Re: Alternative formats for IDs
On Monday, January 02, 2006 04:03:54 PM -0500 Marshall Eubanks
It seems that the library community has settled on PDF as its long term
storage choice, and is
moving to standardize this.
From Harvard University's Report to the Digital Library Federation,
October, 2004 :
Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) has become the de-facto standard
for web-based delivery of electronic documents. The International
Organization for Standardization (ISO) has initiated an effort to create
an standard for an archival profile of PDF that is amendable for
long-term preservation. This standard, PDF/A, is intended to provide an
unambiguous definition of the requirements necessary for the reliable
and predictable future rendering of archived PDF documents. The second
draft of the PDF/A standard was released in May 2004 and is currently
undergoing a comment period by experts from the constituent national
bodies of ISO. Stephen Abrams, the LDI Digital Library Program Manager
at Harvard University, is the project leader and document editor for the
ISO PDF/A joint working group.
I think you're drawing too many conclusions from that report.
The report you quoted comes from the newsletter of a small consortium of
libraries focused specifically on "digital library" issues, which largely
(though not entirely) consists of storing, handling, and making available
digital representations of traditional-format works. It _may_ represent
the consensus of that small consortium, but there is no evidence to
indicate that it represents the opinion of librarians at large -- most of
whom have no more expertise than we in the management and storage of data.
Further, the article does not say that the library community or the DLF has
settled on PDF as its long-term storage format, or that it is moving to
standardize it. What it does say is:
- PDF has become the de-facto standard for _delivery_ of documents.
This is arguably true, at least for the sort of documents they're
interested in, and for cases where reproducing the precise appearance
of a document is considered important.
- The ISO (not the library community) has initiated an effort to produce
a standard profile of PDF suitable for archival use (_not_ an effort to
cause any particular community to adopt such a format).
I agree that it is desirable to avoid gratuitously re-inventing the wheel.
I don't think anyone here has suggested developing a new document format at
all, let alone one specifically for IETF documents. Several people have
suggested adopting particular existing formats, but that is not
re-inventing the wheel. And those who have made the "archival format"
argument most strenuously have also argued for retaining the current 7-bit
ASCII format, a wheel which has been around for considerably longer than
The IETF has thrived for many years using a document format which is easy
to produce, view, and edit on virtually any platform, and easy to
distribute via virtually any means. I'm not saying there is no room for
change, but any new format needs to do reasonably well with respect to both
of these properties -- only having one is _not_ sufficient.
Oh, one more thing. The most widely-used archival form in use at libraries
I've visited has been written or printed words on paper. This form has
much going for it -- it can represent any character set humans have ever
used, can contain any diagram, and does not require any special software to
to view or produce. Editing is a bit of a pain, though, and its damned
inconvenient to distribute, so this is probably not the best document
format for the IETF.
But as John points out, it is what most other SDO's have been using.
Sometimes being different doesn't mean you're wrong, just that you're ahead
of your time.
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