Wikipedia available in print via PediaPress

Book vendorOver a year ago, I found out about Wikitravel Press from Jani Patokallio, at BarCampKL 2009. I was pretty excited since it was based on the open content Wikitravel, it was printed on demand, and it was updated on a regular basis. Imagine getting accurate travel guides when you were going somewhere (as opposed to a dated Lonely Planet guidebook)?

When I was young, I used to pore through a set of encyclopaedias from Grolier, that my late grandfather had purchased sometime in the ’60’s. These were wrongly disposed off, during a move, and the last time I encountered a traditional encyclopaedia, was a few months ago, albeit a digital version. For me, Wikipedia won.

Naturally, I’m excited to see that you can now get Wikipedia entries, printed in book-form now. PediaPress now offers custom books to all users. Check out the book creator on Wikipedia.

It got me thinking. Would we eventually see textbooks being printed out from Wikipedia? I took a look at some of the pre-prepared books, and found one for College Mathematics: Algebra. Its over 400 pages of dense mathematical content; about the typical size of a math textbook. Coursework preparation will be more open, and quality will be crowd-sourced.

More interesting for me, and other developers using MediaWiki? The tools for creating your own press are available at the PediaPress Open Source Repository. Therein lies a Python library for parsing the MediaWiki articles (mwlib), another library for writing the PDF documents from MediaWiki articles (mwlib.rl), and a bunch of extensions to collect MediaWiki articles and output them to PDF, XML, or even OpenDocument format (ODF).

What does that mean? If you’re using MediaWiki to create documentation, you can quite likely create a printed manual pretty darn easily. No mucking around with writing documentation in DocBook XML… you can use the friendly MediaWiki markup and syntax.