The PDF Plague

There have been a half-dozen stories in the past few weeks that looked interesting, but didn’t even make it into the Links Dump for the day. Why not? Because the stories or studies were only available as PDF files.

I have no idea if this is actually getting worse, but I’m finding this more irritating than ever. It’s particularly annoying as there’s usually no good reason for presenting the information in question in PDF form– you could perfectly well present it as an easily linkable and quotable HTML page. Take, for example, this NEA report on the arts— the one-paragraph note on Inside Higher Ed is more useful than the official page for the survey itself. Or there’s the charter school study that Kevin Drum talked about— again, there’s no way to get even a short summary of the results without downloading a PDF file.

Just to piss Mike Kozlowski off, I’m going to blame this on Microsoft, for making Internet Explorer render HTML differently than every other browser on the planet. As a result, the only way to know that the formatting of a given document will show up correctly is to make it a PDF, because Microsoft hasn’t yet found a way to screw those up.

Whoever’s really responsible, though, this needs to stop. If you want your work to be talked about on the Internet, stop putting barriers in the way of people who would like to talk about it on the Internet. HTML, not PDF. And for the love of God, stop it with the Flash presentations, already.