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Deep Linking for eBooks

This is based on the idea of a citation having two parts (document name and location/page number), just as it did in the physical world, and that the reader should be able to choose how to access the cited book or journal article. The proposal was then this:

1) Author selects text in a digital book (Kindle, iBooks, whatever) and chooses the option ‘Copy Location’ (same as we can do in YouTube videos). No copying of text is necessarily necessary.

2) The author then pastes this in their own book/article as a citation, which, importantly, has two parts:

• The document identifiers (name of book plus authors, ISBN and/or more – the more the better, for redundancy)
• The internal location (which different document types already have, this proposal is partly to establish a common standard which libraries will endorse)

3) The reader then has the option to follow this citation reference and the system presents a dialog (this is one of the key innovations we are talking about):

• This book is available on Amazon. Purchase it?
• This book is available on ‘Whatever online Store’. Purchase it?
• This book is available on Google Books. See the page? (full book not available)
• This book is available digitally from your university library. Access it?

At this point the user can choose whatever way they want to access the book – and here is the big deal: Once they choose how to access it (‘own’ it and the reader system knows what books are in what access application), the system will open the book to the very location referred to!

This means that copyright is not an issue but we have high resolution addressing. VERY useful I was told by many, which is nice.

Issues include

• Researching current in-document location systems and seeing which systems can be used universally
• Building relationships with book vendors to allow for what is sometimes called ‘deep linking’ where you can have a link and specify what application to launch it in. (We can of course build our own for testing before anyone else agrees to join us)

I have a friend who works at Audible but is very well connected within the rest of Amazon who I’ll present this to, in order to have it presented further in the company. Amazon already has a location system, which is why you can listen to a book on audible and then the Kindle page you are on will automatically update.


The benefit is that it makes it more easy to find, access and buy books, which is good for authors and publishers and it the benefit to the reader and author is the fluidity of movement within their knowledge environment.

Published inDeep LiteracyDougDemo@50


  1. This idea is almost as old as e-books and there are several problems we encounter. First, traditional, printed books, before the advent of print on demand, were expensive to prepare and produce, so there weren’t too much editions. With digital, there can be literally thousands over thousands of editions/versions of an e-book, for reasons like: layout change (even custom layouts defined by the user/reader on the “server side”, not dynamically generated on the e-reader device or client), immediate updates to the text for instant publication without the need to wait for a revised edition, multiple variants generated for different target groups, etc. So what’s the identity of the e-book/document? Which ones are still the same, which are different, unrelated publications in their own right? “Document name” therefore doesn’t make too much sense, it’s probably more an identifier which is supposed to be unique on the planet and probably not very human-readable, so all of linking and referencing might need special mechanisms like QR codes, or can only be supported on digital devices in software (leading to problems like e-reader compatibility). “Page number” doesn’t make any sense as e-books flow dynamically, so “pages” depend on screen resolutions and custom settings like an artificial, user-defined margin around everything, or the border of reading apps that aren’t in full-screen mode, so I guess one solves those problems with proper thinking of what “location” is and how it might work.

    3): Amazon with their proprietary hardware/software, DRM and restrictive policies is specifically made to prevent any kind of open web and Hypertext, so they should be out of the game and consideration. Other stores, we probably don’t care too much, as in digital, there’s no need for more than one big market place for e-books anyway. Google Books, we know how destructive that effort went, they to should be out of the game and consideration. Not being able to see the full book is an artificial restriction with no foundation in digital, this wasn’t even encountered with the physical, printed book. University libraries tend to be problematic, so one should only work together with the good-standing ones. I also note that there’s no mention of e-books on the open web, or all the valid XHTML websites available on the net, as they can surely be packaged to e-books as a way of archival and offline readability.

    Opening or jumping to a specific location isn’t that hard to implement, but with e-readers, how to bridge the gap of proprietary, siloed, non-interoperable devices and reading applications? Please note that many of the vendors/suppliers would like to deprive you from any notion of “owning” anything from or in their systems.

    Copyright is always a big issue with all of this, and having a lot of non-resolvable links/references/”citations” is everything but “VERY useful”.

    Regarding “Issues”: as links are stored outside of Amazon and need to link into the Amazon system of software and hardware, they need to use or change to an standardized way for location referencing, otherwise you might run into a lot of trouble at any time. Imagine them changing their scheme, now all your links are broken and potentially even non-repairable without their cooperation.

    Regarding “Benefit”: “Buying books”, what does this even mean? Are you aware that some of the companies you’re mentioned think that in the digital world, this term means “buying a very restricted, limited license” they can retract at any time, and that they’re investing a lot technically to make sure that you’re prevented from what you get when you buy a physical, printed book?

  2. […] This afternoon, after the conference, over coffee with a former president of Romania and the chief of the African & Middle East division at the Library of Congress, later joined by representatives of the Library of Alexandria and The Berlin School of Library and Information Science, something which Chris and I had discussed and which I thought was my idea (it wasn’t, it turns out to be mostly a ‘remembering’ of what Chris has been discussing), I presented a way to have high-resolution addressing to digital book media, without the need to have any copyright issues. It’s based on the idea of a citation having two parts (document name and location/page number), just as it did in the physical world, and that the reader should be able to choose how to access the cited book or journal article. The proposal was then this, which went down very well, and which I’ll be sending them a more formal proposal for, in order to engage them in dialogue to design this in a way actually useful in the real world: Deep Linking for eBooks […]

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