Excuse Me, Could I Interest You In A Thousand-Volume Set Of Encyclopedias?

from the an-idea-whose-time-has-come-(again) dept

It's hard to believe that it was only two years ago that Techdirt reported that Encyclopaedia Britannica had stopped publishing its printed version after a run of 244 years; it seems like a report from another time. The idea of printing 32 volumes that supposedly summarize most of the key ideas of human civilization is plainly absurd. Obviously, you would need far more than 32 -- around a thousand, perhaps:
We all know that Wikipedia is huge. The English version alone consists of more than 4 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.

In order to do this, we plan to print the complete English Wikipedia in 1,000 books and display them at a public exhibition.

...

All volumes will have continuous page numbers, so the last article could as well be on page number 1,193,014.
That's taken from an Indiegogo project page set up by the team of developers who work on the open source book tool for Wikipedia at PediaPress, which has created thousands of books from Wikipedia content. Here's how it will be done:
Until a few years ago, such a project would have been impossible. Thanks to advances in computing power, internet bandwidth, open source software and print on demand technologies, today we can programmatically transform content from Wikipedia into printable PDFs. The challenge will be to scale and refine our existing technologies to handle the size and diversity of the complete Wikipedia. Every article - including images - needs to be aggregated and preprocessed. Afterwards, the content will be rendered automatically in a three column layout and distributed across multiple volumes. (Kudos to our friends at YesLogic for contributing their awesome Prince renderer.)

The final layout files will be uploaded to the printing facility where 1,000 unique hardcover books will be printed onto more than 600,000 sheets of paper, manually bound, and prepared for shipping. The books will be transported to the exhibition on three fully packed cargo pallets. After the exhibition the books will need to be repackaged again for transportation to the next venue.
Assuming the Indiegogo project reaches its target (at the time of writing it's raised around 20%), the exhibition will be a powerful reminder of the extraordinary achievement of Wikipedia -- and this is just the English-language version. There are many other languages that have comprehensive Wikipedia holdings, as well as hundreds of smaller ones. The conceptual juxtaposition of these thousand tomes with the 32 of Encyclopaedia Britannica's last printed version is a reminder of how open, collaborative creation can scale in a way that is simply not possible with traditional, top-down approaches.

Wikipedia is inherently digital in nature -- it would not have been possible to create it in any other form. And yet I suspect that there will be some people attracted by the idea of acquiring a printed version once they are confronted with the massive physical presence of those thousand volumes of knowledge, just as previous generations were when Encyclopaedia Britannica representatives came calling with their wares. Of course, door-to-door sales might be a problem for the Indiegogo incarnation...

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Violynne (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 3:28am

    Sure, but can Wikipedia prop up a table? What about using it for shelving?

    Mock EB all you want, but those books had purpose outside their original design.

    >:]

     

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  2.  
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    miatajim (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 4:29am

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 5:10am

    I wish the article said how long the whole process of printing would take. Then the could calculate how many new pages in supplements they would need, representing just new pages on Wikipedia, that were created during the printing process.
    That is the true miracle of wikipedia. It is forever up to date.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Ben (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 5:24am

    Re:

    https://what-if.xkcd.com/59/
    Thanks. You just made me "waste" an hour (happens every time I get on to xkcd's site).

    Please: have some compassion and think twice before linking there in the future...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 5:35am

    Obligatory picture

    Just for fun, someone printed 0.01% of Wikipedia as a single book. There are a couple of pictures here (found with a quick Google search, not sure if that's the original source).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 5:44am

    Great way to waste paper...

    ...for a cheap publicity stunt. Really, this is the best they could come up with?

     

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  7.  
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    FarSide (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 6:06am

    Re: Great way to waste paper...

    In the grand scheme of things, 1000 books isn't really that many.

    The shit in a college bookstore that gets re-purchased every year because the previous year's edition had a typo is by FAR a bigger waste of money and paper.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 6:15am

    Think of the Trees .. The Trees

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 6:18am

    Re:

    A door stop ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 6:20am

    Back in the olden days when you wanted to look smart you had an encyclopedia set on a shelf where everyone can see it. Now a days you can fit all that on your tablet. So now if you want to look smart what do you have to show for it ...

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 6:24am

    Of course, by the time they finish printing it it will be out of date.

