Paper or Online? GPO Pushes Electronic Docs

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As part of an effort to reduce costs, the Government Printing Office is asking congressional offices to cancel print subscriptions to many documents, including the Congressional Record, the Congressional Record Index, the Federal Register, and the Federal Register Index. All of these documents are available online from GPO, but by law are provided in hardcopy to member and committee offices unless they opt-out. GPO is also allowing committees to opt-out of receiving the Code of Federal Regulations.

Moving to an electronic format can result in significant savings, according to a Committee on House Administration hearing held in June. Over time, other print documents could be added.

The increasing use of electronic congressional documents could inspire innovations to allow users to customize how, when, and in what format they receive this information. The end result could be a virtuous cycle of saving GPO printing costs, saving staff time, and increasing public access to legislative information. Of course, Congress has to be careful to preserve copies of its documents for archival purposes.

The changeover to electronic dissemination could be accelerated if the House version of the FY 2012 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill becomes law. It included an amendment that would change the presumption to electronic-only distribution of the Congressional Record unless specifically requested by a particular office.

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