I’m delighted to share the news that Adobe Digital Editions 1.8 is available on Adobe Labs and that at long last this version provides improved support for accessibility. Digital Editions 1.8 has enhanced keyboard support, provides additional text magnification, support for high-contrast mode color-switching, and interoperability with the UIAutomation accessibility API to allow screen readers to read ebooks.
Some views of Digital Editions 1.8:
Digital Editions 1.8 will allow users, including screen reader users, to check out books from public libraries that use Adobe Content Server for book Digital Rights Management (DRM). In the United States, many libraries use Overdrive but have needed to direct users to audio books instead of EPUB books. Now, taking out an EPUB book from the library can work for many more people.
Buying books at many popular online vendors is also possible. EPUB Books purchased at Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books, ebooks.com, Waterstones, and more can be read with Digital Editions 1.8. Naturally, the book store needs to be accessible also, which is unfortunately not universally true (e.g. at Barnes and Noble the “Buy now” button is not labeled, maddeningly), but some are.
A couple of words about screen reader support. Digital Editions 1.8 is built using WPF and utilizes Microsoft’s UIAutomation accessibility API. Currently, JAWS users will be able to read books successfully. Update: JAWS 12 and newer future versions are able to support UIAutomation, so JAWS 12 is required. Earlier versions are not expected to correctly interact with Digital Editions 1.8. Other screen readers that support UIAutomation such as Window-Eyes 7.5 and NVDA are able to successfully read the menus and other aspects of the application, with the exception of the book content. This is a complex control and we are talking with vendors to ensure that the book content is able to be read by more tools than JAWS. Mac users can use VoiceOver to read books on the Mac version of Digital Editions 1.8.
There have many people pushing and encouraging us to improve Digital Editions and I thank everyone for their feedback and advice. I’d like to recognize and thank a few people in particular for engaging with us to provide feedback on early builds and patiently waiting for the release of this tool – from the National Federation of the Blind, Dr. Marc Maurer, Anne Taylor, and Tony Olivero; from the Royal National Institute of Blind People, Richard Orme, Steve Griffiths, and several testers; from the American Foundation for the Blind, Paul Schroeder and Darren Burton; and George Kerscher from DAISY and IDPF. I am certain that each of these people will have positive and negative things to say about this version; there is additional work to do to make Digital Additions more accessible to more people, but I believe that this is a solid first step and that is due to the hard work of the development team and the advice and guidance of these people and others.
We’d like to give a few people an easy opportunity to try out reading an accessible EPUB book with Digital Editions 1.8, so we are holding a quick drawing for gift cards to online bookstores. You can enter the contest here. We’ll award 30 gift cards on Monday July 25 at noon Eastern US time.
We’re interested in your feedback, so enjoy your books and please send feedback!