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March 20, 2017

Four years later, PDF is not dead

This post is part of Scriptorium’s 20th anniversary celebration.

In 2013, I wrote that PDF is not dead. Four years later, it’s still too early to write the obituary.

Do PDF files work well on phones and tablets? Nope, but PDF files still have their uses (and even a fan base), so we can’t just stop providing them:

You can’t force your customers to happily rely on new output formats when you’ve supplied just PDF content for the past umpteen releases. This is particularly true if contracts or industry regulations specify how you provide content. If you have a legal requirement to offer PDF, print, or some other format, it doesn’t matter that your HTML pages are searchable or that the EPUB version works well on a tablet. The HTML and EPUB don’t fulfill your obligations.

gravestone with statue coming out of grave

Flickr: Adam

The distribution format really isn’t the point, is it? Business requirements and customer needs should dictate how companies distribute content. The PDF is an easy target because it’s been around a long time and doesn’t have the pizzazz of other formats.

Maybe we will have the same conversation about web pages in 20 years!

PS: There are many great comments in the original post. I have always appreciated the intelligent (and hilarious) commentary on our blog over the years.