Pay-to-read standards are standards produced by standards bodies who charge money to read the standards documents, even on their website.
- ISO, the International Organization for Standardization. They charge 158 CHF (around $175 USD as of 2014-07) to download a PDF copy of each of their standards.
- BSI, the organisation responsible for British Standards. The cost of BSI PDF downloads varies but can be as much as £100 ($170 USD as of 2014-07)
- to be expanded
The alternative to pay-to-read standards is free-to-read standards. IETF RFCs and standards from W3C and OASIS are free-to-read, as are standards published by WHAT WG and microformats.org.
Even better than just free-to-read is free-to-reuse, releasing the result under a free license like Creative Commons Attribution or Attribution-ShareAlike, or even better releasing the standard into the public domain (with CC0 fallback). This means other people can share, translate, copy and reuse the standard without legal worry.
The point of a legitimate standards document is so that people can implement the standard: any barrier to them doing so (whether legal, financial or otherwise) may prompt particularly cynical people to question whether the standards body is working for the greater good of society.