Letter From the Executive Director (April 2019)

Spring is often a time for renewal, and as the flowers start appearing in our yards and the trees begin to bud, so too are we trying to freshen up our look for the coming year. You’ll notice that the look of NISO Newsline has changed. It has been a long time since we have revamped the look of Newsline. In fact, the look and navigation of Newsline hasn’t changed much in more than 13 years. Although the back-end technology has changed three times over that period, these wouldn’t be obvious changes to readers of this newsletter. As you can see, we have moved to a much more visually-centered design approach, moving the detailed text onto the NISO Information Organized (NISO i/o) portion of our website. We have often heard that as useful as the content in Newsline is, readers sometimes find it difficult to navigate and identify content that is relevant to them. Much like the new format of NISO i/o, which was launched in February, NISO Newsline will group content by topic and section. We will be tweaking a number of elements to the new design over the coming months in hopes of finding the best way to deliver to you timely, focused information related to information distribution and to the technology that underpins that process. We certainly welcome your feedback and input as we try to better serve the community.

Just as NISO is seeking to make content more visible and discoverable, I’m just back from a meeting of the ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee on Information Technology and subcommittee meetings on document processing languages, in which NISO represented US interests as the ANSI T.A.G.  One very active group of that subcommittee that met for 2 days last week dealt with e-books and international standardization of EPUB-related work. Among the projects it is currently working on are ISO standardization of the EPUB specification, preservation of EPUB files, work related to accessibility standards for EPUB books, and a Rights Management specification for e-books.  The ISO formalization of the EPUB specification is nearly complete and will mirror the IDPF/W3C EPUB 3.0.1 specification.  The work on accessibility was approved last fall and will build on application of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to EPUB, but also cover areas related to the discovery of accessibility features of an accessible EPUB. Finally, the work on a digital rights management system will be focused on building upon the Readium Foundation’s Licensed Content Protection (LCP) digital rights management technology.

Much of this work is important to our community, but none more so than accessibility. Reading is a fundamental right for all people and we have a duty, and now a legal responsibility, to ensure the content that we create is accessible and discoverable as such. I acknowledge here that NISO, like many small publishers, hasn’t been as fully compliant as one might expect given our role in some of these issues, but we are working to improve that. I wrote about the process on the Marrakesh VIP Treaty previously in Newsline (July 2018), which happily cleared the final hurdle in the United States and was signed into law at the end of January, becoming the 50th country to adopt the treaty. With the newer tools for accessibility—such as EPUB itself, but other export mechanisms as well—creating accessible content is no longer a difficult process, nor something that necessarily requires a special production workflow. However, it does require production departments to be mindful of accessibility issues and include basic best practice in their processes. International standardization of these practices can help, but adoption once those standards are agreed upon will be critical to creating a content ecosystem that will ensure that all people have access to all the world’s knowledge.

NISO will continue to support and advance work related to accessibility, and I encourage the community to support that work, either by contributing directly, implementing the technology, or by encouraging the adoption and distribution of accessible formats from content creators.


Todd Carpenter