‘Print Wikipedia’ Totals 7600 Volumes, To Sell For $500,000

If you have a few hundred empty bookshelves that need filling, a keen interest in Wikipedia, and a burning hole in your wallet, New York artist and professor Michael Mandiberg has a deal for you. His latest art project, dubbed “Print Wikipedia,” features all 7,600 volumes of the online encyclopedia. It will sell for a cool half-million, per an article in the Washington Post.

The “Print Wikipedia” project, described by Mr. Mandiberg as half utilitarian data visualization project and half absurdist poetic gesture, got its start on Thursday when Mandiberg began uploading all of Wikipedia to the print-on-demand website Lulu.com — an upload which will take an estimated 11 to 14 days. It clocks in at roughly 11 extremely compressed gigabytes of information, which is around the average size of a Blu-Ray encoded movie. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Lulu.com made headlines last month as well when an author used the service to publish a controversial children’s book.

“When I started, I wondered, ‘What if I took this new thing and made it into that old thing? What would it look like?'”

“Print Wikipedia” is taking place at the Denny Gallery in New York’s Lower East Side, amidst Mandiberg’s larger “From Aaaaa! To ZZZap!” exhibition. As the New York Times notes, the Lulu.com upload page will be projected on the gallery’s wall for the duration of the upload, while the other walls of the gallery will be lined with wallpaper featuring the spines of the first 1,980 volumes in the printed Wikipedia.

Among the highlights are a 91-volume table of contents listing almost 11.5 million articles and a 36-volume contributor’s index featuring nearly 7.5 million names. The articles beginning with numbers and punctuation alone will run to more than 500 700-page volumes. When finished, Wikipedia, the print version, will sell for $500,000 or $80 for individual volumes.

Michael Mandiberg has been working on “Print Wikipedia” since he first had the idea in 2009 and prioritized the project in 2012. “Print Wikipedia” may seem frivolous, but it represents over three years of work from the professor, using a piece of software custom-written by the multi-talented Mandiberg to parse all of Wikipedia and convert it to a suitable print layout.

Mr. Mandiburg approached Lulu.com about “Print Wikipedia” last fall; the project is just a bit bigger than the print-on-demand company typically handles. Lulu.com provided technical support and some financial support for the project. Lulu.com’s VP of marketing almost comically understated the scope of the project.

“It’s not every day someone comes to you and says, ‘I’d like to make a printed inventory of the largest storehouse of human knowledge in English, and would like to use your website.'”

[Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images]