The single volume book will cost €19.95 and will include the topics most frequently looked up by German Wikipedia users over the past year. Instead of following the traditional encyclopaedia format, the approximately 1,000-page book will list keywords and short entries, as well as 1,000 colour photos and images.
“It will have a little bit of everything, but the focus will be on current events since that's that Wikipedia's strength,” Arne Klempert, the managing director of Wikimedia Germany, told The Local.
He said the idea for the tome originated in the local Wikipedia community several years ago, but Bertelsmann only agreed to move ahead with the groundbreaking project at the end of 2007.
“I think the whole principle of free content is still a relatively new one and it took traditional publishers like Bertelsmann a bit longer to warm up to the idea,” he said, explaining that the publishing house agreed to donate €1 from every copy sold back to the non-profit Wikimedia group.
Beate Varnhorn, the head of Berlelsmann's encyclopaedia unit, said the entries created by Wikipedia users have been vetted for accuracy by a team of editors and that the publisher hoped to make more people aware of the online reference website.
“The condensed one-volume print edition will reach a new demographic so they can get to know the Wikipedia project and participate in it,” Varnhorn said in a statement.
Since the entries are demand driven by German Wikipedia users, readers can look forward to an extremely diverse reference book with information on anything from France's new first lady Carla Bruni to Sony's latest videogame console the PlayStation 3.
The entire text is covered by the GNU Free Documentation Licence (GFDL), which allows distribution and reuse of its material without charge under certain terms, just like entries from the popular online encyclopaedia. The German version of Wikipedia is the second-largest after English.
Klempert said there were as yet no plans to publish an English edition of the bound encyclopaedia. “We have a tradition of innovating here in the German Wikipedia community with offline content,” he said. “But we hope if it's successful here our colleagues in San Francisco might look into doing something similar with an English-language publisher.”