the functionality that was in the DAISY 3 format, and improves and expands on that format.

I can't possibly answer this question in anything resembling entirety here, of course, but have a look at the free O'Reilly book Accessible EPUB 3 for an idea of what needs to be done to make content more widely accessible.

2) EPUB 2 does not contain nearly the number of accessible features that 3 does, but you can still make reasonably accessible content with care (the level depends on the complexity of the work, with novels being far easier to make accessible than textbooks).

3) When and whether publishers will upgrade existing catalogues to 3.0 I couldn't say. To take advantage of the new features, it will typically take more than just rewrapping the content in a new 3.0 container, though (i.e., you can migrate from 2 to 3 without improving quality).

4) If you're looking for a simple discovery mechanism, install Readium from readium.org. When you load your ebook, it reports which version it conforms to.

If you're not scared off by XML, you can determine the version of the EPUB by opening the container and looking at the OPF file. EPUB 3 files will specify version="3.0" on the root package element. (EPUBs are zip files, so any zip program will give you access to the contents.)

Hope this helps.

Just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to write this out. It was very helpful to me and our organization.

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