Skip to main content

Digital Bookmarking and Annotation Sharing

The Digital Bookmarking and Annotation Sharing Working Group was formed following discussion meetings funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation held in October 2011 in Frankfurt, Germany, and San Francisco, CA.

The group's goal is to develop a standard syntax for how bookmarks and notes should be located in a digital text, especially in online environments that might be continually updated or mutable.

Statement of problem: The ability to accurately refer to a specific location within a digital text is fundamental for bookmarking and annotations in a digital environment. For both casual readers as well as professional and academic researchers, such pointers must be recognized across reading systems to enable social uses of books, articles and grey literature that range from personal memory aids, to citations and critical analysis, as well as deep inter-linking. For a functional system of annotation to work effectively, there must be consistent, definable and widely adopted reference-point systems for digital texts.

The potential audience for such a standard is broad, impacting nearly all sectors of online publishing. A standard would be a major element of any major digital book or text distribution platform, such as Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s nook, Apple’s iBook or other providers of platforms for scholarly texts. Annotation portability is the cornerstone of a large number of social reading experiences, and many media commentary services. Most directly, a standard would enhance the experience of digital book readers interested in bookmarking and annotation support. This standard could also be adopted by scholarly journal publishers and any other party interested in such specific citability and sharing.

Related New Work Item Proposal

Standards for Digital Bookmarking and Annotation Sharing

Digital Bookmarking Interest Group E-mail List


E-Book Annotation Sharing and Social Reading

Final Grant Report: Standards Development Workshops on E-Book Annotation Sharing and Social Reading (narrative)

The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) and the Internet Archive hosted two meetings on the topic of Standards Development for E-Book Annotation Sharing and Social Reading with the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. These meetings were held in conjunction with the Frankfurt Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany, and the Books In Browsers Meeting in San Francisco. Both meetings were held in October 2011 on the 10th and 26th respectively.

The two meetings advanced the discussions around the system requirements for annotation sharing, which includes significant technical challenges of citation location and systems interoperability. However, more critical than common understanding of the technical issues will be agreement on the development and implementation of a consensus solution, which points to the need for community-based standards in this area. In addition to generally advancing knowledge of the issues and potential solutions, one key goal of the meeting was to bring the key parties together and begin to advance the process of agreement on standards on this topic.

The meetings also centered on advancing two specific goals: 1) providing input to a NISO-sponsored working group on its scope, goals and any initial work the group undertakes; and 2) the advancement of a syntax specification that will be further vetted by a standards working group for how bookmarks and annotations are located in digital books and shared with other readers. This second item was identified by the pre-meeting discussion group as the most critical need.

These workshops are an outcome of an invitational planning meeting to discuss issues surrounding bookmarking and annotation and possible areas for standards held on May 26, 2011 at the Kimmel Center, New York University, during the week of the Book Expo conference. Approximately 20 participants representing scholars, scholarly and technical publishing, e-book software and hardware vendors, online book services, and foundations met for more than five hours to discuss existing projects such as Open Annotation Collaboration, the general annotation landscape, and further requirements and desirable features for workable standards that could be quickly, easily adopted by a broad range of industry participants.

The Frankfurt Book Fair Meeting
October 10, 2011
Congress Center Messe Frankfurt (CMF)
Conference Room "Illusion 1+2" in the Congress Center, Level 3
9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the world’s largest trade fair for books, e-book technologies, rights and licenses. The Book Fair draws more than 7,300 exhibitors from 100 countries, 299,000 visitors and over 10,000 journalists each year to the Frankfurter Messe; publishers of every type and size are represented. In 2011, the main Book Fair was held on October 12-16, 2011. A variety of industry meetings began on Tuesday, October 11, including a Tools of Change preconference, an EDItEUR Supply Chain preconference meeting, and a meeting for educators entitled “Learning Moves!”


Introducation & Discussion Topics Presentation (Todd Carpenter)

Reading is a Social Activity Keynote (Todd Carpenter)

Open Annotation Collaboration Background presentation (Robert Sanderson via Todd Carpenter)

EPUB Activities on Annotation (Markus Gylling)

Books in Browsers Meeting
October 26, 2011
Marines’ Memorial Club & Hotel

Launched in 2010, Books in Browsers (BiB) is a conference hosted by the Internet Archive in San Francisco. In its first year, BiB drew 120 publishers, librarians and toolmakers from nine countries for a two-day working meeting. The second BiB conference was held on October 27-28, 2011, again in San Francisco. Many of the technologists involved in electronic publishing will likely attend the BiB meeting, whereas Frankfurt, while it is a considerably larger meeting, is less focused on e-books and technology.

NISO Annotation Meeting (San Francisco)

View more presentations from Robert Sanderson

E-book Bookmarks and Annotation Standards Planning Meeting (Todd Carpenter)

Developing a Standard for E-book Bookmarks and Annotation Sharing (Todd Carpenter)

EPUB 3 Annotations/Linking Port-Mortem (Bill McCoy)


The same agenda outline was used for both meetings, although the speakers were different.

7:30 – 9:00

Continental Breakfast


Welcome & Introductions – 10 minutes

Peter Brantley (Internet Archive) & Todd Carpenter (NISO)


Keynote presentation: Encouraging social reading through standards – 30 minutes + 5 minutes Q&A

Purpose: To provide a high-level view of the challenges and opportunities facing annotation of digital texts.


Description of ongoing projects & prior art – 35 minutes

Purpose: To ground the conversation in real-world concerns, applications and implementations that are in development or production.

3 presentations ~10 minutes each with Q&A

10:20 – 10:45



How an annotation sharing system might work - A review of annotation syntax options, transfers and tools – 30 minutes

Purpose: To explore options for annotation.


Technical issues of annotation sharing – 30 minutes

Purpose: To highlight some of core technological challenges and desired solutions.


Social norms and issues of annotation sharing – 30 minutes

Purpose: To highlight the social, sharing and end-user use cases for annotation. How will scholars, researchers and students uses these developing tools?




Roundtable discussions of specific issues

Purpose:Engage the participants in the issues that were discussed in the morning. Determine if there are themes and enthusiasm for/against any discussed approaches.

2 tables each on technology/syntax, systems integration & social norms


Report of consensus from roundtable discussions

Purpose: Gather opinions from all of the participants on the four themes of social norms, technical issues, proposed/available syntax systems

Led by roundtable group representatives


Group discussion of consensuses roundtable: What it means and how it might work

Purpose: As a group, discuss the priorities, syntax option and strategies for moving forward.

Facilitated by Peter Brantley (Internet Archive) & Todd Carpenter (NISO)

3:15 – 3:30



Discussion of NISO standards initiative process & activity to date

Purpose: To focus attention on how consensus is reached and how to engage.

Nettie Lagace (NISO)


Closing roundtable & Discussion of next steps

Purpose:To tie together the themes of annotation syntax, the systems integration and how it assists or inhibits sharing, as well clarification of the use cases and systems needs related to sharing annotations. Try to tease out recommendations that can be communicated to a NISO working group.

Keynote and other speakers, plus invited experts


Closing remarks

Peter Brantley (Internet Archive) & Todd Carpenter (NISO)



Committee Roster

Approved by the NISO Content and Collection Management Topic Committee on August 30, 2011



Karina Luke

Executive Director
Book Industry Communication

Baden Hughes

Managing Director and Principal Consultant
Cabahu Pty, Ltd.

George Kerscher

Chief Innovations Officer, DAISY Consortium
Senior Officer, Global Literacy, Benetech

Bill McCoy

Executive Director
International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF)

Karen Broome

Sony Electronics US Technology Standards Office
Sony Corporation of America