We all know and love Wikpedia as the one stop shop for random knowledge on the web. From their actual website to their offshoot apps, you can find virtually everything you want to know, and some unexpected things. (Imagine a search for a particular type of wine turning into a 15th century history lesson on an obscure region in France.) But you'd probably not expect to see the information physically printed, right?
Think again! PediaPress, a company specializing in printing customized books from Wikipedia content, wants to print out the entire English language content on the site. We'll delve a little bit more into the project itself, and why PediaPress wants to embark on such an ambitious, print-focused undertaking in this smartphone age.
The Nitty Gritty
Dubbed The Wikipedia Books Project, PediaPress is holding an Indiegogo fundraiser to help offset the costs of printing. The project is quite ambitious in scope: to print all of the English language content, it will require 1,000 volumes that are roughly 1,200 pages each. That's 1.2 million pages or, if you imagine a standard novel as being 260 pages, that's over 4,600 novels. Imagine the amount of space this would take up!
All of the books will be hardcover, and printed in grayscale, though one of the "stretch" goals for the project is to print in color, if they are more successful than expected. The idea is to present all of the books at the annual Wikimania Conference, which will be held in London in 2014. If there is enough interest, they'd like to tour to other cities, though they ultimately expect the volumes will be donated to a large public library. As they say, "To later generations this might be a period piece from the beginning of the digital revolution."
Some Tech Specs
We won't bore you with very specific technical details, but we wanted to provide some insight into why this project is possible only now. Digital technology, PediaPress explains, should not be seen as an enemy of printing; instead, it's a way to help make new methods of printing possible.
Because all of the webpage content must be converted into PDF files, they are relying on processing software that will translate and reprocess the data into this printable layout to create consistently styled content. Because the database from Wikipedia is so large, this software enables faster processing of the information so that it will be ready in time for the August Wikimania conference.
After all of the pages of the book are rendered into these PDF files, they can be easily transferred to the printer so the books can be printed. They will eschew any fancy technology to hand bind all of the volumes for durability sake.
Though PediaPress acknowledges their content will be outdated within seconds, they also see the value in having a physical reminder of the digital age we live in 2014. Share your own thoughts about the project in the comments section below, or let us know any questions you might have.