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Podcast: Making Brazilian literature accessible

Filed under: Podcasts, Tech Forum

All the way from Brazil, Isadora Cal — who was scheduled to speak at Tech Forum 2020 — joined us for this month’s podcast episode. We talked about accessibility, libraries, and the project she started at Bookwire after attending ebookcraft in 2019.

(Scroll down for a transcript of the conversation.)

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Nataly Alarcón: Welcome to this month’s episode of the BookNet Canada podcast. I am your host, Nataly Alarcón, the marketing associate at BookNet. For this month’s podcast, we have an international guest joining us. She’s from the largest country in South America, the land of samba, brigadeiros, and soccer. Isadora Cal, account manager at Bookwire, is joining us from Brazil. We will be talking about accessibility. She will share her expertise about the topic and paint a picture for us about the Brazilian publishing industry, their progress as it relates to accessibility, and the still present challenges. But before we move forward with the interview, I want to take a moment to thank Isadora and all the other Tech Forum speakers who generously have agreed to share their presentations content with us and the Canadian publishing public. Some presentations have been brought to you as webinars. Some others are already available in our YouTube channel, and some others can be found in our blog part of our website.

There are going to be also more videos coming, so I would recommend you to keep an eye on our YouTube channel and subscribe to our weekly newsletter on our website, booknetcanada.ca. And now I want to share with you a little bit more about Isadora. She has an MA in publishing at Oxford Brookes University and is currently finishing an MBA in business intelligence and analytics at FIAP in São Paulo, Brazil. She has been working in the publishing industry for 10 years now, with experience in proofreading, copy editing, digital marketing, digital publishing, and more recently in data analysis. She started the Accessibility Project at Bookwire after attending her first ebookcraft in 2019.

Thank you so much for joining us Isadora. We are so happy to have you here. So let’s just start with some background information about Bookwire and the work the company does. Can you tell us what is Bookwire, and what services does the company offer?

Isadora: Thank you Nataly for having me. So Bookwire is a digital aggregator. We deliver and manage digital content for publishers be it e-books, audiobooks, and even podcasts now. And we also work with print-on-demand, but mainly we are a technology company for publishers. And we provide a very intuitive and enhanced platform to the publishers so they can manage their digital products, and like check sales and trends, daily sales so they know what’s up in real-time. And we deliver to every shop in the world, almost every shop, but, you know, the main ones for sure, and libraries, digital libraries as well. And this gives the publisher the time. Like instead of going directly to each shop and dealing with each one, they just have everything in one place, and also, all the data and the sales in one place.

Nataly: Thanks Isadora. That’s very interesting. Now, can you tell us where is the Brazilian publishing market at in terms of accessibility and books?

Isadora: That’s a tough question. About accessibility, we moved forward a few years ago with the Brazilian law of inclusion which I’m gonna talk about a bit more later, which means that now if someone demands an accessible book, I’m not only talking about digital here but also the printed one in braille, the publisher has to provide, but this is about it. There’s nothing else being done and publishers don’t really know what accessibility means, and we have…we’re not a country very fond of reading. So the average Brazilian reads one or two books per year which is very low. Our publishing market has faced a crisis because two of the main shops, they are going bankrupt. There are some legal stuff going on that I don’t know how to explain in English, I’m really sorry. But, like, it’s the process right before you go bankrupt, and they were the two major ones. Like, think of Waterstones and Barnes & Noble I think. I don’t know which is the big one in Canada.

Nataly: Indigo.

Isadora: Indigo, I think.

Nataly: Maybe, like, their equivalent? Yeah.

Isadora: Yeah. So think if Indigo was going bankrupt and closing all the shops. So this was really hard on the publishers because they stopped getting paid and it was their main source of revenue. But it also has an impact in the readers because then they can’t find books. They cannot access bookshops and, you know, Brazil is a huge country. We have all sorts of reality here. Not everyone is able to access the internet. I would say that most of the country is able to but there are cities where you don’t even have internet. And shopping online is a big thing in big cities or the richer states I would say, but it’s not a thing everywhere. So you cannot rely on Amazon to get books everywhere.

