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The “ideal” characteristics of the electronic text


Three main qualities were identified for electronic text – readability, maneuverability and quotability, to which can be added localization.


The broadcast in digital book must be readable. This requires:

  • to be described by an open format, as opposed to proprietary format (or closed formats). For example, the book application of some companies is not described through an open format, it is a proprietary software with standards that are not interoperable between e-readers.
  • to be recomposable (reflowable), a quality that does not have the “PDF”, for example it does not allow the file to accommodate the size of the screen, while the screen Epub permits;
  • to be storable, formats are evolving rapidly and it is not certain that we can keep our files very long because the formats become obsolete, or because a DRM can be applied to the file. Technical protection measures implemented in the context of copyright management systems (DRM) are based on encryption of the document mandating the use of a software and a particular system controlling the rights of the player. This therefore endangers the preservation and readability.


The digital book must be manipulated, for that it must be indexable first, and searchable. The more it will be created book applications, the harder it will index them and create indexing tools. So, we will increasingly need tools to get a map of the virtual library. Similarly, the text should be copyable and bondable, to be quickly inserted in another context (paste procedure). Finally, the text must also be able to insert notes and writable (annotations, comments, milestones, etc.) in open devices. For example, with the Kindle devices, it depends on the specific annotation tool of Kindle, resulting a dependence on the private company.


The book should be quotable in a simple way. The digital path to solutions based on the logic of a unique identifier (ID). Several mechanisms set up in different environments and based on different logics have developed. In the world of book publishing, have been used for many years the ISBN for books and ISSN for periodicals. These unique identifiers describe editorial objects, that is to say, a book title or journal title. The issues raised today is the granularity (information) and the most relevant level of identification: a book, a chapter, an article for legal texts? And the ISBN is a significant level of granularity since it is the whole book that is identified, not allowing quoting a particular passage of this type of mechanism.


It is not enough to collect a quote from a book: locate the book remains a landmark. Digital technology allows to articulate quotation and localization and often the two are confused. However, it seems essential to distinguish between these two functions. Two systems used include: URLs, open system proposed as part of the Web, and DOI (Digital Object Identifier), closed and trading system.

  • Current practices for URL creation, especially when they are linked to a specific software or “physical” organization of a site on a given date, make it difficult to generalize this method because the URL is subject to change. If the application of good practice can meet the most common problems for permanent vocation devices the solution would be to adopt the principle of URI.
  • The DOI system, used especially in science through Crossref agency, is based on identification associated with the location of resources.


  • The principle of unique identifiers facilitates interoperability between systems and between funds or catalogs. For example, we will be able to find any article quoted by another article. This type of functionality called cross-links navigates in a documentary ecosystem – however limited to the selected identification system. Work on interoperability between these systems yet to be developed.
  • To fully exploit these techniques, it is also necessary that resources are properly described through different metadata attached to them. Otherwise, the document becomes impossible to find. Metadata transported by software and not based on a minimum of standardization may be incorrect; they are often very poor. It is strongly recommended to use at least the Dublin Core format in its standard version of ISO 15836, provides a set of 15 items. The ONIX format, the standard of the book industry, combines meanwhile bibliographic information aligned with those of the Dublin Core but also commercial and promotional.

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