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Paper 97103:
The Role of Electronic Distribution and Publishing in the Development of International Standards

id 97103
authors Ellis, T.M. R.
year 1997
title The Role of Electronic Distribution and Publishing in the Development of International Standards
source Electronic Publishing '97 - New Models and Opportunities: Proceedings of an ICCC/IFIP conference held at the University of Kent, Kenterbury, UK, April 14-16 1997/ Edited by Fytton Rowland and Jack Meadows / ISBN 1-891365-00-2
summary The production of International Standards traditionally involves the distribution of substantial numbers of documents to individuals in many countries for use between and during meetings. The advent of easy electronic communication has opened up the possibility of dramatically reducing the cost of document distribution, while simultaneously enabling information to be distributed considerably more quickly. On the other hand the use of electronic distribution carries several dangers, notably those concerned with copyright and equality of treatment for participants in all countries. A further matter of concern is how the electronic version used for distribution is related to the printed versions distributed for international balloting and eventual publication as International standards. Although many of the initiatives have come from the Working Group level, the whole question of electronic distribution has become a major topic of interest and concern at the highest levels of ISO. This has led to considerable tension between those at the two extremes of the process, with regard both to policy and to the technical approaches to be used, as regards both the format of documents and the distribution media. This paper is based, primarily, on the author's experience as Convenor of ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC22/WGS - the Fortran programming language working group - as the group has moved over a two-year period from a paper-based document distribution system, with electronic mail as an informal communication medium, to its current system of all-electronic information distribution and publication utilising email, ftp and the World Wide Web in almost equal proportions. In common with all other programming standardisation committees, WG5 has rejected the use of diskettes for distribution, despite this being ISO's preferred medium! Initially, documents distributed via an official file server were stored in WordPerfect, Rich Text Format (rtf), and PostScript in accordance with ISO recommendations. However, it very quickly became apparent that this was unsatisfactory and that only the PostScript version stood any chance of being reproduced by recipients so as to provide them with a more-or-less identical copy of the original document. This was particularly true of documents containing graphical images, but was also the case with plain text documents. Further experiments resulted in the current pattern of PostScript, Acrobat (pdf) and, in most cases, ASCII - the latter primarily for the benefit of those whowish to produce their own documents incorporating extracts form other documents. Mother approach which is finding favour in some areas of International Standards community is the use of HTML for document distribution. This obviously has the advantage that documents can be published on the Web in the same way they are distributed by other means. On the other hand it does provide considerably less detailed control over the layout than is possible with PostScript or pdf, and is not so readily converted into the final document for publication. The paper discusses the relative advantages of (ASCII) text, PostScript, pdf and HTML for widespread document distribution/publication methods. The process of moving from a working (electronic) document to a final published (paper) standard is also discussed as part of this comparison. Finally consideration is given to the social, legal and economic effects of the move from paper to electronic distribution, with particular reference to copyright issues and the effect on the future involvement in standardisation of individuals from less electronically and/or financially well-endowed nations.
series ELPUB:1997
email Miles.Ellis@etrc.ox.ac.uk
content file.pdf (1,153,873 bytes)
discussion No discussions. Post discussion ...
urn:nbn urn:nbn:se:elpub-97103
last changed 2003/08/12 12:27
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