So this obviously affects the publishing market. We have less people reading because they don’t have access to books and things like that. And when you add accessibility, then it gets worse because even though we have this law that talks about inclusion, there’s nothing much being done, and the publishers don’t fully understand what accessibility means. They just think, like, “Okay, it’s a book for a blind person.”

Nataly: I was just gonna say that there’s a lot of lack of information and, yes, many people doesn’t understand, like, how far accessibility actually goes and how many people actually could benefit from it.

Isadora: Yeah. They don’t understand fully what visual impairment is. They just think there is a blind person. So, you know, when we talk about ebooks, we’re also targeting people that have low vision, and can then read ebooks with the bigger fonts. Just like elder people that have problems with, not only with font size but with mobility. They cannot go out and get books and stuff. So, you know, ebooks make their lives easier. So this is the scenario. Most publishers don’t know what it is. Some of them know but they only do what the government requires. There is a governmental program called PNLD (Programa Nacional do Livro Didático) in Portuguese which means National Program for The Schoolbook, something like this. And this program chooses, like, a lot of books every year, and the government buys these books to schools. And then, they demand an accessible version. So that’s like the only scenario where the publishers actually do something, but it is specifically for this program. It’s not for sale, for, like, general sale. So I would say it’s not really accessible. It’s accessible in the technical side, but it’s not available to everyone. Like, if you’re not in school, how do you read the book? And things like that. When I think about accessibility, I think that not only it should be technically accessible but it should be accessible for everyone, just like books are accessible for me as someone who can see.

Nataly: I definitely agree with you. So now, trying to dig a little bit deeper, what are the main reasons why publishers are not creating more accessible books? Why do you think that happens?

Isadora: The main reason is that they just don’t know what accessibility means. Most of them don’t understand how to make an accessible ebook because, you know, there are technical things. And I think there’s a governmental program, like, this is a great thing that we have and it helps a lot of people. It reaches a lot of people. So I think publishers get a little confused with the program requirements because they make an ebook with a narration. So there is a human being narrating the ebook.

Nataly: So just to understand, like, for myself so they are basically doing audiobooks type of thing. So that’s their way to be accessible, sort of?

Isadora: Not quite. So the thing is, when you have an accessible ebook, you have it in a way that your device can read the text for you. So that is a computer voice. But you could, kind of, load a file with a person reading the book to you. And then it works in two ways. If the person gets the ebook, when she asks the device or whatever to read out loud, the reading will be this one done by a human previously recorded. Or, if someone has issues with understanding words, you know, you can just read while you listen also. The program as well, they want a human voice instead of a computer voice which is great. Basically they put an audiobook inside the ebook, but it makes the ebook really heavy.

And they have other things, other layers that makes this specific file really heavy and really complicated. This file is not accepted by shops, so you cannot sell this file. You cannot use this file to sell your ebooks in other channels. It works for this program. So I think most publishers they think, “Well, it takes a lot of money, and a lot of time, and a lot of effort to make this kind of accessible ebook. So I’m not gonna do it because I don’t have the money, I don’t have the time, I don’t have the people to make it.” When in reality, the accessible ebooks are much easier to be done. And that’s how I came with this idea to write a document explaining very…it’s very easy to understand, right, what accessibility means.

If you think about the technical side, a lot changes. Actually, if you did a good epub in the first place, like when making an ebook, if you just do everything right with your code, the book will be accessible from the start. There are only a few things that you have to take into consideration, like, it being in EPUB3 and not EPUB2, and you need image description. But that’s the thing, if you’re coding, you know you will have many descriptions. Like, there is a tag and you should not leave a tag empty and things like that, you know.

So the main reason why publishers are not more in accessible books is because they just don’t know how, and that they don’t know it’s possible. And they don’t know, I think that’s the main thing, they don’t know it’s not so expensive as they think. So… Right. Very slowly we are getting to publishers and making them understand that it’s something that can be done from the beginning. But, you know, in Brazil you would have to take a lot of steps back because most publishers don’t even make the ebook at the same time as the print book. That is a big struggle for us until today.

