Since its incredible rise (and with no fall in sight), Wikipedia has been giving the old-school encyclopedias – the ones that are made from paper – a hard time. Some even say that the online user-edited reference book will eventually rule out the paper version like Brittanica. German publishing giant Bertelsmann now wants to prove those critics wrong by publishing the world’s first reference book based on the work of web volunteers: the Wikipedians.
“The Wikipedia encyclopedia will help allow knowledge to be spread worldwide and become more accessible,” the publishing director at Bertelsmann Lexicon, Beate Varnhorn, said in a statement.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales
“The One-Volume Wikipedia Encyclopedia” will include 50,000 of the most popular search terms of the last two years and will be in stores from September.
According to Varnhorn, “The abridged, one-volume print edition will reach new target groups which will get to know the Wikipedia project and take part in it.” I’m sure this is right, though I doubt whether those groups will have the mind-set that is needed for an user-edited encyclopedia. I mean, it’s one thing Wikipedia is an online medium, but the fact that ordinary people have enough authority for editing a reference book might be a little hard to take for some people.
Anyhow, it’s a charming initiative that explores and broadens the boundaries of publishing. Especially as one euro from every 19,95 euro copy goes to the German chapter of Wikimedia, the non-profit group behind Wikipedia.