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What's black and white and unread all over? A paper copy of Wikipedia — but this project to print out the entire collaborative online encyclopedia is no joke.
PediaPress, which provides print-on-demand services to the Wikimedia Foundation, is planning to undertake its biggest order yet. Normally, it would provide bound versions of a few dozen user-chosen articles on Greek philosophy or Argentinian history — but this time, it's planning on printing the whole English Wikipedia — all 2.6 billion words of it.
It's not actually the only time printing Wikipedia has been attempted. In 2008, German publisher Bertelsmann released an abbreviated copy of that country's Wikipedia.de that ran to about 1,000 pages. The next year, a design student named Rob Matthews printed the site's 437 featured articles in a 5,000-page tome.
But this would be the first time the full English Wikipedia (the largest by far, with 4.3 million articles) will be printed. There's a reason for that: Due to the fundamental nature of an online encylopedia with millions of interlinked pages and thousands of editors, a printed copy is an exercise in futility. ("Obviously a printed Wikipedia will be outdated within seconds," PediaPress admits.)
Regardless of these limitations, PediaPress is seeking $50,000 to execute the project, which will require about a thousand volumes at 1,200 pages each.
"We think that the best way to experience the size of Wikipedia is by transforming it into the physical medium of books," PediaPress says.
You can donate to their IndieGogo campaign here if you think it's a good idea. If they go over that goal, they may attempt a color copy, or, rather absurdly, complement the paper Wikipedia with an ongoing live printout of edits.
Assuming it is funded, the resulting thousand thick volumes will be presented at the Wikimania conference in August, then donated to "one of the big old libraries" — if any of them has the room for it.