[Irtalk] All In! Embedded Files in PDF/A | The Signal: Digital Preservation

Hilton Gibson hilton.gibson at gmail.com
Thu Jan 2 15:58:29 SAST 2014

PDF/A-3 makes only a single, fairly monumental change. In the PDF/A-2
specification users were allowed to embed files, but only PDF/A files.
PDF/A-3 now allows the embedding of any arbitrary file format, including
XML, CSV, CAD, images and any others.

At first glance this sounds like a gigantic betrayal of everything that the
format has stood for. Why define a subset of PDF attributes to ensure the
long-term comprehension of the file if you’re going to turn around and
allow the kitchen sink to be embedded within it?


​This is very bad news for digital preservation because it is now possible
to "hide" proprietary digital inside the PDF/A digital container. What will
future researchers think when they stumble upon these "hidden" closed
formats that they will not be able to use?​

What were they thinking??
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