Wikipedia and PediaPress began working together in 2007, but only earlier this year did the web-to-print service begin creating books out of German Wikipedia articles.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the venture “is doing brisk business: it sold more than 1,000 German language books in its first month of operation.”
Heiko Hees, Managing Director of PediaPress, said that “many people who received books came back and ordered more.”
He added that PediaPress’ goal is to create an alternative to the textbook.
A 100-page book will cost approximately $8, yet in an age of increased Internet use, many wonder whether this concept will be successful, since Wikipedia can be accessed online free of charge.
“I wouldn’t spend on a book when I can go to Wikipedia online and then can go to Widener and look up whatever source was cited there,” Andrew L. Irvine ’12 said.
Sara B. Cheche ’09 said, “if I wanted to give back to Wikipedia, I would make a donation, which is more cost-effective.”
Alexander P. Biega ’10, however, said that publishing Wikipedia articles in book form is a “fantastic idea” that would be “easy to use for basic info.”
Many in the Harvard community expressed concern over the fact that any Wikipedia user can edit the content of articles, which they say undermines its reliability in an academic setting.
Stephen Pinker, an acclaimed Harvard psychology professor, said, “I think Wikipedia is a fantastic resource although I don’t allow students to use it as a source for their papers.”
He added that the site is a good tool for students to use in order to orientate themselves in an area.
However, Pinker said that because it lacks quality control, Wikipedia cannot be held to the same standard as scholarly journals and books.
“Since the information on Wikipedia is constantly evolving, it is certainly not always accurate and I continue to caution students against using it,” said Jane Rosenzweig, director of the Writing Center.
Hees said that Wikipedia has developed many strategies to ensure quality control, and that the Web site is looking to implement a new feature that would inform visitors which articles had been checked in order to resolve some of the site’s reliability problems.