The Wikimedia Foundation home page says – Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.
With nearly 3 million articles in the English version alone Wikipedia along with its sister wikis is an Alibaba’s treasure trove of information. Now, Wikipedia gives us a chance to take this information and use it as one of the oldest forms we have known – the humble book.
It is just the Wikimedia Foundation’s attempt to make “˜human knowledge’ accessible to everyone”¦online and now also offline. It started off with the German Wikipedia last year and now since February 26th it has moved onto the English version too.
To capsulize the process, users can collate the article pages of their choice and create a book from this existing material through a simple link available in Wikipedia. The compilation of articles can be arranged into chapters, given a title and finally exported as a PDF or as an Open Document and even sent to be professionally printed (at a cost).
One essential caveat is that a user has to create an account and log-on to access the book features.
The Wikipedia Help page goes through a step by step process of the nitty gritty”¦but I will give it a spin here too.
Logging In / Create Account
On the extreme top-right of a Wikipedia page is the link to Log-in or Create Account. Creating a new account is a simple process of giving a user name and a password. No email verification is required.
The Create A Book Menu
Search, browse and navigate to the Wikipedia article of your choice. On the left hand side, near the bottom is the create a book menu. It includes two items – Add wiki page and Books help.
Start adding the pages to your book by clicking the Add wiki page link on the relevant Wikipedia pages you want to include. The number of pages in the book gets automatically updated in the menu on the left. Two additional menu items – Show book (with a page counter) and Clear book appear in the menu.
You can also add an entire category within which the relevant page falls with just a single click. You can find the category hierarchy at the end of the article page.
Add The Title Of Your Book
With all pages added, click the Show book button to review your book. Here it is possible to add a book title (and a subtitle) and change the ordering of the wiki pages of the book through drag and drop. Unwanted pages can be dumped by a simple click of the “˜dustbin’ icon. New chapters can be included using the Create chapter link.
Many advanced functions like adding a particular revision or saving a book and improving the layout can be achieved through a combination of advanced functions. The Help page details those steps.
Download Or Order A Printed Copy
Voila! You have just “˜written’ your first book with the help of Wikipedia. Now, the finished book can be downloaded in PDF or OpenDocument format or ordered as a bound book. To download in the format of your choice, select the format from the dropdown and click the Download button. To order the book as a bound book, click the Order book from PediaPress button.
Wikipedia’s built-in rendering engine assembles the pages, grabs the images and parses them before they are passed on to the user in the final downloadable format. In its final avatar, my seven page Wikipedia selection transformed into a 4.4MB file downloaded as a 64 page PDF book. The end result was good”¦with neat alignments of photos and text.
If you take the PediaPress option, be prepared to dole out a few dollars as the starting price is US$ 8.90. Of course, the typesetting and publishing is of better quality and it comes bound too. A sample of a finished book can be seen on their site here.
Not many of us would even begin to create a home grown version of shelf lined Encyclopedia Wikipedia. But for smaller data needs, this feature comes as a welcome addition. Instead of individually downloading article pages as PDF’s we can now systematically arrange it into a PDF book for offline perusal.
Have you taken to this feature yet? Give us a glimpse into your thoughts in the comments section.