Last year, the German Wikipedia was printed. Now, many Wikipedias worldwide – including the English Wikipedia – has given people the opportunity to compile a book of Wikipedia articles which can then be professionally printed or exported as a PDF or OpenDocument.
Wikipedia has enabled the 'Book' extension to MediaWiki, the content management system it utilises. This adds a 'add page' link to every page, allowing users to compile a book. This book can then be sorted by the user into chapters. Afterwards, it can be shared with other Wikipedians. Currently, only logged-in users can utilise this tool.
Wikipedia has a built-in rendering engine which will grabs the pages, fetches the images and parses them before they are given to the user as a PDF or OpenDocument text. The user can also use PediaPress to have the book professionally bound and printed.
The 'Book' extension has a number of features for 'expert' users. For example, the user can elect to only include a certain version of an article. This could pose useful if the article being covered has reached 'Featured' or 'Good' quality, as they are sure information in the version which reached that standard is reliable and accurate.
Books can be made on any topic, or combinations of topics, on Wikipedia (or other projects with have enabled this extension, such as Wikibooks). There are some restrictions on what can be printed, as PediaPress are based in Germany so German law applies.
It is an amazing display of quite how big Wikipedia is. I made a book about the European Union, comprising about 45 articles, and when I sent it to PediaPress, it totalled a massive 2444 pages (3 volumes!). I shan't be buying this, as it will cost me about €80! Prices for smaller books start at $8.90 for 100 pages. A fraction of this is donated to the Wikimedia Foundation. These books are black and white and measure 8″ x 5.5″ (about 20cmx14cm).
The books (from the preview I've seen) and the PDFs are well laid out. The PDFs are all selectable and are easy to navigate. It also contains links to the images' pages. Amusingly, to maintain GFDL compatibility every editor to the article has to be mentioned! I, for example, are credited for writing a minute amount of the article on the Czech Republic.
I question how popular this will be though; as convenient as books may be, I would imagine institutions like schools would rather buy published textbooks than volunteer made ones.
It is worth emphasising that Wikibooks contains resources written as textbook entries, rather than articles. Perhaps that will be a practical application of PediaPress and this new move.
TechCrunch has also covered this story, but I simply found it through browsing Wikipedia!
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