And Amazon is doing a good job of sort of forcing the publisher to do it. Forcing is a hard word, but they’re very persistent in showing the publishers with data that if they have a simultaneous read their revenue will be much better. So they are finally paying attention and are starting to release the ebook with the print book. So we’re at this point, and then we have to tell them, “Okay, now that you have accepted to make the ebook and at the same time the print book, can you just make this an accessible ebook?” This is where we’re at.

Nataly: Many things to consider, right? But moving on to our next question. In your proposal, you mentioned that Brazil doesn’t have a “library culture” and honestly neither does my home country Colombia, going to the libraries, it’s like going to a museum, something you enjoy but you don’t do often. So my question is, what are the steps a person with visual impairments has to go through in order to acquire an accessible book?

Isadora: So I cannot speak for the visually impaired community and that’s something important to say because this survey that I’m doing, is still in development. So I was just starting to talk to some people because that have visual impairments to understand better their experiences and their needs. But what I do know is that in some libraries in Brazil, like, public libraries, there are some books in Braille. So this is a way. The other way is if in school, you can have a book through that program that I mentioned before, the PNLD and we have in Brazil a foundation called Dorina Nowill which is…I think it’s same as around the world as well for doing this great job. They are a non-profit organization for people with visual impairments. They have a lot of services there but they have a very big library which has print books in Braille and with enhanced letters and different colours. Books that a person that can’t see can also follow and read.

Someone with visual impairments, I’m thinking about parents and teachers, they have ebooks and audiobooks and they’re all for free. So the publishers usually allow the foundation to have these books. And this foundation is in a lot of cities in Brazil. They are almost everywhere, at least in one city per state. Brazil is divided by states. We’re 26 states plus the federal district. But yeah, they’re everywhere. So this is a very easy way because it’s free, they have everything that the person needs. Like, if you want to hear the audiobook, you can either take it home or you can listen to it there, if you want to read the book as well. So that’s the ways that I know.

But the thing is none should have to go through different ways to access a book. And obviously a person with visual impairments can’t just buy any book online just like anyone else. And they try to make their device read out loud the ebook. But in Brazil, most of the books won’t function well. They just have a really bad layout and things that will make the text break, you know, and not make a lot of sense. So that’s what I know and what I can share.

I was talking to the Dorina Nowill Foundation in the beginning of the year, they’re willing to help me with the research. They have some testers that work with them at the company, well, they’re not a company, but you know, inside the foundation. And they also have lots…a lot of people go in there all the time. So they were analyzing research so they could pass it on to the readers. But I cannot get the answers in time for this project because when coronavirus just got in Brazil, they had to stop working. And anyway, I feel like it’ll be ready for next year.

Nataly: Yeah, absolutely. We honestly will be very, very excited to get to know those results and get, like, a better understanding on what things are like at the moment and try to see, like, what areas of improvement are there. So, yes we will very much appreciate seeing these results of that survey that you’re conducting.

Isadora: Just to share, a context to the research, I said research but it’s actually a survey, excuse me. But just in Portuguese and translating… but it’s a survey. And because there readers read a lot, and there were a lot of things at ebookcraft last year and they don’t know much about the experience in Brazil. And we are in a different situation because we don’t go to libraries. Oh, there is a library topic. I knew I was going to mention it, obviously.

So we have this very deep situation because it’s not a common thing to visit libraries in Brazil. We have a library in all cities, I would say, a public library, but it’s not a common thing for people to go there to read. So for example, in Sao Paulo where I live and it’s the biggest city in Brazil, we have very beautiful libraries, and they have a lot of events. And it’s just like you said people go there as if it was a museum. They see stuff and it’s a beautiful place to be. It’s this culture thing, but very few people get books, you know. In schools I would say it’s a little different, but in general, the general public.

