Wikipedia in print

German Wikipedia releases print edition

Wikipedianer lead the way in producing offline content

The German Wikipedia continues to forge ahead in releasing offline editions. Building on the success of the CD version of the German Wikipedia released last October by publishers Directmedia Publishing, and an updated and expanded DVD version released at the start of April (see archived story) sold out its initial pressing of 10,000 copies within days of its release. Future releases are planned every six months.

Plans have now been announced for the production of a paper edition (Wikipedia:Wiki Press). Once again, Directmedia will be the publishers. The company, which recently donated images of 10,000 works of art to the Wikimedia Commons (see related story), has until now only been an electronic publisher; the Wikipedia paper edition will be its first foray into traditional publishing.

Initial release of ten volumes

The details of the print edition are still being discussed between the publishers and the German Wikimedia chapter; final arrangements may wait until this fall. At the moment an initial release of 10 volumes is anticipated, each volume covering a particular subject area, with the idea of releasing an increasing number of new volumes each year.

Each volume will have between 128 and 256 pages, and will sell for between 6 and 10 euros. To keep production costs low, volumes will be paperback, with monochrome pages. As with the CD and DVD releases, complete digital versions of all volumes will be made concurrently available for free online.

One euro from each sale of the current DVD goes to the Wikimedia Foundation through Wikimedia Deutschland. It is not yet clear if the same arrangement will apply to the print edition; Directmedia has also proposed that those taking charge of the sifting and editing of articles (dubbed Wikipeditors) might deserve some recompense. Whether this would be in addition to or instead of support for the Foundation has not yet been decided.

Retaining interactivity

The unique ability of readers to edit and improve articles is one of Wikipedia's main assets. The print edition hopes to retain some of this interactivity by including a postcard advising readers that they can visit the website to contribute to the encyclopaedia, or send back suggestions by post, which would then be added to the online entry (subject to being judged plausible).


News of the latest Directmedia endeavor was recently reported on the popular website of German newsportal Heise [1], and posts to Heise's discussion forum revealed a range of reactions to the possibility of a print edition. One poster felt that Wikipedia might not yet be at a high enough standard to justify offline editions, noting that virtually all articles see continuous incremental improvement on the website. Another mentioned environmental concerns in a post entitled To hell with the rainforests!

Many posters expressed their delight at the news, with one saying the print edition would dispense with the need to consult Microsoft Encarta or the Brockhaus encyclopedia, and adding that "Wiki means knowledge for all, not just for the exploitative corporations". Another said "Big praise to Wikipedia... free content will triumph!"

Other print editions

Earlier efforts by German Wikipedians Hartwin Rohde and TomK32 to self-publish WikiReaders, resulting in the first two printed volumes of Wikipedia content (on Sweden and [the] Internet), have not been abandoned. Interested readers will soon be able to purchase two new print editions, about whales and the island nation of Nauru, for 15€ and 9.60€, respectively. Portions of these revenues go either directly to the main authors (the Nauru articles were mostly written by a Swiss student) or to Wikimedia Deutschland. Many people have contributed to further polished WikiReader efforts, resulting in nine total WikiReaders (including one for each of the first two German writing contests). TomK32 also maintains the "WikiReader Digest", a biweekly collection of Wikipedia articles, currently released as a 64-page PDF. Some 1800 interested readers receive email notifications about new issues.

Work has also begun on dictionaries under the same process, newly dubbed WikiDikis. The first dictionary, German <--> Portuguese, was finished two weeks ago under the oversight of Igelball. It is intended as an appendix to WikiReaders on Germany, Portugal, and Brazil.

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