Taking into account the well-known unreliability of some of its content, I’m honestly not sure how I feel—intellectually-speaking—about the idea that it is now possible to transform random collections of Wikipedia articles into e-books . (More details about that later.)
But speaking from the point of view of someone who is endlessly fascinated with the possibilities of digital reading, well … I’d certainly be lying if I said I wasn’t going to play around with Wikipedia’s new e-book export feature  for a good 20 minutes, as soon as this article is posted.
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According to a post on the Wikimedia Foundation’s Tech Blog , the new ePUB export feature has been enabled on the English-language version of Wikipedia only. “You can use it to collate your personal collection of Wikipedia articles and generate free ebooks,” the post says. “These can be read on a broad range of devices, like mobile phones, tablets and e-ink based e-book readers.”
Now, I’m someone who’s been known to generate ideas for future freelance magazine pieces by clicking Wikipedia’s ‘Random Article’ link, over and over again. So as far as I’m concerned, the possibilities for fun and amusement with this new export feature are essentially limitless.
And here’s some good news: Creating the ePUB Wiki-files is incredibly easy. The very simple steps you’ll find below were taken directly from the aforementioned Wikimedia post, although I’ve added a bit of editorializing and a few screen grabs, which I hope will make the process even simpler still.
Seriously: Give this a shot as soon as you’ve got an extra 15 or 20 minutes to spare. It really is a lot of fun, and depending on how much faith you happen to have in any given collection of Wikipedia articles, I suppose this process could even prove to be useful. (Let’s just hope our cash-strapped university students don’t start replacing their overpriced textbooks with little assortments of error-filled Wikipedia posts!)
Anyway, follow the steps below, and you’ll have a fairly unique ePUB file in no time:
1. To create your personal e-book you, have to activate the ‘Create a book ’ link located in the left sidebar of Wikipedia in the ‘print/export’ section:
This is pretty self-explanatory: Just pick any Wikipedia article of your choosing article; click the “Create a book” link; and you’ll be given the option of adding other articles and creating chapters to your in-progress e-book.
2. Once activated, you can compile articles or complete categories into a personal collection and export them:
Again, the system pretty much walks you through the process without any hassle or confusion to speak of. Just click the “Start book creator” button, and follow the instructions you’re given from there.
3. Collections can be exported in a variety of formats like PDF, EPUB, or OpenOffice:
4. You can also order a printed book via PediaPress , the official print-on-demand partner of Wikipedia.
Here’s a screen grab of the check-out page that came up when I went through the process of ordering a print copy of my Wikipedia book. Apparently the default specs for these PediaPress books are soft-cover, and with B&W inks. You can see where I was given the option of paying an extra $7.00 for a hardcover (as opposed to a soft-cover) version of the book; adding color would have cost me an extra $5.00 on top of that. Of course, I don’t actually know if the price for color ink increases as the size of the book (and therefore the number of color photos) increases.
It’s probably also worth pointing out that my book, below, is only “about 21 pages,” according to the PediaPress check out page. Regardless of the fact that a 21-page book is a physical impossibility, I’ll be curious to see how much more expensive a book in, say, the 120-page range would cost. Not that I’m actually ever going to order a physical copy of a Wikipedia book … but you get the idea.
If any of you do get around to creating a Wiki-ePUB (or ordering a PediaPress hardcopy, for that matter), please be kind enough to share your thoughts with us in the comments sections, below.