Format Obsolescence: Assessing the Threat and the Defenses. Rosenthal, D. S. H. Library Hi Tech, 28(2):195–210, June, 2010. 2011 Outstanding Paper Award for Library High Tech by Emerald Literati Network
Format Obsolescence: Assessing the Threat and the Defenses [pdf]Paper  doi  abstract   bibtex   
Much of the work in digital preservation has focused on the perceived threat of format obsolescence. The standard approach combines tools to validate formats and collect format metadata, registries preserving format specifications, and format obsolescence notification systems. The idea is that when a format becomes obsolete a notification will be issued, a converter created from the specification in the registry, documents in the format identified by means of the preserved format metadata, and converted using the converter into a not-yet-obsolete format. After a decade and a half of work based on this model it is time to ask these questions: • Are current formats becoming obsolete? • If a current format becomes obsolete, how likely is this approach to succeed in keeping documents readable? • Are there alternative approaches that would cost less and be at least as likely to succeed?

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