Nataly: In Colombia, it’s exactly the same. Like, I remember even myself while I was going to university, I would go to my university library all the time. But once I graduated, I probably would go to a public library maybe, like, twice a year. And I don’t think, like, at the moment I even have interest in knowing if they had some sort of online resources, like, ebooks or anything like that and that has changed dramatically since I moved to Canada. But that’s a completely another story. But no, like, I do agree that. I think that’s pretty much in Latin America in general, it’s like a cultural thing.

Isadora: Yeah. I mean, if people read an average of one or two books a year…

Nataly: Wow.

Isadora: And I am a very privileged person. You know, I went to a good school, I went to a good university so I know that my experience does not reflect most Brazilians, but people like me, they usually just buy books, you know, because going to a library, and then you have to take the book out, and then you have to remember to return the book. So yeah, it’s another thing that we do. I wish it was different but it’s not. However, I wanted to make this survey because I understand that my experience is not everyone’s experience. And maybe people with visual impairments just go more to the libraries, or they just buy ebooks anyway regardless of how they’re done. And I don’t even know… Like, let’s think about Kindle. I know that the Kindle device doesn’t have sound on so, you know, they’re not accessible. I think the Kobo one does have sound but anyway, people with visual impairment will usually read on their phone, or tablet, or things like that, or computers.

I know, they’re probably used to read out loud. I wonder if the shops themselves are accessible, if the buying experience is accessible. So you know, I could do a lot of work for the publishers to make the file accessible but then, if the person cannot buy it in the shop, it will be all for nothing. So I did a survey to try to understand how a person with visual impairment buys ebooks in Brazil, where they read the most, what kind of apps or programs they use to read the text out loud. So they usually have on their phones text-to-speech, like, function. But I’ve tried to use it. I don’t know if you have ever tried, and to me it is so hard.

Nataly: No, I haven’t but I’m curious about it. Like, I’ve seen people doing it. I don’t know if you remember actually last year at Tech Forum we had some folks from NNELS joining us, NNELS is very much like the equivalent of the foundation that you were talking about. They also have some testers…

Isadora: I remember, yeah.

Nataly: Exactly. So that’s the closest I have gotten to actually seeing someone using one of these devices. My understanding is also like some of them are very robotic. The experience is not the same as when you are of course reading yourself, or when there’s, like, that human touch that, like…it’s just as we were talking earlier about, like, not having that computer voice and having, like, an actual human voice narrating the book, it just makes the experience much better. Right?

Isadora: Yes. Actually this is one of the things that I ask in this or…and I was eager to learn about it. But I don’t know if the people with visual impairment prefer human voices or robotic voices. I would say the human voice.

Nataly: Yeah, that’s my vote too, but what do we know?

Isadora: Yeah, that’s just what I wanted to make sure. I don’t know much about it yet, and I just want to make publishers…like my main goal is to make publishers understand what accessibility is and provide accessible content. And I want to help with the technical side, but to make this step obviously I need to understand the people that will be using it and what they actually want. And I haven’t yet got a chance to talk to them directly. I don’t know any…sadly, I don’t know any blind person or any…I don’t know any person with visual impairment.

And this one time that I was at the foundation, they showed me the place around and everything that they do, and a person there told me that most people, and I’m not sure if this is accurate, it was a person that can’t see that told me this, but she told me that most people with visual impairments don’t mind at all the robotic voice because they usually just, oh my God, how do I say this? Like, they speed up the voice, you know, when you’re hearing a podcast, you guys will make it faster. So yeah, people with visual impairments, they usually do that. They’re so used to listening to things that they read really faster than us folks who can see. This is a point of contention with the public that if you’re not going to see the importance of this from the social side, but from the economic side, they read much more than people that can see.

Nataly: That’s very interesting. Also because, like, when you think about it, they are hearing this computer generated voices in all their devices. Right? So maybe, yeah, it becomes familiar. Okay. So, following question. So can you tell us more about what Bookwire is doing to promote the creation of accessible books?

