Sammy Nickalls
Updated Jun 20, 2015 @ 9:40 am
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Wikipedia, the community encyclopedia, doesn’t have the best reputation with teachers and faculty at schools, who worry about its accuracy. But be honest: How many times has Wikipedia totally saved you? Whether that’s for a school project, or maybe you needed some info SUPER quick, Wikipedia is a super useful tool for when you just need to know about that historical person or abstract concept or whatever, ASAP.

But did you know that you soon may be able to buy a printed version of Wikipedia (if you’ve got some serious cash)? That’s because Michael Mandiberg has been working for the past three years on putting the English-language Wikipedia to print, reports New York Times. That’s right: an online, easily-edited community encyclopedia transformed into an old-fashioned print reference set. . . of a whopping 7,600 volumes. That’s one big project.

Michael is an “interdisciplinary artist” who teaches at the College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, according to the New York Times. He’s a “seasoned Wikipedia editor” who has completed nearly 2,000 edits, according to the publication. He first came up with the idea to create a hard copy of in 2009. “When I started, I wondered, ‘What if I took this new thing and made it into that old thing?'” he told the publication. “‘What would it look like?'”

He will be uploading the compiled data to online self-publishing site Lulu.com. And in an exhibition called “From Aaaaa! To ZZZap!” Michael will be projecting the upload screen of Lulu.com onto one wall of the gallery. Since there’s a ton to upload — 11 gigabytes, to be precise — that uploading will take a long, long time (two weeks!). Viewers of the exhibition will be able to come in and watch the data being uploaded.

The reason for creating a print version of Wikipedia may seem unclear — after all, those textbooks may already be seriously outdated, considering how often Wikipedia is updated (according to New York Times, there have been an estimated 7.5 million edits since April 7, when Michael compiled the data). But having a perfect set of reference books isn’t the point. Michael wants to show just how massive Wikipedia really is, and the best way to do that is by putting it in print. To do this, he’s not going to actually print all of them. “We don’t need to see the whole thing in order to understand how big it is,” Michael told New York Times. “Even if we just have one bookshelf, our human brains can finish the rest.”

We’ll give you a little taste just how massive this project really is: There’s the table of contents, which on its own is 91 volumes filled with 11.5 million entries; there’s also the 36-volume contributor index with almost 7.5 million users who have helped compile and edit Wikipedia ever since 2001. And if you want to buy this set, it costs $80 per volume.

As each volume finishes uploading, it will be tweeted at @PrintWikipedia, with a big party when the entire thing is finished uploading, which will be celebrated with toasts and a projection of the confirmation page. Oh, and the confirmation page will have a “Buy It Now” function. . . in case you have $500,000 handy. “The order is so big it breaks the shopping cart,” Michael explained to New York Times. “But symbolically, I wanted to able to say ‘Buy It Now.'”

This is such a cool art installation and really gives an idea of just how massive our online culture really is. And it’s growing by the day. Wikipedia, you blow our minds.

(Image via)