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Ambitious project seeks to convert Wikipedia into 1,000 books with 1,200 pages each

By Alison Flood, The Guardian
Thursday, February 20, 2014 13:54 EDT
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Wikipedia, one of the world's biggest websites, is losing many of its English-language editors, crippling its ability to keep pace with its mission as a source of knowledge online, a study says. Image AFP
 
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It would run to over a million pages, featuring more than four million articles by 20 million volunteers: an “record-breaking” new project to turn Wikipedia into 1,000 books has just launched on Indiegogo.

Conceived by the team who work on the open source book tool for Wikipedia at publisher PediaPress, the Indiegogo fundraiser is looking to raise $50,000 (£30,000) to bring Wikipedia into print. “We all know that Wikipedia is huge. The English version alone consists of more than four million articles. But can you imagine how large Wikipedia really is? We think that the best way to experience the size of Wikipedia is by transforming it into the physical medium of books,” they write. “Containing the most volumes and edited by the largest number of contributors the printed edition will be a work of record-breaking dimensions. Furthermore the exhibit aims to honour the countless volunteers who have created this fascinating trove of knowledge in little more than 10 years.”

The team, PediaPress’s Heiko Hees, Christoph Kepper and Alex Boerger, believe the complete English Wikipedia would fit into approximately 1,000 books, with 1,200 pages each. “All volumes will have continuous page numbers, so the last article could as well be on page number 1,193,014,” they say. The text, which will include images, will be laid out in three columns across 600,000-odd sheets of paper, which will be “FSC-certified paper that comes from sustainable forestry”, they said.

They envisage the books fitting on a 10m-long book case, which they would hope to display at the Wikimania conference in London this August, alongside “live updates [printed] on continuous paper” to show the update frequency of the website, as “obviously a printed Wikipedia will be outdated within seconds”.

Then, if enough money is raised, they hope to send the exhibition on an international tour, before donating it to a large public library. “To later generations this might be a period piece from the beginning of the digital revolution,” they say.

“The most important reason for starting the project now was that we wanted to show the quantity of information,” said Kepper. “Over the last 10 to 15 years a glacial change has occurred and we have become so used to very large data sources on the internet that their true size seems surprising and unexpected. We are at the crossroads between the Gutenberg age and the information age. We all grew up with books and know this medium very well, but today we are dealing with so much information that books become less and less useful for us. For our kids, the situation might be totally different and the idea of printing something into a book might seem totally absurd.”

So far, they have raised just over $2,000 of their $50,000 goal, but the project has 52 days yet to run, and while saying that there is “something strikingly counterintuitive about the whole project … and with the divide between print and digital widening, the value of such an exercise should be questioned” Wired magazine points out that “Wikipedia does have a huge community that might see the project receive significant support”.

“The Wikipedia community is enormous and tight-knit, so don’t be shocked if the campaign is successful eventually,” said Crowdfund Insider.

“After the first eight days (16%) of our 60-day funding campaign, we reached only 4% of our funding goal,” said Kepper. “Maybe we are already further into the information age than we thought, but we still feel pretty confident that our campaign will find enough supporters.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2014

 
 
 
 
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