Get Wikipedia Into Print

By | November 4, 2005

I really hope this will happen soon. Jimmy’s been talking about it for a while, but while I can see the technical problems, I think it’s just too important not to press ahead with: reports that Wikipedia May Soon Be Available In Print:

Wikipedia, the popular free online encyclopedia written and edited by Internet users, may soon be available in print for readers in the developing world.

According to Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales, content from the web site may also be burned onto CDs and DVDs so computer users in places like Africa, who lack access to high-speed Internet, could consult parts of the reference work offline.

Wales, a 39-year-old former options trader, set up Wikipedia in 2001. The site operates through the Wikimedia Foundation, a nonprofit organisation that relies on donations to pursue its goal of spreading knowledge for free.

Here’s the original story from Reuters.

Go for it. My big worry nowadays is that people who are designing and building stuff for the web are all on big screens, fast computers and fast connections. Most of the developing world is still on expensive dial-up and slow computers with bad screens. That’s the digital divide. It’s not the haves and the have-nots, it’s the ‘have fast connections’ folks and the rest of us with connections that are intermittent and slow. For the slow world hard copy or CD-ROM versions are just what is needed.

As for folk who say Wikipedia is not ready, or uneven, I would say don’t worry. Most folk who use Wikipedia print or CD-ROM edition are not going to have had much of a choice. This may be the first encyclopedia they ever have access to, so hand-wringing about the quality of some pieces is a bit like saying you shouldn’t give free copies of Microsoft Windows to the developing world because it still has some bugs. Wikipedia has some bugs but it’s a fabulous resource, and the great thing about a little bit of wisdom is that it makes people smarter. Let the end-user decide what information is good and what isn’t.

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