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As a grad student who reads lots of papers (with a typical length of 30+ pages), I too have a strong opinion on this. I think PDFs do not serve the needs of the day and such efforts are a step in the right direction.

PDFs okay if you plan to print out the papers to read and are just about bearable if you read the papers on a large monitor. They are quite unfriendly for tablets or smaller laptops -- starting with the multiple vertical columns, which are taller than the screen height. The font size is dictated by the aim of reducing printing costs rather than reading convenience. Just for starters, a "responsive" reader with the ability to resize fonts would make a big difference. Notes/references which appear on the side (rather than the bottom of the page) or links to interactive data (which scientists will have to figure out a good way of using) would drastically improve the reading experience and the efficacy of this mode of scholarly communication.




You mention printing. This is the singular reason why I prefer pdfs myself. PDFs are viewable in the browser and resizeable. They are operating system agnostic. Most importantly, they preserve the formatting that the original author intended.

This is not to say it can't be all done natively in a browser, with resizing based on screen or print resolution. Just that most paper authors will not be savvy enough to do it right. It's enough for them to learn LaTeX properly (the only option for typesetting equations) and I doubt tooling for doing what you suggest will come any time soon.


> PDFs are viewable in the browser and resizeable. They are operating system agnostic. Most importantly, they preserve the formatting that the original author intended.

So are most webpages.

> Just that most paper authors will not be savvy enough to do it right. [...]

I believe this can be done gracefully in a manner where the authors just supply a source file and the software chain will generate the requisite output formats (much like pdflatex or Pandoc do the job today). Scientists should NOT have to muck around with HTML/CSS/JS/etc else the solution would be DOA.


> So are most webpages

View hacker news on multiple browsers and operating systems. It won't look the same. My gmail looks different too. Fonts are different which means the numbers of words per line are different.

> I believe this can be done gracefully in a manner where the authors just supply a source file and the software chain will generate the requisite output formats (much like pdflatex or Pandoc do the job today). Scientists should NOT have to muck around with HTML/CSS/JS/etc else the solution would be DOA.

Agreed but this is much much easier said than done.


PDFs are resizable, but still terrible for viewing on a computer screen, which uses a landscape orientation, whereas papers are printed in portrait orientation. (Sure, some monitors can be rotated, but most can't. A tablet can show stuff in portrait, but not at readable font sizes.)




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