     

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  12.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 6:25am

    "Until a few years ago, such a project would have been impossible. Thanks to advances in computing power, internet bandwidth, open source software and print on demand technologies, today we can programmatically transform content from Wikipedia into printable PDFs."

    Ctrl+P

     

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  13.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 6:37am

    Re:

    Back in the olden days when you wanted to look smart you had an encyclopedia set on a shelf where everyone can see it. Now a days you can fit all that on your tablet. So now if you want to look smart what do you have to show for it ...


    Not walking into a water fountain or into traffic while reading that encyclopedia on your tablet is a start....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 7:10am

    Re: Re:

    No one ever read those things, they just had them sitting on the shelves to look smart

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 8:06am

    I would have thought it'd take more than 1000 volumes.

     

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  16.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 8:19am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I read them. Voraciously.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 8:22am

    Re:

    That depends on page size and printing, a volume could be 1,000 plus pages of A3 (twice letter size) printed in 6 point type (smaller than the small print of a contract).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Loki, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 9:19am

    Re:

    Yes, but did it have the words "DON'T PANIC" in large friendly letters on the cover?

     

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  19.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 9:26am

    Re: Obligatory picture

    I suspect a good layout designer could cut that book size in half.

     

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  20.  
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    nasch (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 10:21am

    Re:

    Think of the Trees .. The Trees

    If you want there to be more trees, encourage the use of paper. The more paper we use, the more trees will be needed, so the more trees will be grown.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Mason Wheeler (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 10:52am

    Foundation

    Asimov postulated that it would take a team of scholars a thousand years to aggregate the sum of human knowledge into a great encyclopedia.

    By enlisting all of humanity as a volunteer contributor force, it's taken us about a decade.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 11:01am

    Re: Foundation

    Knowledge is an ever growing and changing animal , the world and humanity forgets more than it remembers.



    how shall we store/ship these massive sized contributions to humanity , and what warehouse could hold just 10000 complete copies.

     

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  23.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 11:09am

    Re: Re: Great way to waste paper...

    even further, not just colleges, but ALL schools: the textbook publishers have a gigantic scam (did someone say *cough*gatekeepers*cough* ?) where they change trivial shit in textbooks meant to be used year-after-year, so -in effect- you *can't* use them, you are FORCED to buy the 'newest edition' this year, cause they changed a comma on page 247...

    it has NOTHING to do with updating actual content, it is ALL about forcing schools to buy new books nearly every year, EVEN ON SUBJECTS which are sufficiently 'fixed' or narrow enough that the books could be used for decades...

    my better half (a teacher: if any of you reichwing pukes or childish libertarians want to go on a teacher-bashing binge, drop me a line so i can re-educate your idiot butts on what the real story is, art guerrilla at windstream dot net), tells me all kinds of stories about how they are PREVENTED from re-using PERFECTLY GOOD BOOKS, in all kinds of ways: they will change the order of the same questions/answers in the teacher's edition so it is impractical to use them from year-to-year; they will change the order of chapters or pagination simply to make re-using old books with 'new' study guides, not to mention the publishers have onerous contracts where you can't 'legally' re-use books, study guides, and other training materials associated with the books...

    guess what ? ? ?
    this has FUCKALL to do with 'helping the chilluns'; it is ALL ABOUT RIPPING US ALL OFF by a captive market that is corrupt from top to bottom...

    SNAFU is the new norm...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Great way to waste paper...

    oh, one other point that has been discussed here a number of times:
    thinking that tablets/ereaders might be a good alternative to these scamming publishers, there is just one problem: they are controlling the etextbooks too, and have even WORSE ripoff pricing on them: FULL hardcopy price (SOMETIMES PLUS!) for EVERY COPY...
    textbook publishers are slime...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 11:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Great way to waste paper...

    Though I'm guessing the answer will be 'because greed and corruption', wouldn't it just be cheaper to buy up a given year's stuff(student books, teachers manuals, all of that), and then just keep using it?

    For that given year's books at least, things would match up, so it wouldn't matter if they changed things in later 'editions', the books you had currently would still match, and could therefor be used.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 11:56am

    Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 3:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Great way to waste paper...

    and even even further is what happens to books not purchased. They are destroyed by ripping apart. Woe betide anyone who suggests they be donated.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
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    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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