Isadora: We are doing ebooks. That’s the first thing. We’re actually an aggregator. We just deliver content but we have some partners that make ebooks. So if a publisher doesn’t know how to make an ebook, who cannot make their own ebooks if they don’t have the staff inside. Or, if they do but the person does not understand a lot about accessibility, they can do it through us. And we have actually a lot of publishers that chooses this because they know that we know more than they do. So this is the moment where we say, “Hey, so you’re gonna be paying…” I’m gonna use $1 as an example, okay, but this is not the actual value.

“So you’re gonna be paying $1 per page to make this ebook. Why don’t you pay $1.50 to make this an accessible book?” And we just present the whole accessibility topic. And a lot of publishers have been saying, “Okay, it’s not a lot of difference and I agree with your point.” Some of them do not go this way because to them it’s a huge difference because, you know, Bookwire works with nearly 500 publishers in Brazil from all sizes. And most of them don’t really care about digital. They just do it because they have to but it’s not their main concern. And so if you say, “Hey, why don’t you spend 10% more with this?” They’re, like, “Mm, no because, you know, I don’t care about digital that much.” But this is the first step that we took.

And then I did some research after attending ebookcraft last year and I wrote the document that I mentioned about, that I mentioned before. Like, it’s a two-page document and it’s meant to be read by those who make decisions in the publishers because if I talk to the person that is responsible for marketing, or is responsible for ebooks only, they hardly get a yes from their superiors because they just don’t have enough arguments. They don’t have enough knowledge to talk about it to their superiors. And then, we are just sending it to the directors, the CEOs, and whoever makes the decision in the public space so they can understand in a very easy way what accessibility means and what it can do to have to have accessible ebooks and that’s an important thing for business. How they can profit from it because obviously, it’s a very important cause, and we’re talking about readers, we’re talking about people so, you know, money should not come first or profit. But by the end of the day, that’s what publishers care about. They need to know if they invest money and time on that, how it’s going to come back to them.

That’s an important thing and it has been making a difference which is to show to the publishers that there’s money. They’re losing money because we have…first of all, we have a huge number…I wouldn’t say a huge number, no. There are millions of people with visual impairments in Brazil, and in fact, not all of them can read in Braille because, you know, this is something you have to learn and there are not enough schools teaching it. But not everyone that has a visual impairment in Brazil can actually read. But this is another social topic, but they can listen so if you have an accessible e-book, you could have more people reading. More people reading means just more people buying the books. That’s one thing, but then your market grows, you know?

Nataly: Yes.

Isadora: So I’ve been trying to show the numbers to them, “So here, you have this amount of people that have visual impairments, you have this amount of people who already read books through the foundation, Dorina Nowill, or through other ways, so you could reach those people and many others that just don’t read because they cannot find the books. So, you know, if you make the books accessible and a lot of people know, you will obviously have more readers.” This is something that is important as a society. We’re talking to the publishers. Like I said, we are, like, the technology arm for the publisher and they rely on us. They trust us that we know a lot about what we do and about digital. So since they trust us, we are telling them, “Make accessible ebooks. Make more accessible ebooks. If you cannot afford to convert your previous catalogue now, that’s okay. Just start now. You know, like, don’t wait anymore. Just do not wait for a law to happen and force you to do it. Don’t also wait for demands because this is something that happens as well.” The law of inclusion, the Brazilian law of inclusion, it says that, “If someone demands an accessible ebook, the publisher has to provide it.”

And then there is this period that the publisher has to do it. I don’t know if it’s a month, or two months, or a year, I don’t really know. But that’s already awful because you have someone wanting to read a book that is already published and it’s available to everyone else but not for him or her. And they ask for the book but then they still have to wait a lot of time. And then on the publisher side, the publisher cannot just send, like, here’s the PDF because even a PDF, you have to…like a PDF could be not accessible. But if you do it, you’re not 100% sure that that PDF is not going to be shared online. I mean, you could sue the person but in Brazil we have a really hard time with piracy. And this is something the publishers complain a lot. So what I also tell them is that, if you have the file available from the beginning, this is much more convenient and then people will buy it instead of just pirating it. And so far, we are…I wouldn’t say we’ve fully started this conversation because we are talking to some partners like Bookalope. Jens from Bookalope was also at ebookcraft last year, that’s when I met him. And Julian from BeDigital from Argentina, they have some solutions for making your books accessible and we are trying to find a way to help the publisher to do it fast and in an affordable way. Sometimes I feel bad talking about money, when I talk about this, but that’s the thing. It’s business.

