Monday, February 25, 2013

The Stationery Office launches an iPad app for Hansard, printed transcripts of parliamentary debates

The Stationery Office has launched its first iPad app today into Apple's Newsstand. Hansard (Official Reports) is a simple tablet app that delivers digital copies of the transcripts of parliamentary debates for the House of Commons, House of Lords and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Stationery Office (TSO) is the publishing company established in 1996 when the UK privatized Her Majesty's Stationery Office. It is, as you would expect, the official publisher of many government documents including legislation, committee reports, as well as the London, Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes – and, of course, Hansard.
 photo Hansard-store-sm_zpsa0f1c8a1.gif
Hansard is so named because it was Thomas Curson Hansard that began printing the transcribed debates beginning in 1809. Ibn 1812 Hansard bought the business from the publisher and from 1829 the Hansard name began appearing on the reports. Initially the report of the debates were not literal transcriptions of the debates, but more reports of the debates from various sources. This is true, to a certain degree, even today.

For U.S. readers, one might consider Hansard as sort of like the Congressional Record as MPs are allowed to revise their comments.

The tablet app, as you might expect, simply makes these parliamentary reports available in a simple format. But there are added features here that makes reading the reports a good experience on the iPad. There are icons for pulling up a summary, font size adjustments, sharing of contents through email or social media, and search.

Although the app description does not mention it, there is a price for individual reports and to subscribe to the reports: Northern Ireland Assembly $28.99 for a year's subscription, or $2.99 per report, House of Commons and House of Lords $42.99 for a year's subscription.

Why the app description does not mention the in-app purchase prices is a bit of a mystery, as I would think this is not consistent with Apple's developer rules. Maybe this will be revised, but because of the lack of pricing in the app description I do not know the price of Hansard in pounds – if you like in the UK you'll have to download the app yourself (sorry about that!).