We're going to Thailand next year (got a great deal) so I put together a Wikipedia/PediaPress book for our trip:
Not sure how valuable my knowledge of Bangkok taken from The Windup Girl will be. Some friends took the trip a year or so ago and had a great time but warned that the heat will be far beyond what the American South has to offer. We had the option to tack on either Ankor Wat or Phuket. Beaches won out over Hindu temples.
Decided to search for reviews of the Wikipedia/Pediapress books. Learned that this is actually an old feature that has been made available to people without Wikipedia accounts. I'm logged in 90% of the time, so I have no idea why I didn't know of it. I also learned that there is some weird tech-hatred for the feature.
TechCrunch posted a non-descript, press release review on May 6th which garnered snarky comments such as
Great, I really wanted a way to pay for Wikipedia content. Gizmodo, less charitably, on May 7th:
when you've got to the point in your life where printing pages off from Wikipedia seems like a good idea...you need to be banned from society. Mashable, also on the 6th, gave a more thoughtful review, pointing out that
[c]ontent can be customized around any topic or topics the user desires. The ability to curate content is one of the hallmarks of the latest wave of digital creativity. Mashable's readers, arguably more DIY friendly than pop-tech sites, were generally interested in the possibilities.
Compare these to the first comment from a (relatively) non-tech friend when I described the feature: "What a great idea for gifts!" Wikipedia is still a contentious concept, subject to snobbery ("you mean anyone can edit it?!") and divisionism ("liberal bias!"), so any project associated with it will inevitably get skewered with the same attacks. A coworker grudgingly admitted Pediapress books might be useful for non-controversial articles. Just how much of human knowledge is that controversial?! Have we come to believe that every subject is abortion or global warming? Though not without its problems, the value and rarity of much of Wikipedia's content compared with other internet resources is often underappreciated. Where would Google's first page of search results be without Wikipedia?
Two weeks ago I discovered that Wikipedia added a book-printing feature based on articles of your choosing. I selected and arranged several dozen articles discussing Russian composers of the early 1800s through the mid-to-late 1900s. One week later, flaws and all, they're now valued additions to my home library. Based on the quick delivery, quality of the finished product, and the giddy power of printing your own books, I plan on ordering more in the future. Some links:
This week I discovered that Wikipedia recently added a feature that allows you to collect and arrange articles and have them printed and bound. The interface is basic so it's feature-poor but easy to use. An excellent start! After my attempt at a short test book on Indo-European languages grew to 400+ pages, I abandoned it and created one on Russian composers. That quickly grew to an unmanageable test size too, so I split it up into three shorter books and ordered them all. No, that does not make any sense.
~250 pages each for ~$15 each. Once created, you can select a cover image from those scraped out of the contained Wikipedia articles and choose from a fixed set of color schemes. Even with a simple list of composers, I labored over the article selection and finally committed. I'm sure I'm going to get them (in a few days!) and realize I've missed someone important. Ah well, then's when I print up an appendix! And unless they look like total carp, I'm already planning a part 4 for contemporary composers. I just hope none of the articles were grabbed for printing right after they were vandalized. As entertaining as it was to learn that Vincent Persichetti was a werewolf slayer, I wouldn't want that in print.
[ updated 18 Jun 2010 ]
Finished the books and finally put together the Addendum!