Encyclopedias have long been the bastions of human knowledge that we turn to in our time of academic need. Before Wikipedia, if you wanted to use an encyclopedia, you had to be a full set of around 20 or so big books filled with information. But, since Wikipedia’s inception in 2001, more people have gotten their information from the convenient online resource than from anywhere else. Gigantic printed volumes of work ceased to become necessary or even relevant as accessing free and generally reliable information was obviously the best option for most people.
All that being said, it appears as if Wikipedia itself could become one of those gigantic printed volumes of work in the near future. The “Wikipedia Book Project” has started a crowd-funding campaign on Indeigogo to turn Wikipedia into a 1,000-volume compendium with just under 1.2 million total pages. The project is seeking $50,000 to be able to print Wikipedia in its current entirety. This is certainly an ambitious project but one that will allow folks to see the sheer size of Wikipedia in a truly physical sense. The 1,000-book set will have to be transported around on pallets before it finds a home on what must be an incredibly long library shelf.
The Reason behind Printed Wikipedia
For most people, the value of a printed version of Wikipedia will be negligible. In a utilitarian sense, there’s really no reason to use a printed version of the online encyclopedia, largely because the online version is much more convenient. It must also be understood that the online version is constantly changing. It is a very malleable medium that a print version really can’t compare to. So, what’s the point behind all of this?
According to a spokesperson for the project, the printed Wikipedia compendium is meant more as an art project than it is a useful resource. Only one version of the current Wikipedia will be printed, so it’s not as if these sets are going to be available for sale or individual use. Initially, the books will be displayed at the annual “Wikimania Conference” that will be held in August 2014 at London’s Barbican Centre. At the Wikimania Conference, the group also wants to have a “live ticker” of sorts that prints out live updates of Wikipedia as they happen.
All of this is to really help us visualize the size and scale of Wikipedia. It’s also a way to effectively pass on our knowledge of categorizing and storing digital information so that future generations can see just how we operated. Obviously, it’s unclear if Wikipedia will even exist in the future and it may be interesting for digital historians 100 years from now to see how we stored our digital media. In general, though, it’s a fascinating look at one of humanity’s most important collections of knowledge.
If the project gains enough traction (and funding) at the Wikimania Conference, then it may go on a worldwide exhibition tour in late 2014 or early 2015. The final resting place of the printed version of Wikipedia will likely be a public library. As of this writing, the Wikipedia Book Project has only about $2,100 of the required $50,000 for publication. So, it’s certainly not set in stone that the printed version will become reality. That being said, there are still 50 days to go, and, if we’ve learned anything about digital media, it’s that things like this can spread like wildfire in no time.
William Ecksel is a senior editor at IndustryNewsCorp. He writes about numerous topics including sports, business, news, and anything else he finds interesting.