PLOS: Ten simple rules for collaboratively writing a multi-authored paper (5) PDF files

6 December, 2018

Hi Pam,

I think there is an ethical issue involved in dumping big Acrobat files on the internet - it essentially means, "This is for those with high bandwidth only".

In many countries, bandwidth is either simply not available, or very expensive, and Acrobat requires bandwidth. A characteristic of Acrobat is that you have to download the whole Acrobat file and open it just to see what is inside it. You should always be aware of this when producing documents with a target audience in developing countries. However nicely the file looks and prints in Acrobat, you should always also provide an HTML version - as a web page which opens quickly and using minimum bandwidth.

We followed this principle in producing the African Health Monitor, the quarterly journal issued by WHO's African Regional Office. Between 2008 and 2012, we produced both Acrobat and HTML versions - onerous and time-and-money-consuming as this was (it requires two separate production processes). I don't know if they are still doing this.

As a corollary, Acrobat actually has an excellent indexing function - you can make an index of a library of Acrobat files, an index which is small and searchable, so people can at least see if the information they are looking for is in your pdf library before going through the time and expense of opening a given Acrobat file. Unfortunately, few people seem aware of or use this indexing function.

Please get in touch if you need further input.



Chris Zielinski

Blogs: and

Research publications:

HIFA profile: Chris Zielinski: As a Visiting Fellow in the Centre for Global Health, Chris leads the Partnerships in Health Information (Phi) programme at the University of Winchester. Formerly an NGO, Phi supports knowledge development and brokers healthcare information exchanges of all kinds. Chris has held senior positions in publishing and knowledge management with WHO in Brazzaville, Geneva, Cairo and New Delhi, with FAO in Rome, ILO in Geneva, and UNIDO in Vienna. Chris also spent three years in London as Chief Executive of the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society. He was the founder of the ExtraMED project (Third World biomedical journals on CD-ROM), and managed the Gates Foundation-supported Health Information Resource Centres project. He served on WHO’s Ethical Review Committee, and was an originator of the African Health Observatory. Chris has been a director of the World Association of Medical Editors, UK Copyright Licensing Agency, Educational Recording Agency, and International Association of Audiovisual Writers and Directors. He has served on the boards of several NGOs and ethics groupings (information and computer ethics and bioethics). UK-based, he is also building houses in Zambia. chris AT

His publications are at and and his blogs are and