Introduction to Remediating Backlist Ebooks

Remediating a backlist is a big undertaking. This resource discusses how to get started, who to work with, and what to remediate.

  • Subject(s):

    Ebook Production

  • Resource Type(s):


  • Audience:


Suggested Prerequisite

Before reading this, you might want to review:


Remediating your backlist ebooks can be an intimidating and challenging prospect: Depending on when and how each backlisted title was created, you may need to address all sorts of barriers to accessibility in the process. You may find that you need to start from scratch, making adjustments to the file used for the original conversion to EPUB (most commonly this would be the print-ready InDesign file), or you may be able to work directly in the EPUB file you already have, especially if it is an EPUB 3 (if it is an EPUB 2, don’t worry — there are ways of converting it to EPUB 3). The good news is that remediation is not an impossible task; it just takes some time and commitment to following appropriate protocols.

Who Should Do the Work?

When you are ready to begin remediating your backlist, you first need to decide who is going to do the work:

  • Keep the work in-house: If you have the capacity to do it in-house — i.e., you have someone on the team with a bit of technical/coding knowledge — you can probably be quite confident in the finished product. Depending on how many books you have to remediate and the timeline you are working with, however, in-house remediation might not be feasible.
  • Hire a third-party vendor: If you already work with a third-party EPUB producer, you can talk to them about taking on remediation of your backlist for you. If you are working with a Global Certified Accessible (GCA) vendor, you can be quite confident in the accessibility of the finished product. Failing that, either your provincial publishing association or eBOUND may be able to recommend a great company.
  • Seek out an experienced freelancer who can take on the project.

No matter which workflow you choose, you will want to review a few fundamental accessibility features with the person doing the work to ensure that you are making books that are as accessible as possible.

Accessibility Features

  • If the book is in EPUB 2, consider creating a new EPUB 3 version. You could do this by exporting an EPUB 3 file from the InDesign file, if you have it, or converting the EPUB 2 to EPUB 3 (see External Links).
  • Once you have an EPUB 3 file, the following steps need to be taken to ensure that the book is as accessible as possible:
    • Add alt-text for all non-decorative images;
    • Ensure that decorative images are properly marked up;
    • Ensure that the book’s content is in the correct reading sequence;
    • Ensure that headings are marked up as HTML headings and cascade in the correct order;
    • Update the <title> elements for each document so they are descriptive;
    • Ensure that links have useful link text;
    • Ensure that internal links (such as links from the table of contents, or between foot/endnotes and the text) are working;
    • Ensure that, if there are footnotes or endnotes, the user can easily return to the text from the note (either by linking the note number or by adding a link with text like “Return to text”);
    • Add language declarations to the OPF <package> element and to the <html> element for each document;
    • Markup language shifts where appropriate;
    • Ensure that accessibility metadata is included;
    • Ensure that all text styling and spacing comes from the CSS (no inline styling should be used);
    • Ensure that the book opens to the cover page;
    • Use ARIA roles;
    • Set the title page as text, if possible (if not, be sure to add alt-text);
    • If possible, add page navigation and a page list;
    • Mark context breaks with an <hr/> element;
    • Ensure that all text and background (even images of text) meet colour contrast requirements; and
    • Ensure that <b>, <i>, <strong>, and <em> are used appropriately.


Once you have found the right person or vendor to do the work, review the list of accessibility features with them to make sure that they can address each one. Then, once you have your remediated collection in hand, review some of them for quality assurance purposes. Check out Next Steps for more information.

Ensuring your backlist is accessible will go a long way in improving the accessible reading landscape in Canada.

Next Steps


Reviewing EPUBs for Quality Assurance

Quality Assurance of Completed Ebooks

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.

Subject(s): Ebook Production
Resource Type(s): Checklist

External Links to More Information

Why and How to Convert to EPUB 3

A detailed article that describes why you should consider converting EPUB 2 books to EPUB 3, and gives step-by-step instructions on how to do it.

EPUB Accessibility 1.0

This specification discusses discovery and accessibility of EPUB publications. Discovery relates to accessibility metadata. Accessibility includes guidelines in WCAG 2.0 and some additional items on page navigation and media overlays. The specification also discusses how to indicate conformance, information about optimized publications for specific use cases such as audiobooks, and a short section on distribution considerations.