|Sector||ICT for publishing sector|
|Target Users||All stakeholders from the publishing sector and cross-domain organisations: individual publishers, specific publishing communities (e.g. STM, academic, educational business areas), data providers for the publishing industry, collective management organisations, cultural institutions.|
|Nature of the initiative||mEDRA is a partnership between a public inter-university consortium and a private trade association|
mEDRA is a SME created with the clear purpose to bring together ICT and publishing in a single environment and build an integrated team comprising publishing and business oriented profiles and IT oriented profiles. Founded in 2004 mEDRA is a joint venture by AIE (the Italian Publishers Association), and CINECA (the Italian Interuniversity Computing Centre) and operates as technology provider and consultancy agency in the field of metadata, standards and e-infrastructures for information management in the digital book value chain, nationally and internationally. The specific combination of competences has been designed to look at the needs for technological innovation in the publishing industry from a unique angle and to be able to support the clients in all phases of a project, from ideation to development. The strong connection with the Italian Publishers Association on the one side and with CINECA on the other side puts mEDRA in the privileged position of being always up to date on emerging trends and best practices in both sectors.
Starting from specific expertise in standards for publishing contents, mEDRA develops new tools for publishers focused on the design and implementation of bibliographic databases and services based on standard metadata formats and identifiers.
mEDRA operations started with the set-up of the DOI® Registration Agency, that gives the name to the company and is still one of the services provided.
Over time, mEDRA initial core business has increasingly expanded resulting in a variety of services: from the technology provision for the management of other Registration Agencies, to the set up of new bibliographic agencies, from local and European partnerships for the development of systems serving different use cases in the content information supply chain, to the provision of IT services and consultancy in the framework of European projects focusing on digitisation of cultural heritage, copyright and rights management in the digital age.
mEDRA also provides publishers with training and consultancy on standard identifiers, metadata interoperability in the book trade and new content management strategies to help publishers meet their business objectives.
As publishing workflow is started converging to digital production and distribution, publishers started needing both guidance on how to approach technological challenges and new solutions to effectively track content and manage metadata within the editorial workflow and to exchange information along the physical and digital supply chain.
How to identify content unambiguously at different level of granularity, to enable innovative business models?
How to express in a standard format bibliographic, commercial and rights information within digital transactions?
How to be interoperable to enable content discoverability across multiple platforms and retail channels, to optimize marketing strategies and to support rights information and licensing content in an automated way?
How technology itself can help the publishing industry in managing the so called “digital disruption”? How to find a technology provider that can be a partner in finding the most appropriate solution?
These are the business needs mEDRA addressed.
mEDRA has been created as a solution for the need of the publishing industry to be supported in the technological innovation process by professionals with a deep understanding of the specific requirements and dynamics of the sector, that could provide specialised technological solutions and expertise. Being a joint venture by AIE (the Italian Publishers Association) and CINECA (the Italian Interuniversity Computing Centre), mEDRA has a specific combination of competences that has been designed to look at the needs for technological innovation in the publishing industry from a unique angle and to be able to support the clients in all phases of a project, from ideation to development. The strong connection with the Italian Publishers Association on the one side and with CINECA on the other side puts mEDRA in the privileged position of being always up to date on emerging trends and best practices in both sectors.
The participation to national and European R&D projects reinforces mEDRA specific skills in the development of new infrastructures for the publishing industry and cross-sectors, focusing the effective management of bibliographic, commercial, rights and accessibility information in the content value chain.
mEDRA supplies the design and implementation of bibliographic databases to serve different use cases: programmes for digital libraries through the use of distributed systems for the management of intellectual property rights, integration of descriptive metadata with accessibility features, license information and commercial transactions of digital products.
The result is an in-house knowledge of the complex domain of the publishing ecosystem, including mainstream and niche segments, commercial and non-commercial publishing, authors, publishers and libraries, and infrastructures that support their activities ranging from content creation to publication, from delivery to consumption. This is turned technically into a focus on cross-sector interoperability, achieved through the use of the main international metadata standards.
mEDRA supports the emerging needs of the publishing sector by designing and managing metadata flows for intellectual property rights, bibliographic, commercial and accessibility information both for the trade sector as well as for the network of academic publishers. Through the development of bibliographic databases, mEDRA creates added value services relying on the exploitation of product metadata in the book value chain.
Thanks to the integration of a solid technological asset with a strong publishing background, mEDRA meets the requirements for the implementation of new technological solutions to enable an effective data exchange and ensure interoperability in the book and e-book ecosystem.
mEDRA solutions aim therefore at bridging the gap between the publishing industry and the ICT sector, in other words approaching ICT “with an editorial sensibility”.
The role of technology
mEDRA operations started with the set-up of the DOI® Registration Agency, that gives the name to the company and is still one of the services provided to the EU publishing market.
The DOI is the Digital Object Identifier, the ISO standard managed by the IDF (International DOI Foundation, www.doi.org) for persistently identifying any piece of intellectual property on a digital network and associating it with related metadata, in a structured extensible way.
A DOI name persistently identifies a specific intellectual property entity, which may or may not be an Internet-accessible file, at any level of granularity. Metadata are persistently connected to the object identified by the DOI, so they can be easily communicated to other players across the productive and distributive chain, enhancing a content producer’s ability to trade electronically. By means of metadata, the DOI configures not simply as an identifying string, but takes the form of a powerful and unambiguous tool for data storage and exchange.
