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V12 2009 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 14, April 5, 2009, Article 18

THOUGHTS ON ELECTONIC PUBLICATION OF NUMISMATIC INFORMATION

In response to my comments last week, Jon Radel submitted the following thoughts on the electronic publication of numismatic information. -Editor
The wave of electronic publications that rarely see paper is, I agree both inevitable and, on many fronts, beneficial (lower costs, fewer dead trees, less fossil fuels used to move tons of paper from here to there and back again, more portable as electronic book readers improve, etc.). There is at least one massive downside, however, that those of a bibliographic or researcher bent should keep in mind. Most of the electronic publications prepared for ephemeral consumption as hobbyist or trade periodicals, of whatever stripe, are unlikely to be available for long.

The problems are varied, ranging from The E-Sylum depending on a variety "free" resources that aren't under any long-term requirements to keep copies available (the issue I got today already has one photo about which Flickr has only "THIS PHOTO IS CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE" to say, and that type of "bitrot" doesn't improve with time), to proprietary formats that deliberately make it hard for readers to save a complete issue.

Yes, your paper copy of Coin World will go downhill quickly if you leave it in the sun and there are some books printed on cheap paper which are turning into dust, but even with those the survival rate in the hands of anybody with the slightest motivation to maintain their library will exceed what happens when Amos Publishing decides, say in 5 years, that a new proprietary format and online reader are the way to go and after a 3-month grace period they're going to discard the old archives. Even if you do find somebody who jumped through all the hoops to somehow save a decent replica, you'll probably find that there are legal issues with gaining access to it.

There are certainly efforts to address this effect, see for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PDF/A about PDF/A, a subset of PDF with a tight definition in an ISO standard, specifically designed to be supported for the very long term.

Unfortunately, I doubt these efforts are of much concern to those who must worry about this week's advertising revenue, how much copy they have for next week's issue, and what that worrisome trend in subscriber count really means. Whether your issues are still available in 30 years has, I suspect, very little commercial value, but possibly immense value to the historian.

Well said. Dave Bowers and others have mentioned this problem as well. We at NBS at least archive the text and HTML on our own web site. This is the first I've heard of a Flickr image being unavailable and hope this was a temporary phenomenon. -Editor




Wayne Homren, Editor

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