Publisher plans printed version of Wikipedia

/ Source: The Associated Press

In a move combining user-created online encyclopedias with the printed page, Germany's Bertelsmann AG will publish what could be the first in a series of annual yearbooks whose content is derived from the many hundreds of thousands of user-created entries on Wikipedia.

The media company — whose units include publisher Random House Inc. and music venture Sony BMG — said Wednesday that it plans to publish "The One-Volume Wikipedia Encyclopedia" starting in September with the content made up of 50,000 of the most-searched terms on the German language edition of Wikipedia.

Beate Varnhorn, the head of publishing at Bertelsmann Encyclopedia Institute said the "condensed, one-volume print edition" would bring Wikipedia to a new audience.

She told The Associated Press that the sheer number of entries on the German Wikipedia — at last count they numbered approximately 740,000 and would likely fill hundreds of printed volumes — meant publishing all of it was not "a good project for the German book trade."

But an annual collection of the most-sought out terms made sense, she said. "A yearbook really can be a documentation of the zeitgeist."

Varnhorn said they combed the list of popular terms to find possible entries, which average between eight and 10 lines.

"When we studied the list, we found that there are lots of keywords that we never thought could be that interesting," she said.

The entries to be published include ones for French first lady Carla Bruni, Nintendo Wii and German writers and musicians.

The entries will be fact-checked, particularly the "most risky ones," she said, though she did not say which those were.

Like its Web-based namesake, the book will be under a free license, meaning its content can be distributed and copied, including commercially. Copies of the 992-page book — available only in German — will retail for $31.80.

Bertelsmann has agreed to pay Wikimedia Deutschland eV, which promotes the German-language version of the online encyclopedia, $1.59 a copy, said Arne Klempert, the group's executive director.

"To some extent it's marketing for Bertelsmann. They are using free content, free knowledge," he told The Associated Press. "Legally, they don't have to pay anything for the content but they don't want to give the impression that they are acting on the back of the Wikipedia authors, so they decided to give something back for that reason."

Klempert said the Wikipedia encyclopedia would be an unusual reference tome.

"The approach of 'Wikipedia in One Volume' is to give the people the information they are looking for," he said, contrasting that approach to the process of publishing a traditional encyclopedia put together by a select group of people behind closed doors.

"This is the most important difference from traditional encyclopedias," he said. "It's also an important thing in that the sense of the Wikipedia spirit will go into this printed volume."