When used in a network environment, the DOI redirects the user to one or more pieces of typed data (e.g. URLs representing instances of the object, content repositories, ad hoc services related to the object etc.).
The underlying technology allowing permanent access to a web resource to which the entity is associated is the resolution, i.e. the process in which an identifier is the input to a network to receive in return a specific output of one (single resolution) or more (multiple resolution) pieces of current information related to the identified object. The Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI, http://www.cnri.reston.va.us/) has developed the Handle System technology (www.handle.net) for the resolution within the DOI System®.
The flexibility of DOI technology as a tool to access online resources allows to integrate the ISBN number within the DOI syntax, thus creating an actionable ISBN (ISBN-A): the ISBN-A identifies the same referent as ISBN, associated by the publisher with an ad hoc set of relevant information to be displayed to the final user upon clicking the ISBN-A string. Expressing an existing ISBN in the DOI System allows to continue using the ISBN as a key identifier for books, rather than adding complexity to publishers’ internal systems and bibliographic agency databases.
As technology provider for services in the national and international publishing sector, mEDRA exploits the most up to date and cutting-edge tools and technologies in the international IT community. Applications are written mainly in Java and are built on the Spring Framework (and its well-known extensions, such as Spring Batch and Spring Integration), the search engines on Solr, while Hibernate is the first choice for the persistence issues and Drupal for the content management ones. A special attention is given to the emerging approaches and solutions, such as the semantic web. The most of these facilities are open source and under GNU-like licenses, so that the software can be freely redistributed.
The design and implementation of e-infrastructures for information management in the book value chain relies on mEDRA core competences on standard metadata formats and identifiers in the publishing sector: indeed, mEDRA services for bibliographic, commercial and rights metadata exchanges are developed in compliance with ONIX international standards for the book and e-book trade (www.editeur.org).
The ONIX family of standards, managed at international level by EDItEUR (www.editeur.org), is designed to enable machine to machine XML communication between all parties involved in creating, distributing, licensing or making available physical or digital contents.
Also the technology for managing the DOI and the ISBN Registration Agencies is ONIX based: ad hoc ONIX metadata application profiles have been implemented in order to associate the entity identified with a core set of descriptive metadata in a format interoperable with other IT systems in the supply chain.
mEDRA extended its scope from the implementation of the DOI technology for content identification to support the publishing community in developing services for the digital book value chain, thus becoming a well-established IT provider in the Italian and international market.
mEDRA also contributes to the knowledge sharing process by delivering focused training modules both to publishers and in the framework of post-university training courses on publishing.
As DOI Registration Agency, mEDRA provides the DOI registration service to publishers in EU market and beyond, both directly and through the partnership with MVB (www.mvb-online.de) in the German linguistic area. The cooperation and the interoperability layer with CrossRef (http://www.crossref.org/) allows to integrate CrossLinking and Cited-by services in the solution so that the DOI can be also exploited to reference article citations, thus enabling users to browse bibliographic references of academic publications and discover new contents.
mEDRA has built and manages the technological infrastructure for the OPOCE DOI Registration Agency (the Publications Office of the European Union, http://publications.europa.eu) and continues to support OPOCE in the identification of its business needs and implementing the solutions.
mEDRA is the technological provider of the Italian ISBN Agency and also provides the Actionable ISBN (ISBN-A) registration service, based on the integration between the DOI and ISBN standards and currently offered by the Italian and German ISBN Agencies. Taking advantage of the DOI features, an ISBN can be used in the web as a single access point for extra content concerning the identified book, direct access to on line retailers, redirection to external services, rights management. This service is scalable to any other ISBN Agency.
mEDRA supported the design and implementation of the whole infrastructure of the ARROW system. Started as a European project, ARROW (www.arrow-net.eu) is now an up and running service to streamline rights information management, and through this also to support digitisation projects.
Within the framework of the same project, mEDRA played a central role in the design and implementation of a standard open source core Books in Print service now adopted in 6 European countries: Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Portugal.
mEDRA has built the technological platform for LIA (Accessible Italian Books, www.libriitalianiaccessibili.it), a dedicated service to increase the number of accessible e-books available on the Italian market for blind and visually impaired readers, by including accessibility metadata in the e-book production workflow and in its distribution. Through the use of ONIX-based applications, mEDRA enabled the interoperability of several data sources (publishers’ internal systems, Italian Books in Print catalogue, online suppliers and bookstores) in order to exchange title information and facilitate the production, validation and discovery of accessible e-books for print impaired users, thus overcoming the trade barriers to e-commerce interoperability.
mEDRA also participates to RDI project (Rights Data Integration, www.rdi-project.org/) aiming at demonstrating how to efficiently manage and trade intellectual property rights online for any and all types of usage, across any and all types of content, in any and all media. mEDRA will pilot a real use case of DOI technology serving direct access to rights metadata and content licensing.
mEDRA is itself an example that can be scalable in other countries and business areas. Services offered by mEDRA aim at broadening interoperability and offering technological solutions both at local and at cross-country level depending on the service developed, thus enabling the scalability of the system.