February 2014 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Printing Out Wikipedia

Printing out Wikipedia is entirely antithetical, but that's beside the point, right? Less than two weeks ago, PediaPress announced Printing Wikipedia A to Z: The 1000 Books of Wikipedia, a campaign to publish in hard copy the four million articles that comprise the complete English Wikipedia. To do this, the company launched an Indiegogo funding page with a goal of $50,000. As of today, it has just surpassed the $10,000 mark with 47 days left to go.

The idea is not to re-imagine the faux leatherbound set of Encyclopedia Britannica that you had as a kid. Rather, PediaPress would like to show us Wikipedia's size and scope "by transforming it into the physical medium of books." It will require about 1,000 volumes, each containing 1,200 pages. The work would go on exhibit and be presented at the Wikimania Conference in London this August.

The company, based in Mainz, Germany, realizes the plan's demerits. According to the campaign's page: "Obviously a printed Wikipedia will be outdated within seconds. We plan to visualize the update frequency of Wikipedia by printing live updates on continuous paper during the exhibition."

All of which sounds to me like an art installation based on books, and, moreover, one based on where we find ourselves -- at the divide between digital and print, always feeling like a decision must be made. After the initial exhibitions, PediaPress says it plans to donate the books to a large public library. "To later generations this might be a period piece from the beginning of the digital revolution."