Dr. Rama Chellappa and this author coined the concept of "digital binding"during discussions and site visits in Japan. For a while, thought has beengiven as to how to expand the definition of metadata backwards, if you will, tophysical artifacts, and aspects of their physicality that give us informationabout use. The fact that a book is bound and that in Western languages shouldbe read from left to right are implicit pieces of metadata. To present thatsame book in digital format, each file representing every page image and thebeginning and end of the book must be coded in a way to allow for coherentdisplay to the user. It is nice to allow the user to "turn" pages of adocument, which requires encoded information indicating digital file sequenceand document boundaries as they relate to the original artifact. As thisillustration suggests, activities that are taken for granted with artifacts,such as knowing in which order the pages should be read and where theboundaries of the document lie, must be recreated and made explicit for digitalpresentation.

Other thoughts about the "digital binding" concept came in a session withPresident Makoto Nagao of Kyoto University. Professor Nagao developed Ariadne,a multimedia digital library system that was demonstrated publicly in October1994 (Nagao n.d.). Nagao discussed the difference between traditional bookpublishing versus publishing on the Internet, stating that, "There are so manyinformation creators besides professional publishers on the network, and someparts of information created by these creators are so important that thecollection of these digital information content(s) is urgent for libraries(Nagao n.d.)." This led to the thought of other attributes of publishedmaterials that might be emulated in the "digital binding" arena to allow forthe study of information that is naturally inherent in published materials andthat indicates authorship, provides version control, and defines the document.For example, in libraries or bookstores, electronic or physical stamps on theartifact indicate ownership; the date of creation and printing is fixed and isusually expressed on the verso of the title page; the content is physicallyimmutable because the item is bound or packaged together; and the status andreputation of the publisher provide verification and to some extentauthentication of the information. One relies more on material printed byOxford University Press than vanity publications from typewriters and photocopymachines. For "digital binding" to occur, would not these same authenticationand verification features need to be replicated in an electronic environment?How then, might one recreate these aspects of "boundness" or "publishedness" inthe electronic environment, assuming that the information is criticallyimportant? Both legal and technical aspects of this question are interesting toexplore and potentially prototypical in this context.

Publishers function to collect fees from consumers of information, eitherthrough sales or database access fees. The publisher takes a risk and may berewarded or penalized economically for the gamble of publishing an author'swork. In the online climate, President Nagao suggests that "a digital librarycannot exist without a charging mechanism to users" in order to charge andcollect licensing or usage fees for digital books. Dr. Chellappa and thisauthor hope to explore some of these issues further by prototyping technicalmeans through which to provide a "digital binding" scheme from the perspectiveof multimedia and text materials.

Published: February 1999; WTECHyper-Librarian