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A General Explanation, Application Scenarios and some possible extensions of NID (English Version)#

by Bilal Zaka

Write-up by: Hermann Maurer, Fall 2020, hmaurer@iicm.edu, Graz University of Technology, Austria Acknowledgment: NID has been essentially developed by Bilal ZAKA bilal.zaka@gmail.com and his team as the main developers; Hermann Maurer with some ideas, tests, and suggestions, supported in this and with practical solutions by Namik Delilovic namikdelilovic@gmail. This write-up by H. Maurer is base on a manuscript of Bilal Zaka.


In libraries (be it in small libraries for some organizational unit or large universal libraries), many documents are now available in digital form, mostly as PDF files, as Word files or as a sequence of images, like those created when scanning a book. If such a collection is offered via a server, one should have the option to allow to print the document or not, or to offer it in another form (as an e-book or for Kindle) with or without payment. The usability of such digital libraries on an Internet server (NID originally stands for Networked Interactive Digital Information) is usually limited to finding a document/book about titles or metadata and then searching in the book, with full text if one is lucky.

NID goes a lot further and is an international novelty. Many scanned documents can be converted into a searchable PDF version with OCR, and this into attractive, flip-through digital books (which can range from 5 to 10,000 pages in length and which we all want to call "books" for the sake of simplicity). Every book page can be linked to every document page and can be expanded with other links, texts or multimedia data or discussion forums, etc without changing the basic substance.

But a sophisticated rights system is particularly important: You can add private additions anywhere that you only see yourself; or any group can be defined, the members of which only see certain books and only all material in addition to the basic substance that was added by a member of the group. This means that many people who work on the topic can select those books that are useful and add any page to such a book as desired, thus helping cooperation partners significantly.

NID offers a lot more options, which makes it an excellent software for small and large libraries, and which is also compatible with the international IIIF standard, a standard used by most large libraries like in the USA (Stanford, Harvard, ...) or the Bavarian State Library, but NID is also good for small cooperation projects, for example between humanities scholars who e.g. focus on certain historic periods or regions of the world, or for editorial departments of magazines to easily find suitable materials and benefit from the comments of colleagues.

Some samples of application scenarios#

(1) #

A company operates a web server for customers. It has various manuals, brochures, some books, individual documents, etc., some of which are intended for the public (such as product offers, possible uses, positive PR reports, etc.), but parts of which are only intended for certain target groups: sales wants to show successful applications in text, image or video to potential customers, but rather not a success story of a competitor or aspects where competitors offer better solutions. Sales need to know about weaknesses (not communicated to the potential customers) to have appropriate arguments at hand. In NID one could define e.g. three groups: “sales”; "successes"; "competitive solutions".

The structure of NID allows many more things. We mention some here but do not repeat them for every application, although they probably apply also to such other applications. One can post material or make it invisible, or refer to generally available books, articles on the web, etc. or start a discussion. Then there may be a group of “engineers” who have access to manuals with spare parts or repair costs, a group of “board members” who want to be mainly informed about the development of the company as a whole via graphics, etc.

A small library of relevant materials is available to everyone, but both individuals can write their private comments for themselves or a defined group, with comments also referring to other suitable books, new pictures or other material, including previously added comments. The members of a group that can contribute and see the material are set up by the administrator. The group can be reduced or enlarged at any time, or some entries changed or deleted by the administrator. Examination modules (e.g. multiple choice in several variants) can help with personnel selection or motivation.

(2) #

There is hardly any organization (department in administration, teaching, association, ...) that does not have a small library, parts of which are outdated, or not for everyone interesting or accessible. However, the fact that many use this manual library will help to diagnose problems and errors, and add improvements or pointers to similar works or sections in other works, helpful for all using the library. From a collection of 300 documents that lead to a lonely life, knowledge suddenly becomes available to everyone: It not only is available but constantly improving by users, all based on a single source with NID!

(3) #

This becomes even clearer with project groups. Several people work on a topic, project, assignment and use various documents. It is only through NID that important document parts cannot be overlooked because a member of the team points this out. The fact that there is a smaller or larger library in the background, whereby each book can have different reviews that encourage or discourage studying them is another positive factor.

(4) #

A teacher may be concerned with a subject according to a textbook in, say, classes 2 and 4. This results in two natural groups whose members are encouraged to consider, research on the Internet and in other books or worksheets. A comparison of the results at the end of the semester may be an interesting experience for everyone involved!


Actually, applications in the area of teaching are almost endless. After all, each student can make private notes, or share notes with friends. A typical book for schools should allow students to personalize it by adding to the front their name, their picture, a few words how they grew up, so far. There is no reason why teachers should not encourage students to add at a special spot in the book a story on their favorite trip, their favorite sport, their favorite food, etc.


Much beyond schooling applications, discussion forums can be installed to let participants put forward their arguments. Either as a stream of arguments or possibly arranged in a pro and contra way.

(7) #

We are living in an age of smartphones, all of them allowing to shoot short video clips. Surely a book will gein much if at a number of places the static text/picture pattern is interrupted by video-clips, be it self made ones, or be it collections of Youtube clips concerning a certain topic.


Another interesting feature that can and should be used (and is not visible in many NID applications, so far) are quizzes, to find out topics readers do not fully understand and hence get more information. Followed by another quiz, maybe?

(9) #

Every organization celebrates 25, 50 or 100 years. What is more obvious than collecting speeches, publications and photos/films about these events and making them available internally and parts to the public according to different criteria (i.e. different for different groups).

