The Wikimedia Foundation announced a partnership that will make it possible to obtain high quality print and word processor copies of articles from Wikipedia and other wiki educational resources. The development of the underlying open source software is supported by the Open Society Institute (www.soros.org) and the Commonwealth of Learning (www.col.org), and led by PediaPress.com, a start-up company based in Germany.
"This technology is of key strategic importance to the cause of free education world-wide," said Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. "It will make it possible to use and remix wiki content for a variety of purposes, both in the developing and the developed world, in areas with connectivity and without."
Deployment of the technology will happen in three stages. The first stage, launched today, is a public beta test running on WikiEducator.org of functionality for remixing collections of wiki pages and downloading them in the PDF format. WikiEducator is a project hosted by the Commonwealth of Learning and uses the same wiki technology as Wikipedia.
"These tools have the potential to transform and improve the way we author and share distance education materials, textbooks and other learning resources -- I'm thrilled that the WikiEducator will be the first online community to implement them," said Wayne Mackintosh, Ph.D., an education specialist for the Commonwealth of Learning and founder of the WikiEducator project.
The second stage, planned for early 2008, will be the deployment of the technology on the projects hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, including Wikipedia. At this point, users will also be given the option to order printed copies of wiki content directly from PediaPress.com. "The integration into Wikipedia will be a milestone for print-on-demand technology. Users will literally be empowered to print their own encyclopedias", according to Heiko Hees, product manager at PediaPress.com.
The third stage, planned for mid-2008, will be the addition of the OpenDocument format for word processors to the list of export formats. "Imagine that you want to use a set of wiki articles in the classroom. By supporting the OpenDocument format, we will make it easy for educators to customize and remix content before printing and distributing it from any desktop computer," Sue Gardner explained. This work is funded through a US$40,000 grant by the Open Society Institute.
The technology developed through this cooperation will be available under an open source license, free for anyone to use for any purpose. It ties into the MediaWiki platform, the open source technology that runs Wikipedia. As a result, thousands of wiki platforms around the world will have the option of providing the same services to their users.