I know that I’m not gonna get a publisher to listen to me if I only talk about, “There are people who are not able to access your book. They want to read.” A publisher will usually say, “Well, that’s their problem. What else can I do?” They already do it in a way when they don’t make the book simultaneous with the print book, or if they don’t have their entire catalogue available, that’s one thing for me. And that’s something that I try to pass it on to the publishers. Making a book accessible is not just a technical thing. You make it accessible by having it available in every shop and in every business model. So I’m talking about subscription, I’m talking about libraries, I’m talking about formats, or if you have the ebook, if you have the audiobook because in the end the reader is the one who is going to choose what he or she prefers. So if you’re an ebook person you’re not gonna buy the print book. You want the book to be available in your store of choice. And if you’re a Kindle client and your ebook is only available at Apple, you’re not gonna buy from Apple because you want that to be in one place.

And if you’re a Google client, you’re not gonna start buying books on Amazon because for the same reason, you know, you want your library in one place and your credit card’s already there and you already read in that app. You don’t want to be forced to change just because the publisher is not making that ebook available everywhere. And there is also the business model. So I know some publishers, they have…like, they consider the life cycle of the product. So first, they release what we call “download to all” model, you know, like, Amazon, Google, Apple, and after sometime, after some months they rerelease the ebook in subscription channels and libraries. That’s okay. That’s sometimes something that they have to do by contract. But I’m always arguing that they should make it available everywhere because not everyone can afford to buy books especially in Brazil. Some people rely on libraries, some people rely on subscriptions because they’re paying the value of wanting a book and then they can read a bit more. Like, accessibility means making something accessible, and you do not make something accessible if you have an exclusive deal with Amazon, or your books are only there. And, you know, like I said, the Kindle device is not accessible. It cannot read out loud, but the app can. But if the person doesn’t use the app, if the person uses the Google Books app, then you have just lost a reader.

Nataly: There’s so much more than what meets the eye, right? There’s so much more that goes into actually providing all this content in all the needed formats and ways for this, like, sort of, untapped market I feel like in many of our countries especially. I mean, here in Canada there’s just, like, so much that needs to be done but I feel that unfortunately for our countries we are behind. But I also think that this that we are doing right now, like, talking about it, I think that we do a Tech Forum having people like you coming here and actually putting these issues in front of other experts, it’s a really good way to start changing things. And regarding changes, and next steps, my question is what do you think are the next steps to solve this lack of accessible content, like, in an ideal world or in reality?

Isadora: Well, the first step is just to make more accessible ebooks. So the publishers are already making an ebook. Just make it accessible from the beginning so you don’t have to remake what you did. And like I said from the technical side, it’s hard to do a lot of changes. There are some things that need to be made there, like, some specific tags, and some things and just semantics of the ebook but it’s not that much and once you learn, you know, it just flows. So that would solve part of the problem because from now on, you just publish everything accessible, and then you have the backlist to deal with. And then this is obviously an issue, but then you can just, like, do it in batches. And I think we should talk more about it. We should reach out to the people with visual impairments and to hear what they have to say which is something that I want to do. And I hope I get to do it this year, and have something more complete to present to the publishers and anyone who is interested.

