In an effort to address the growth of electronic publishing and online bookselling, the Association of American Publishers is sponsoring a variety of initiatives focusing on how publishers deal with metadata.

Metadata is descriptive data about digital content, said Carol Risher, AAP's v-p for copyright and new technology. It is not the published product itself, Risher explained to PW, but digital information that allows content to be named or tagged and then stored and retrieved. According to Risher, currently there are many systems for naming and tagging content; and the book industry will need one system "that means the same thing to everyone."The AAP has launched four initiatives under the association's Enabling Technology Committee to address different aspects of identifying and cataloguing metadata procedures and systems "to find out what's being done and not done,"Risher said.

One major initiative is the Metadata Information Clearinghouse (Interactive) organized by the Metadata Subcommittee and John Wiley & Sons, an effort to build a database of information about the ways various publishers assign and use metadata. The MICI online database allows publishers to identify their own metadata procedures as well as post questions and comments about metadata projects. The MICI database can be accessed through the AAP Web site at and the Wiley Web site at

In addition, the AAP's Digital Object Identifier subcommittee, in conjunction with the International DOI Foundation and the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI), is developing a prototype Metadata Database that will allow journal publishers to initiate batch searches using the DOI -- a persistent digital identifier of content or rights information -- to find complete sets of reference links for journal articles. The prototype will be unveiled at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. For more information, visit the IDF Web site at

Risher also told PW that AAP is launching a survey of the systems and procedures used by publishers to find, revise and track text, graphics and other content within each publishing house. The digital content management subcommittee, Risher explained, will survey these procedures and develop standards and formats to help the many vendors currently developing content management systems specifically for book publishing.

In a separate but related initiative, the digital content management subcommittee convened a roundtable of more than 50 publishers, online booksellers and distributors in Washington, D.C., to examine procedures for gathering and distributing bibliographic and descriptive content (images, reviews, captions and other book promotional material) to online booksellers and wholesalers.

Gwenyth Jones, director of public information systems and technology at John Wiley, who attended the roundtable, called the meeting an "unequivocal success."Jones noted that large publishers may have more than 100 vendors, all with different requirements for the type, format and timing of promotional material. She added, "Wholesalers have an even bigger problem."The roundtable group approved a search committee to find a consultant to do an analysis of the question and begin work on a "data dictionary, to develop a standard vocabulary,"said Jones. "We want to provide accurate, complete information to our customers using automated procedures as much as possible,"she explained. "You can't do that without a standard."