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Re: Perpetual Access

Peter Boyce, Pete Goldie and others have expressed their opinions recently
on the distinction between "true" electronic journals and the facsimile
representation of pages, such as that provided by the Adobe Acrobat PDF
format. There seems to be an assumption in these remarks that the
"facsimile representations" (such as PDF) are at best inferior and at
worst a nefarious mis-representation by the vendor inhibiting true
e-journal progress. I do not agree. 

This perspective comes from such characterizations as "true electronic
journals" (versus the false ones, I assume) and that other representations
are "SIMPLY electronic delivery of page images" (my emphasis). Mr. Goldie
warns of "short-term expeditious e-pub solutions." I agree with the
distinctions that have been made between these different type of
representations, but I think PDF type resources provide -- and will
continue to provide -- a very useful base of communication and format.

I do not think that to be considered a "true" e-journal a publication must
have "links to referenced and citations and other data," integration of
multimedia and dynamic interaction with the reader. The PDF type of
representation is a bridging kind of strategy between the very strong
advantages of the print world and format with the very strong advantages
of the electronic world and format. The two representations are not
exclusive and to call one a "true" e-journal and the other "short-term
expeditious e-pub solutions offered by publishers" is short-sighted and
electronically provincial, in my opinion. 

Whether or not PDF representation moves from a bridging strategy to a
*transitional* one is a more interesting discussion. I tend to think it
will not because I think there will always be useful print publications
where the electronic format will be secondary (or even unavailable). For
the applications and many others (such as the archival representation of
older print resources) I think there will always be a useful role and
value for a PDF type of representation. 

An even more interesting notion is whether or not we will ever reach the
point where the electronic format is so central and ubiquitous that we
find it necessary to develop PDF in reverse -- one that will produce a
"true"  print publication from an electronic one where it is required for
some reason. Such a format would be more than just a simple printing of
the electronic from a browser but would supplement and include print type
formatting and page breaks as well as the printing of HTML links for later
reference and use online, etc.

Final thought: the issue reminds of the wails and warnings that Nicholas
Negroponte used to express (and, I assume still does) about the
destructive rise of the fax machine and its pernicious assault on the
future progress of the digitization of all things. The value and the goal
is not some strict adherence to digital processes; the value and goal is
effective and efficient communication between people and organizations.
Fax machines do this remarkably well in many situations; the PDF format
does this remarkably well in many situations. That "true" digitization has
advantages over a fax image (or a PDF image) may be true. But its value
must be considered in its effectiveness and its application; its value is
NOT its inate electronicness... 

(While I may disagree with them, my thanks to Mr. Boyce and Mr. Goldie for
their comments. These are interesting issues to think about and discuss.) 

David Carlson
Director of Libraries
Bridgewater State College  Bridgewater, MA 02325
V: 508/697-1256  Fax: 508/697-1349
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