IN 2012, after 244 years in print, Encyclopedia Britannica became online-only. Now a group of German fans of Wikipedia, an online, user-generated encyclopedia, are raising money for a move in the opposite direction. A print version of the English Wikipedia–1,000 bulky volumes and 1,193,014 pages–will be on show at a gathering of Wikipedians later this year. A world tour will probably follow: a global victory lap for the internet’s most impressive crowd-sourced creation.
The books will be instantly out of date; several times a second an article is amended online. But that is not the point. Wikipedia, which was founded in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, has a right to show off. With articles on subjects as diverse as Spaghetti code (“a pejorative term for source code”) and SpaghettiOs (“an American brand of canned spaghetti”), it has 1,600 times as many articles as the Encyclopedia Britannica. It is the world’s fifth most popular website, with editions in 287 languages. (The English one is the biggest, with 4.4m articles.) On any given day 15% of all internet users visit it, amounting to 495m readers a month.