Wikipedia to be converted
Berlin - Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia written by volunteers, is to be published in Germany as a book for people who prefer turning pages to clicking links, publishing multinational Random House said on Tuesday.
Editors will distil 50 000 of the most popular entries in the German version of Wikipedia into the 1 000-page volume to go on sale in September. When begun, Wikipedia was perceived as making books redundant, with no future for printed encyclopaedias.
The book will draw on the Wikipedia community's unconventional ideas of what knowledge people want, rather than prescriptions by scholars. There will be entries for Carla Bruni (the French first lady), Playstation 3 and Donald Duck's fellow characters.
Football stadiums or the US television series Dr House will rate as entries alongside the more usual nations and statesmen.
Random House, part of the Bertelsmann group of Germany, said the selection of 50 000 headwords would be based on the most common terms searched by the 15 million monthly users of Wikipedia in German.
"It's a document of the zeitgeist," said Beate Varnhorn, chief of the Bertelsmann Lexicography Institute, adding that professional editors would check the facts and edit out incongruous passages.
She said the volume would appeal to homes that had no permanent internet connection, since books were always available, but could also be bought by people who just like to browse for interesting facts.
Arne Klempert, a spokesperson for Wikipedia Germany, said the definitions would only be short summaries of the Wikipedia articles and there was no breach of the rights of Wikipedia contributors.
Commercial republication was allowed under the Wikipedia rules accepted by the site's users. Those rules also applied to Random House, which would not be allowed to claim copyright over the book.
"They can't re-monopolise it," said Klempert, who said Random House had taken the initiative and proposed the idea to Wikipedia.
"This will demonstrate that open-source writing also offers publishing houses opportunities for commercial development."
The German Wikipedia is second in size to the English Wikipedia. It was once calculated that it would take at least 750 thick volumes to print all 2.3 million articles in the English-language version. - Sapa-dpa