Thursday, May 08, 2008

Wikipedia Goes Commercial


The German publisher Bertelsmann announced that it will publish annually a 1,000 page edition of Wikipedia starting next September. To be called “The One-Volume Wikipedia Encyclopedia,” it will sell for 19.95 euros (or roughly $32 U.S.) and feature some of the most popular articles from the German version of Wikipedia. One euro per copy will go back to Wikimedia, which runs Wikipedia. But nothing, as Readwriteweb notes, will go to the writers who actually create the encyclopedia entries.

Because Wikipedia is published under a free license, its content can be freely used and commercialized. And that’s precisely what Bertelsmann plans to do. In Wikipedia, Bertelsmann has found a motherlode of free content it. It can then monetize that content, keep most of the profits (a publisher’s dream), and kick 5% back to Wikimedia, most likely as a way to undercut the critics. It’s all perhaps legal. But does it feel a bit unseemly? Just a touch. Or maybe you disagree?

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