Back to School: A Wikipedia Book To Start The Academic Year

As winter settles in and students slowly take their place back on the seats of universities and schools, I thought it'd be interesting to look at the initiatives that would make good books with good Wikipedia content.

On the topic of improving the quality of Wikipedia, there are quite a number of initiatives started at the school or university level, most of them destined to enrich the Encyclopedia on specific topics. The idea to have students add to Wikipedia under the supervision of their teacher is not exactly new; but it takes different turns every time. I remember the first project I was made aware of, five years ago, on the French Wikipedia. Jean-Noël Lafargue, a professor at the University of Paris VIII, started a workshop in which the students were graded on their contributions to the French Wikipedia in the realm of Contemporary Art (digital arts, but also architecture, art history, cinema etc.). The idea of the project was mainly to make sure that the section about contemporary art grew under supervision and motivation. Such projects are actually much more numerous than one thinks, and the last one I was made aware of had an extremely interesting focus, namely the goal to make Chemistry concepts on the English Wikipedia more accessible to the layman. This was a project conducted by Anne McNeil, a professor at the University of Michigan.

One of the first questions that comes to mind when putting Wikipedia on paper is often "what about the quality of the articles, are they worth putting on paper?". If University Professors actually work with their students in creating, correcting and rewriting Wikipedia articles, in short, if they think that Wikipedia is worth their time, then surely it is worth putting on paper.

Back to school

One of the things that often comes back in evaluating the quality of Wikipedia content is its extreme diversity. Wikipedia tackles topics that no other work of reference refers to, at least in such a comprehensive way. This is true for everyday topics (the much talked about Pokemons come to mind) but it is also true for very specific areas of science or literature, which stay obscure even for the specialists, but on which Wikipedia has a very detailed article. This is where books come into play.

A book made from Wikipedia articles is an excellent introduction to whatever topic you are interested in. New students in Chemistry at University? No doubt the Wikipedia articles in Chemistry reviewed and rewritten under the supervision of Professor Anne McNeil are a good place to start the book that will give you all the information you need to start the year prepared on the subject. And this goes for every single topic you can dream of. Wikipedia does have 3.4 million articles after all. So go for it! Start the book creator and make the book that will accompany you through your studies on the topic of your choice. And share it with others, so that other students can benefit from it!


¡Hablamos Español!

Well, our "español" is not yet at the top of what it could be, but we're trying hard. We've finally gotten around to translate our web interface in Spanish. The Spanish Wikipedia is growing rapidly and offers now more than 650 000 articles for the reader to compile their books with. The "create a book" (crear un libro) has been enabled on the Spanish Wikipedia for quite some time now, and it has been well used in other language Wikipedias, but we hadn't gotten around to make it easier for Spanish speakers to get a hold of their own paperback made from Wikipedia articles.

Now, when people come to our website from the Spanish Wikipedia, they get to make their own book following instructions in Spanish.

The journey starts on Wikipedia, with the crear un libro link, which one can find on the left hand side in the navigation bar, under imprimir/exportar. When you have started the book creator, you can add articles as you browse Wikipedia and make your own book. Once you've finished collecting the articles you want in your book, just click on Previsualizar con PediaPress in the section Solicitar el libro impreso. You'll be taken to our PediaPress Website... in Spanish! There you need to be a little patient Por favor, espere unos minutos - su libro está siendo cargado. Once that is done, you can personalize your cover and order your book... all in Spanish.

Cover image

Although our Spanish is a bit rusty and we can't guarantee that our grammar is perfect, we'll also try to answer your questions in Spanish. Don't hesitate to ask us through the feedback button if you need help, and if you find anything in our Spanish translation that does not make sense, or that is missing, don't hesitate either to just tell us, we'll do our best to ensure you get the best book experience ever!

¡Hasta luego!


Let's Meet at the Franfurt Book Fair 2010

The Frankfurt Book Fair is the meeting point of all things book around the world. It is starting on Wednesday, October 6th. This year, we have decided to be present differently than the previous years. We'll be strolling the alleys and visiting partners, sharing experiences with like minded businesses, presenting our service in a conference, rather than have a booth. This said, if you want to get a hold of us - and we'd really love to see you there, it's always great to meet interested people for real rather than online or not at all - you have three possibilities.

First, Argentina being the Guest of Honor of the Frankfurt book fair this year, you'll be able to meet the great folks of Wikimedia Argentina, with whom we've worked on books they can show you. They'll be presenting, most especially, their book on the Bicentenial of the May Revolution (Bicentenario de la Revolución de Mayo). Throughout Thursday and Friday, you'll have a chance to catch them at the Heinrich Böll Stiftung booth: Hall 3.1 B 150. You should also go to the conference they're giving on Argentina Copyleft, the Crisis of Copyright and the Democratisation of Culture on Thursday morning.

Second, our very own Christoph (Kepper) will be participating in a panel on the subject "Content Print on Demand – A Model for the Future?" where he'll say what he thinks the future has in store for us and wiki books. Please go and bombard him with tough questions, he'll love that!

Third, Christoph, Eva, Heiko and myself will be at various times and days at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Just drop us an email through the feedback form if you want to meet, with your email/phone and we'll get back to you, or phone in at +49 (0) 6131 327 180 9 to make an appointment! We're looking forward to seeing you in the great Temple of books!

Photo: © Dontworry, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Source: Wikimedia Commmons