The Open-Source Encyclopedia, Now in Hardcover

Need a gift for that open-source enthusiast in your life who happens to have some bookshelf space to fill? A German company called PediaPress has come to the rescue: For a not-unreasonable fee, it will create a book that compiles your favorite Wikipedia articles.

PediaPress has been at this since January, when it started printing volumes drawn from Wikipedia’s German-language edition, but late last month it added to its repertoire six new languages: French, Polish, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, and Simple English (from a version of the encyclopedia written for children and for adults learning English as a second language). Regular English is on its way soon. It’s taking longer to work out the kinks, though, since that encyclopedia is so massive.

Assembling a book is pretty easy: Wikipedia has set up a Web site that lets you drag-and-drop your way through the process. A 100-page book will set you back $8.90 (additional pages cost more), plus shipping, and it’ll be at least halfway handsome — if the photo below, from Wikipedia user He!ko, is any guide.

So the books look perfectly good. But then comes the $64,000 question: Will people really pay for a hardbound copy of something they can view online for free? As like-minded books-on-demand projects such as the Espresso Book Machine have shown, there’s at least some kind of a market for readers of made-to-order books, so it’s not inconceivable that some Wikipedia visitors will order special volumes as gifts or buy texts that they can mark up with marginalia. Wikipedia says the press is doing brisk business: It sold more than 1,000 German-language books in its first month of operations. —Brock Read

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