But I don’t think the publishers are really listening to these people. I’ve had situations where a publisher comes to me asking if Bookwire can make an accessible book. But, like, they are pissed off because someone demanded it. And they just took long to answer and that person is threatening to sue the publisher. And I’m like, “But that person is absolutely right. You’re denying the person a right that he or she has to read something. It should be available to everyone.” That’s what you say when you put your books in the market, but it’s not. I think if we talk about it more, if we had more events… Like, what really, really got me in ebookcraft last year was just how accessibility is something, like, already established there. It’s just not a matter if we should, but it’s we must. We’re already doing something.

I remember sometimes talking to Melissa…sorry, talking to Melissa DeJesus – sorry if I mispronounced your name Melissa – and also talking to Laura. The way they see and they work with accessibility is so different from Brazil because here I still have to teach people what it is and convincing them of the importance. And there, in Canada, everyone is already aware and is already doing something. It’s like if you’re not doing it, you’re uncool. Brazil, it’s like if you’re doing it, then you’re the nerd sitting in a corner, you know. I don’t think I have ever been to a publishing event to have people talking about accessibility honestly. This is just slowly changing. There is a guy in Brazil called Fernando Tavares. He makes accessible ebooks and he has a workshop. And I think he recently published an article in our, like, publishing magazine, something like “Publishers Weekly” that we have in Brazil. And slowly, the subject is getting to people and people are talking. And from, I don’t know, the last six months, I did get some emails from publishers wanting to know more about it. But it’s so slow. Like, a person gets in touch and wants to know more about it, then I present the subject, and all the data that I have. And this person is going to fight inside the publisher to convince people that this is important, they should do it, and this takes months.

And our main publishers in Brazil are not doing accessible ebooks. So, you know, that says a lot about our market.

Nataly: But you think it will get better, right? I hope so.

Isadora: Yeah. I mean, my goal with my presentation was just to show how…where Brazil is, not because Brazil matters that much, but because I know there are a lot of countries that are just like us, struggling to make things happen with digital, and accessibility, and what we can do to change that reality.

Nataly: It’s funny because, like, I don’t have actual statistics or any actual information about reading habits in Colombia but just, like, observing my family and myself when I was there, and related to what we were talking about, like, not having some sort of library culture. I think that also there is something important that we need to talk about and it’s that, here in Canada for instance, I have lived here in two different places, and at each one of those places, I have had a library two blocks away. Of course, I’m not saying that that’s the same situation everywhere here in Canada but at least here in Toronto, a big city with so many people from so many different backgrounds, and you wouldn’t have a hard time finding a library. Also, there are so many resources online that many people can access them easily. Even, like, if you…I don’t know, you’ve probably noticed when you were here, but all libraries here have ramps and are easily accessible by wheelchair. So it’s like all those little things that makes it more obvious that, you know, our countries we are way far behind. There are a lot of things that still need to be improved.

And also something else that we need to take into account is that in our countries, money is something that you actually have to take care, right? You actually need to think twice before making a purchase decision. Not everyone has access to internet, not everyone has access to money to spare in books and ebooks. And accessibility and access to books and to this type of resources becomes even more difficult. So I would say that this is, sort of, like a systematic problem and I think that it’s time for publishers to take this seriously especially accessibility in terms of making their books available to everyone, and despite whatever visual capacity you have or mental capacity. And I also think that the government has to enforce these laws and regulations that they’re creating. Right? They need to put pressure on publishers otherwise it’s not gonna be easy to achieve the goal. Right?

Isadora: Well, I don’t know. I admire Canada so much but I don’t live there obviously. Like, I’m a big fan of Trudeau, just nothing to do with politics but, like, he’s just a nice and cute person. He’s really beautiful. And when I was there, I was like, “Oh my God, I love Trudeau. They have the best prime minister.” And people were like, “I think you should do some research on the things that he did.” And what I mean to say is that when we don’t live in the place, we cannot see the reality but when I was there, my feeling was that, “Oh my God, this is perfect.” When I heard that, someone, I don’t remember who from OverDrive, like, sharing the numbers, and how many books were borrowed, and how many people read, and how the elderly read a lot, and because they don’t have to, like, physically go to the libraries and just get the books digitally in their houses, I was almost in tears because this is such a distant reality for Brazil, and I don’t think we can grow as a society if we don’t read.

