The most interesting news I’ve heard lately on the topic of custom publishing came last month from Mashable.com. As Jolie O’Dell reports, you can now create and print a custom book using content from Wikipedia. Just click “Create a book” in Wikipedia’s left sidebar (under “print/export”), and then click “Start book creator.”
The video below explains the whole process, but it’s actually really simple. And I learned a lot about navigating Wikipedia that I didn’t know before. Once you’ve started adding pages to your book, there’s even a suggestion engine that recommends more relevant content for your project. Books are printed by PediaPress and the cost is based on number of pages. In the example, the book of 212 pages will cost $12.48, and they’ll ship in the U.S. for about $3. Not bad!
Honestly this is an amazing tool and I can’t wait to use it myself. One question left unanswered by the demo video is whether you can create an e-book with the same Book Creator, and whether or not that would cost money.
Actually I just tried out the process myself and realized that there is a Download box on the Manage Your Book page. That gives you the option of downloading either a PDF or TXT file… FOR FREE! It took about 30 seconds to compile and download, and the finished product is quite impressive! My test e-book is called “Sex Ed 402: Advanced Techniques.” Hope you enjoy! (NOTE: for mature readers only.)
Now for a little discussion. This is a fascinating development from Wikipedia, the site that hopes to create a compendium of all human knowledge that is openly accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. This makes the information even more accessible, since these custom books and e-books can be used offline at the reader’s convenience. I’m SO GLAD that they offer the free e-book option, since tablet computers and e-readers are booming right now. And the file even comes loaded with a Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license!
The demo shows someone making a book for a Caribbean sailing trip. But think how quick and easy it would be to create a book about a recent news topic. Wikipedia is increasingly becoming a source for in-depth coverage of complicated news developments. I could easily make a custom book about the BP oil spill, for example, and include the entire story plus background on British Petroleum, the oil industry, off-shore drilling, clean-up efforts, previous disasters, etc. Then I could distribute that book on my independent news website with a Creative Commons license. Many people would prefer that to endless Google News searches or waiting for a preferred news outlet to present a more complete story — instead of just watching the webcam of oil spilling into the water ad infinitum.
One thing to think about is that PediaPress lets you put your name as editor and a photo from Wikipedia on the cover of the book. That custom book is also stored in their system in case you want to print the same book again. The e-book download, on the other hand, only let’s you put a title and subtitle on the cover. And once you disable the Wikipedia’s book creator, your project is deleted.
Try it out yourself and see how it feels to be a publisher!
- Copyleftism (July 28, 2008)
- Annotations in Apple Preview (April 9, 2010)
- The Philosophy of Remix Culture (April 5, 2009)