In preparing some of our forthcoming papers, we’re obviously working on literature reviews. This includes books (which are not available digitally), but also papers (which are available digitally, albeit not freely). For such books, the list of references is on paper, which means that for looking those up, they have to be typed in (e.g. into a Google Scholar search). But even for the papers that are available digitally, we have to do cutting and pasting to locate references (unless the publisher has got ‘cites’/’cited by’ available via their website).
So here’s an example of the ‘second open content freedom’ (see our recent open content article), i.e. technical freedom, which includes file formats.
When publishing a paper or book, it would be great if at least the index, references, and index were available as digital documents (e.g. pdf). Ideally, the references would be available as a references file. Especially for printed books, that would make it a lot more straightforward to look things up.
It’s similar to open data – the references are part of the ‘data’ that goes into a publication, so making the references available digitally is akin to open data.