(10) #

Large libraries have a wealth of knowledge that even experienced users can hardly find. It may, therefore, make sense to offer different book groups and different content for different groups. Let's take an association that is interested in mushrooms as an example. A group of well-informed mushroom experts takes on the role of administration, i.e. selects books and allows designated participants to link paragraphs, descriptions in different books or to import new pictures. Of course, private individuals can also make notes so that they can find the place where they made interesting observations in a year (ideally combined with a map and route there), or open a discussion forum, which is supervised by an administrator, describe personal opinions or experiences, add pictures or new videos or pointer so such, new books can be integrated (see rights situation below) or linked to films from YouTube or from other mushroom associations, etc. The collection of books in the library gains tremendous value because there are large extensions to many areas. Again, it should be pointed out: Each article can be added as a Word (better via PDF conversion as a (small?) Book): From a "passive" library, an active collection emerges, with recommendations and additional experiences ... and many potential (virtual) contacts.

(11) #

Student groups can use NID to communicate comments about the books they received in the textbook campaign, can put their approved homework into the system, or can also have a common goal: tidying up or redesigning certain parts in a village; start a virtual chess tournament or computer game, but they can also directly communicate with the (community) leadership in some cases with teaching staff that participate: for traditional knowledge but also with ideas for manual activities, fitness suggestions and much more. Why shouldn't a mini-team show their own film or play? To find out more about the system: Just send an email to hmaurer@iicm.edu.

(12) #

If you upload books/pictures to a NID server it must be clear that you are allowed to do so. Old books (where authors have died 70 years ago or still earlier) are "in the public domain" and can be used in any way. Postcards that were published 50 or more years ago, too. Even written contributions and own photos, with small exceptions: if a photo shows a person in a vulnerable situation (whatever that is) or a picture from a museum, where "photography is prohibited", you are not allowed to do so. Conversely, almost all images on Pixabay.com can be used, including almost all on all Wikipedia in the world, if you follow the CC (Creative Common License); one can use many from austria-forum.org, taking into account the copyright conditions that are listed there. A special situation applies to out of print books: If the publisher does not intend to re-issue the book the rights return to the authors (at least in Austria) but you have to check where the pictures come from and whether they are allowed to be be used. Most publishers are extremely flexible, particularly in the areas of teaching and science.


For © books there is a particularly nice trick: One puts a copy online but only one person can use it at any one time. When the user finishes (or when a certain time is elapsed, configurable) the book is free for any user waiting for it to be used. Since one book has been purchased and only one book is in circulation at any time © is not violated!!!

(14) #

For many subject areas, there are books with problems and another printed version that also shows ways of solving the problem: originally the first version was supposed to be for students, the second for teachers. But by now other areas of such enhanced books have become popular. Here NID offers of course a great solution: not two books, just one, but part of it only visible with the proper password.


Above list can be continued indefinitely, yet shows the flexibility of NID books over other media. A typical no-no book type are the e-books: they have no page numbering, hence a remark like "more on this can be found on page xyz is impossible!

Possible extensions #

One very important research task is to link relevant topics to one another in large book collections. Of course, it makes sense to use the titles, metadata and chapter headings (tables of contents) of the books, but this is not enough. If e.g. one wants to know how well an electric motor performs overall in terms of the environment, one needs a list of excerpts from books that deal with this problem (from lithium production to disposal, from the damage due to the larger tire wear caused by the weight of the electric batteries, etc.,), a task that needs aspects of language comprehension and AI. For some aspects see (Ref. 6). Also, plagiarism detection also comes into play: if only copying, abbreviating or things are just formulated a bit differently, the user should not be burdened.

A fully automatic solution for link generation is not in sight here, but always better algorithms to provide suitable examiners with better and better alternatives, to decide acceptance of a link.

Interestingly, algorithms that check numerical data perform surprisingly well. By questioning several databases, one quickly obtains good consensus or not, as can be seen from trivial questions such as “What is France big for?” (Ref. 5).

The detection of fake news is more difficult but at least as important. The report to the European Parliament emphasizes that this can only be tackled if reliable servers are supported by reliable teams of editors (austria-forum.org is the only one mentioned in Austria), where an expert can correct fake news that come from some social network.

NID has a lot more to offer #

For example, you can show two pages of different books on one screen, as shown below. On the left is a page of the German Tesla book, on the right the same page from the English version.
Tesla book
Two pages of different books, side by side

Maybe this feature is also interesting for language lessons or language learning?

One can even place pages form different libraries side by side since NID uses the international IIIF Format like Stanford, Harvard, Cornell, etc.

mixing books
A page from an Austrian library left, a page from a Bavarian library on the right

The NID user interface is can be made available in every language.


  • (1) An Introduction to Interactive Books (Libraries of Interactive Books as Powerful Tool for Information Communication (with Namik Delilovic, Hermann Maurer); Proceedings of ED-Media 2019, AACE (2019), 1353- 1359
  • (2) A Note Concerning Feedback and Queries for Web Pages (Namik Delilovic, Hermann Maurer), Journal of Universal Computer Science, 25, 7 (2019), 733-739.
  • (3) A Critical Discussion of Some Current and Future Developments of IT In: Proceedings of EuroSPI Edinburgh September 19, 2019; Springer Conference Publication, 3- 14) (Namik Delilovic, Hermann Maurer)
  • (4) Investigating the interaction activities in digital libraries: The Networked Interactive Digital Books Project. ( Bilal Zaka, Hermann Maurer, Namik Delilovic), IPSI Transactions on Internet Research, vol. 16, no. 1 (Jan. 2020), 75-82.