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Last Modified: May 9, 2024
Graphic with the message, "Publisher Spotlight: NeWest Press’s Accessible Publishing Journey"

Introduction

In this continuation of our series of blog posts exploring the accessible publishing journeys of Alberta-based publishers, NeWest Press’ Production Coordinator, Meredith Thompson, shares their takeaways from the Press’s recently achieved Benetech certification and dives into some exciting frontlist and forthcoming titles. 

Founded in 1977, NeWest Press is one of Canada’s first independent literary publishing houses. NeWest publishes literary fiction, literary non-fiction, poetry, and drama, as well as a line of mystery novels, with a particular interest in books by Western Canadian authors. Its Nunatak imprint is the longest-running first-fiction series in Canada. NeWest Press books have won or been shortlisted for numerous national and international awards, including the Governor General’s Literary Awards, Scotiabank Giller Prize, Atwood Gibson Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Danuta Gleed Literary Award, Lambda Literary Awards, as well as being featured on Canada Reads. In addition to winning the City of Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Victoria and London Reads prizes, NeWest titles have also won or been shortlisted at regional ceremonies in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Quebec, Saskatchewan and the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award.

Currently, the Press has an impressive 250 accessible titles in distribution. 

Why Accessibility Matters to NeWest Press

“Accessibility is incredibly important to NeWest in its entirety,” states Thompson. “We believe strongly in the ethical obligation of the publishing industry to make itself accessible to all readers, and in the individual rights of all readers to access books of their choosing. We understand accessibility to be a journey that can always be improved upon, and we endeavour to keep accessibility in the forefront of our mission as publishers.”

To that end, the Press is working towards converting their entire backlist into an accessible format. Moreover, publishing between 10 and 12 titles a year, NeWest aims to release simultaneous accessible EPUB versions of each title. 

“The only exception to this has been with more format-based poetry wherein the reflowable EPUB format would severely alter the content of the book,” Thompson mentions. “We are continually searching for the best way to have the most accessible title while maintaining the intended format.”

Pursuing Certification

NeWest completed their GCA (Global Certified Accessible) certification process very recently through eBOUND Canada’s partnership with Benetech. The Press faced a few challenges along the way and identified several areas for improvement in their production workflow. 

“Our main issues have been the issues that we are all so aware of: time and resources,” says Thompson. “Keeping the goal of meeting the accessibility standards being implemented in the summer of 2025 by the EU in mind, we have made a sincere effort to audit and rebuild our workflow to meet with the Benetech standards. During this process our team has learned a huge amount about what is required to maintain this level of accessibility in our EPUBs and we are excited to continue learning as we move forward in our accessible journey.”

A key takeaway for the Press has been the importance of building accessible design into the process early on. Taking accessibility into consideration as early as the submission stage and particularly during the manuscript stage can prove to be vital. “It is not something that we can easily layer over top of an inaccessible workflow; rather, it is an imperative component of the production process,” Thompson remarks. “This has also been the biggest change. There is an incredibly supportive community in Canadian publishing that is there to help through this process, and we are very grateful for all of the help that we’ve received.”

Latest Accessible Titles from NeWest

The Press’s frontlist includes titles in a variety of genres, including fiction, nonfiction, and drama, from an airplane crash investigation in Uncontrolled Flight by Frances Peck, a remarkable bike race across the North American continent in Meaghan Marie Hackinen’s Shifting Gears, to a play about an elephant and her keeper in Matara by Conni Massing.

Some upcoming titles from NeWest include Call of the Void, the sequel to J.T. Siemens’ 2022 debut thriller To Those Who Killed Me; humorous essays in Cole Nowicki’s Laser Quit Smoking Massage; the final instalment in Karen Hofmann’s Lund Sibling Series in Where We Live; and the image-heavy Counting Bones: Anatomy of Love Lost and Found, a memoir from Ellen Anderson Penno. In this story of grief and self-discovery, the author recounts losing her boyfriend to an avalanche while climbing Mount Baker, only weeks before she was set to begin medical school. “We are particularly proud of our image descriptions in Counting Bones,” mentions Thompson.

The Future

Looking ahead, Thompson has an optimistic view of the Press’s accessible publishing journey to come. 

“We are excited to continue increasing our skills in this field and keep up with the exciting and ever-changing landscape of accessible publishing both in Canada and globally, especially with the help of eBOUND’s wonderful APLN resource and the invaluable eBOUND and BPAA professional development sessions!”

As one of several Alberta-based publishers that are included in BPAA’s Accessible Alberta: eBooks for Everyone collection, Thompson notes, “We are incredibly pleased that in this respect Alberta is leading the way in Canadian publishing, with great thanks to the efforts of Kieran Leblanc and the team at the BPAA. We are all striving to become more accessible and eliminate barriers between all readers and our books so that we are able to share Canadian stories and Canadian voices with the world.”

—♦—

Featured Books

Uncontrolled Flight

Frances Peck (CA)

Published: Sep 01, 2023 by NeWest Press
ISBN: 9781774390757
Shifting Gears: Coast to Coast on the Trans Am Bike Race

Meaghan Marie Hackinen (CA)

Published: Oct 01, 2023 by NeWest Press
ISBN: 9781774390801
Matara: The Elephant Play

Conni Massing (CA)

Published: Oct 15, 2023 by NeWest Press
ISBN: 9781774390825
Call of the Void

J.T. Siemens (CA)

Published: Mar 01, 2024 by NeWest Press
ISBN: 9781774390863
Laser Quit Smoking Massage

Cole Nowicki (CA)

Published: Apr 01, 2024 by NeWest Press
ISBN: 9781774390900
Where We Live

Karen Hofmann (CA)

Published: Mar 15, 2024 by NeWest Press
ISBN: 9781774390887
Counting Bones: Anatomy of Love Lost and Found

Ellen Anderson Penno (CA)

Published: Apr 15, 2024 by NeWest Press
ISBN: 9781774390924