Bertelsmann to publish print edition of German Wikipedia
A print edition of Wikipedia's German content is underway. Bertelsmann subsidiary Wissen Media plans to publish a single-volume print version of the online encyclopaedia in September. Although nearly a thousand pages will be printed, less than one per cent of German Wikipedia content will be included. The German-language version of Wikipedia currently has almost 740,000 articles and is the second largest language edition behind English. In addition to focusing on the most frequently searched keywords, the length of the print articles has also been cut. Entries mainly consist of short definitions at the beginning of Wikipedia articles. Each keyword only has space for a few sentences containing the most important information.
Wissen Media calls the project a "lexical yearbook" because the topics are much more up-to-date than in classical encyclopaedias. Keywords in the new encyclopaedia were selected based on Wikipedia's visitor statistics. Mathias Schindler, a member of the management board at Wikimedia Deutschland, determined which articles were most commonly researched based on statistics from 2007 and 2008. He then created a list of 50,000 keywords to serve as the basis for the new encyclopaedia. Beate Varnhorn, general manager at Wissen Media, says, "This selection is itself spectacular and unique – there is a fundamental difference compared to what classical encyclopaedia would normally present as keywords." Readers of the new encyclopaedia will find an entry on the US TV series House alongside an article on porn star Gina Wild.
The Bertelsmann edition isn't the first attempt to market a print version of the open on-line encyclopaedia. Two years ago Directmedia announced it would be publishing a print version of Wikipedia. To cover all the articles, 100 volumes with a total of 80,000 pages would have been necessary. But the project got stuck in the planning phase. A pocketbook edition with Wikipedia content has also been cancelled because the articles would have required so much reworking.
Wissen Media is nonetheless confident that its project will be more successful. As a spokesperson for the publisher told heise online, Wikipedia articles are very reliable by current encyclopaedic standards; comparative tests have showed that Wikipedia can keep up with the classic competition. The publisher's normal project team will edit the articles themselves, and any changes made will be reported back to the Wikipedia community. The sales price has already been announced. The single-volume edition will cost just under €20, one euro of which will be donated to Wikimedia Deutschland. The Wikipedia licence stipulates that a free online version of the print edition also has to be made available.
For Wikimedia Deutschland, the print version is an important milestone. "This will be the first printed encyclopaedia based on Wikipedia content in the world", emphasised Wikipedia Deutschland board member Mathias Schindler. "We are looking forward to seeing what people think and hope that we can prove all the skeptics wrong who say that printed encyclopaedias are a thing of the past in this Internet age."
The Bibliographisches Institut & F. A. Brockhaus AG (Bifab) apparently agrees. In February, the traditional publisher Brockhaus announced a radical change. Brockhaus said it was discontinuing the print edition of its classic encyclopaedia, and in future, content would be published in an online portal financed by advertising. Originally scheduled for 15th April, the project launch has now been indefinitely postponed. Brockhaus spokesperson Klaus Holoch told heise online that the delay was the result of the unexpected success of the announcement. Demand for the print edition has apparently skyrocketed, so that the publisher is now thinking about one further print run of its 30-volume edition of Brockhaus. The spokesperson also said that negotiations are currently being held with a number of partners. Holoch was not able to say what the eventual website would look like now that the launch has been postponed.
Encyclopaedia Britannica is also courting the Wikipedia community. In its new WebShare program, webloggers and others have free access to the traditional encyclopaedia's premium content. What's more, registered webmasters can set links to the encyclopaedia's content for free. Apparently, the publisher wants to generate more traffic on its sites to increase revenue from advertising. (Torsten Kleinz)