1.0 Making Ebooks with InDesign – Introduction
Learn how to make ebooks with InDesign with this step-by-step guide from Laura Brady.
To prepare a book for conversion with accessibility in mind, follow the steps outlined in this Ebook Workflow Guide: In-house Production of Born-Accessible Ebooks (note that using Microsoft Word and InDesign for manuscript and design/typesetting workflows is a prerequisite) — it’s a straightforward way to kickstart the accessibility of your forthcoming file.
Standards and Best Practices, Step-by-Step
Before reading this, you might want to read:
Creating clean, sophisticated, and accessible ebooks in-house might seem a little daunting at first, but it’s not that difficult if you and your team are armed with the right information at the start. With a little practice, it can even become a seamless part of your book production workflow. There are lots of little things you can do to set up a book file for success.
Microsoft Word is the industry standard for both authors and publishers when it comes to writing, reviewing, and editing manuscripts so this is the program we focus on.
When working in a Word document, the most important thing you can do to help kick-start accessibility — whether you outsource any aspect of the production process or do it all in-house — is to use Word’s built-in Styles to tag all of the elements in the manuscript. If you use Word’s Styles to tag headings, block quotes, lists, different forms of emphasis, for example, the document inherently begins to have structural navigation and semantic styling. Then, when that styled text is imported into InDesign (the most commonly used program for layout and design), the styles you used in Word can be easily mapped to the correct HTML markup.
As a publisher, you probably already have a house style guide for authors and editors working in Word that includes guidance on style preferences for setting em and en dashes and ellipses, for example, as well as removing extra spaces. So the best way to add accessibility to your workflow at manuscript stage is to include directions for using Word Styles in your guidelines. For example:
The easiest way to integrate Word’s Styles into your workflow is to create a Styles template that can be imported into every Word document. Then the Styles can be implemented by the person of your choosing (usually an editor or someone who understands the structure of the manuscript) as the book moves through the early stages of production. The best person to do the styling will be different at every publishing house, but the earlier accessibility is incorporated into the workflow, the better.
Need a Word template to start with? We’ve got you covered.
The other key aspect to consider as early as possible in manuscript production is image descriptions. Image descriptions should be written by someone who is familiar with the subject or the content of the manuscript. The descriptions can be included either directly in the manuscript or in a separate document or spreadsheet — whatever works best for your workflow.
It’s important to have the image descriptions prepared before the manuscript is ready for copy editing, as they should be edited along with the rest of the manuscript.
For detailed information about how to write image descriptions, who should write them, how to review them, and more, visit the “Image Descriptions” area of the website.
Once the book is ready for design and layout (again, we are assuming in Indesign as it’s the industry standard), the use of Word’s Styles makes it easy to ensure that, ultimately, the text is correctly mapped to the HTML markup when the EPUB file is exported.
When you import text from a Word document into an InDesign document, the Word Styles used will appear in the Character Styles and Paragraph Styles menus/panes. The appearance of the text will undoubtedly need some formatting (when it comes to design, the world is your oyster).
[Alt-text:Screenshot showing where to find “edit all export tags, off of paragraph styles menu”]
To get the correct HTML tags assigned to their corresponding Paragraph and Character Styles, take the following steps:
In the alt-text tab, select “Custom” for the alt-text source. Then, enter your alt-text into the field below. Click “Done,” and you’re set.
It is very important to have a complete and accurate Table of Contents that a reading system can present to the reader in a format that is understandable and navigable.
The steps below will help you do that (there are quite a few steps, but it isn’t as complicated as it looks).
In InDesign, the ebook’s Table of Contents (TOC) is created from the heading structure that you created when you set up your Paragraph Styles. Before carrying out the steps below, you need to establish Paragraph Styles for the elements in your document that will be used to create your TOC, such as Chapter Titles, Subtitles, and the title for the TOC itself (such as “Table of Contents” or “Contents”) before continuing with these steps. Refer to the “Styles” section, above, for more information on correctly implementing Paragraph Styles. Properly structured and tagged headings will produce a TOC in the code of the file that is navigable in the code of the book.
You will also need to create separate Styles for the TOC Chapter Titles, Subtitles, etc., that will be applied to the TOC after it is created. These will be used for the TOC that is presented visually within the body of the book. You might name these “TOC Chapter Heading-post” and “TOC Subtitle Heading-post.” This step is included below. Note that these particular Paragraph Styles should NOT have a specific tag applied.
Note: There is a step below that explains how and where to enter a TOC Title. This does not have to be done in the body of the document.
Your document and your TOC should now be in good shape to export to EPUB.
When you have styles that are mapped to HTML tags, embedded alt-text, and your TOC in place, the .INDD file that you export to EPUB will have incorporated a lot of accessibility features already.
Once your ebook has been created, it is time to do a quality assurance check for accessibility. This resource contains both simplified and advanced checklists to help you review your ebooks.
This course on LinkedIn Learning by Laura Brady covers how to use InDesign to make ebooks that are as accessible as possible. Items covered include separating style and content, navigation and structure, and image descriptions. Page lists and the Ace Accessibility checker are also covered.
This is an archive of a webinar from 2020 that discusses ways to make an accessible EPUB with InDesign. It demonstrates how styles can give good semantics when exported to EPUB, and includes techniques for ensuring images with their alt text appear as intended. It is still necessary to do some editing of an EPUB file after exporting from InDesign.
This paper from 2019 discusses an evaluation of how well InDesign supports accessibility in EPUB files. The study found that basic accessibility is supported, but the file must be edited with other software to add accessibility markup not included by InDesign.