And it just says so much about the situation we’re in. I’m sorry if anyone who is listening does support the current government in Brazil. I clearly don’t. And the way that culture is seen, culture in general, you know, movies, and books, and everything else is terrifying. And if the government does not make something, like, does not force publishers to act, if they don’t act themselves, I think the change is going to be very, very slowly.

So the law was a good start. It talks a lot about accessibility not just for books but in general, the internet, and also, like, places if you have mobility issues. It’s a good start but it’s not mandatory unless there is a demand. Some of these, there are always more complaints than what I’m saying. But you’re absolutely right, it could come from above to make people act and do something. And that’s what made me start to research and create this, what I like to call project in Bookwire was my visit to Canada and just to see how much everyone cared about accessibility.

The fact that everything in the event was…like, everything was so well thought. From the food, you had options to everyone. Like, if you’re a vegan, if you’re vegetarian, I have diabetes so there were things sugar free for me that I could eat. And they had the…I remember that there was this moment that I was in a table and someone with visual impairment sat with me, and they had a service dog. And I did something awful, I’m so sorry. I did not pet the dog but I left my food on the floor. Like the table was, kind of, crowded so I just had an empty bowl. I left it beside my bag on the floor, and obviously, it drew the dog’s attention. And then he was, like, you know, trying to get the bowl, the bowl of food. And the person wasn’t aware of what was happening, just trying to shush the dog and this was like a wake up call because we never think of others and how an experience different from ours will be.

And that whole trip just got me to the place where I started to think inside my job what I can do to include everyone, so also people with dyslexia and autism, all the things that could make reading difficult. We have the technology to improve it. Why don’t we? Like, we should think technology is here for that. We should be solving things for everyone, not just for some people.

And I’m very thankful to Canada and to everyone at ebookcraft. It wasn’t the people who spoke in the event, but how everything was arranged. How in the beginning there was a native woman talking about the land that we’re in. You know, and I don’t know if people know anything about Brazil, but there was native people here before Pedro Álvares Cabral arrived and just trashed the place around. And we have zero respect for the native people. Like we just said that Brazil was discovered and it was not. It already existed. Everything was already here. People just got here and took everything, you know what I mean? I’m getting very political, I’m sorry. But the thing is the event showed me a lot of things and it put me in this place where I try to make my work inclusive, and this accessibility project is just one of the things that I’m trying to do, and it’s honestly the least I could do since I get to talk to most of the publishers in the country. So thank you for that, everyone at BookNet Canada.

Nataly: Thank you, thank you, because we appreciate the insights of someone who actually are doing things to change this current situation. And we really hope to get to see you presenting at the next Tech Forum 2021st.

Nataly: That’s great. And we appreciate how much time and effort you have put in this talk and in this topic. We advocate for accessibility not just here in Canada but everywhere, right, because that’s the main goal of what we do and what we’ve been doing.

Isadora: It would be an honour. I’m very honoured to participate in the event. It’s the highlight of my year so far, I would say one of the highlights of my career. I feel very important right now.

Nataly: So I hope that we get to see you do something at Tech Forum 2021, or maybe the next one, or the next one, or maybe not, and who knows. But it’s always nice to hear some other experiences, right, because you get to learn, you get to see and compare, and also see, like, how can we help? How can we help each other or how can we improve together? So thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. It has been an awesome experience, and I really look forward to seeing you again here in Toronto.

So thanks again Isadora for speaking with me for this month’s episode. I will also like to take a moment to acknowledge that the BookNet Canada staff, board, partners, and our makeshift podcast studio operate upon the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, the Anishnawbe, Haudenosaunee, Wendat, and Huron Indigenous People, the original nations of this land. We endorse the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and support an ongoing shift from gatekeeping to a space-making in the book industry. And we hope that our work, including this podcast, helps to create an environment that supports that shift. We would also like to acknowledge the government of Canada for your financial support to the Canada Book Fund, and of course, thanks to you for listening.