The digital future of standards – What is Standards New Zealand doing about it?

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Part of Standards New Zealand’s transformation programme has focused on new digital formats for standards. We currently print hard copy publications and supply the same documents digitally as PDFs. Both of these publication types have their use, but with more people reading from different screen sizes (such as phones), something else is needed. The main questions have been:

  • Do we need new formats for standards? If so which ones?
  • What work is involved to produce new formats?
  • What appetite is there for new formats among standards users?

International models: online standards and ebooks

There are a few models we can follow from other standards organisations. ISO worked hard over a number of years to set up their online browsing platform (OBF). All ISO publications are available on this platform to be read as web pages, with the associated navigation menus and search capabilities. New standards are created to work on the platform as part of the publishing process, and all previously published standards have been converted to work online.

Have a look at ISO 9001 on the OBF.

The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) sells their standards as ebooks. CSA has an ebook application that can be downloaded by standards users to read their publications. Ebooks have the advantage of working offline and are designed to be easily read on screens of different sizes.

The other model employed by a variety of different publishers around the world is to have multiple format types that can be generated from one base master file. From the master file an ebook, a web page, a PDF, or a DAISY file of navigable audio content (and many other file types) can be generated with a click.

What have Standards New Zealand been doing?

Standards New Zealand have been working on two fronts. We have put in place a plan to convert our standards into a master file format that can generate whatever digital formats we choose to publish in the future. We have also been testing the two main alternative file formats – ebooks and web pages – with standards users. Once we have taken in all the feedback and usage data from these pilot standards, we will make some decisions on what path we follow.

We have published a web version and an ebook of NZS 4514:2009 Interconnected smoke alarms for houses, which is currently sponsored by the building regulator to be available to view online at no charge. They are not the most sophisticated versions of these formats, but give a good indication of what the experience would be like.

Have a look at the two pilot formats of NZS 4514.

New ebook for electrical workers

We have also just published an electrical standard as an ebook and would like your feedback. The ebook version of AS/NZS 3019:2007 Electrical installations – Periodic verification is only accessible via the Electrical Workers Registration Board’s standards subscription. The good news is that all licensed electrical workers have access.

See the announcement in the Electron newsletter for how to access the ebook and how to provide feedback.

What about apps?

Standards New Zealand is also open to licensing content to third parties to develop apps that add value to users of a particular standard. See our website for how to express interest.

Published in business and ICT.