BookNet Canada and Rakuten Kobo Award 2018 Ebook Coding Prize

In News by Porter Anderson

Getting ‘aesthetically pleasing and accessible content’ out of what the judges gave her as a mashup of sci-fi and Lewis Carroll, Katy Mastrocola beats the competition.

Image – iStockphoto: Neil Lockhart

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Third Houghton Mifflin Employee to Win
Late last week in Toronto, Katy Mastrocola, a production associate at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, was given the grand prize in ebook design in the 2018 edition of a competition called So You Think You Can Code.

Mastrocola wins $2,500 from Rakuten Kobo and also gets subscriptions to Adobe’s Creative Cloud and Firebrand Technologies. The task at which she excelled to win the prize has to do with her ability “to handle the messy EPUB provided by the judges, demonstrating her capabilities from markup to issues of accessibility.

In a prepared statement, Mastrocola is quoted, saying, “My goal for So You Think You Can Code was to cobble a messy ebook—a mashup of an old sci-fi short story The Dope on Mars and material from Lewis Carroll’s A Twisted Tale—into aesthetically pleasing and accessible content.

Katy Mastrocola

“I did all the basic things to clean it up: Find + Replace GREP searches, proofreading, adding a table of contents and designed cover, cleaning up images, and embedding fonts, but I spent the most time making the book #a11y friendly.

“I wrote alt text, added accessibility metadata, edited the text for proper semantic tagging–for example, differentiating between <em>, <cite>, and <i>; adding ARIA labels, making graphic breaks rules while still using the provided images–and added mathML for the equations in the Appendix.

“I was so excited when I finally got it to work, only to be bummed when it wasn’t compatible with some devices. My solution was to add media queries for the Kindle so regular HTML appears instead and for the Kobo (which often has the same dimensions as the iPad, which does support mathML), to contain a note asking the reader to switch orientation to not see the buggy alt text. In the end, everything validated.”

The third Houghton Mifflin employee to win the award, Mastrocola was represented at the conference in Toronto at which it was presented by two of her publishing associates when she was unable to be there, herself.

In a statement from the judges on the win, we read that her submission “was notable for her near-perfect application of semantic markup and semantic inflection, and her fine typography work.

“She made use of the ACE by DAISY accessibility checker for EPUB files and achieved a perfect score across the board. Her file also passed EpubCheck and nearly scored perfect on her use of standards. She even took the time to update the file’s metadata elements.

“Of particular note,” the judges write, was Mastrocola’s “inclusion of MathML to address the fun equations we added to the appendix. It was encouraging to see a submission that attempted to handle the equations in a way that was both readable and accessible. She also caught most of the little issues we inserted into the file, showing her commitment to the quality of her craft.”

The judges in this year’s competition included Joshua Tallent (Firebrand Technologies), Monique Mongeon (BookNet Canada), and Naomi Kennedy (Penguin Random House).

The conference in which the award program is a feature was held a day prior to Tech Forum, and was presented by BookNet Canada and eBound Canada. We’ll have more from Tech Forum, which is staged by BookNet Canada, soon. Publishing Perspectives covered last year’s iteration here.


More from Publishing Perspectives on BookNet’s market information is here. And you can download our special magazine on publishing in Canada here (PDF).

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.