Brad Patrick wrote:
Robert, what would an efficient process look like to you, assuming the
licensing component is a requirement?
To make it simple, on Wikibooks we have been developing some content now
for close to three years, some of which is nearing a publishable state
that the contributors would like to be able to "share with the world".
And since these are books that have been developed, it seems reasonable
that they be made into bound printed matter at some point, particularly
if they are of value to other people. One of the stated goals of
Wikibooks is to produce textbooks that can compete with other
educational texts, and that would also include physical books as well
for this purpose. Having physcial books like this is something that
adds value to the Wikibooks project as a whole, and acts as a validation
for what we are trying to accomplish.
I think I can speak for most Wikibooks users to say that we don't want
to harm the WMF, but rather even see that this can be something
beneficial to help out the foundation and "pay back" for the generosity
of being able to have a place to develop this sort of content. Even in
the case of the Wikijunior Big Cats, the user who put it up for sale
wasn't even making any profit, all he wanted was to make it available in
some form, and the cost was simply the publication fee alone. From my
own experience trying to publish similar content, the price he was
asking was typical in North America for small print runs for books of
that size if you went to any printer.
This needs to be a community-driven approach, where ordinary Wikimedia
users who contribute to various project have the opportunity to
participate and make this sort of content available. There is also no
need for having a dozen independent "publishers" that all go off on
their own direction. Certainly once it is apparent that you can make
some money off of publishing content like this, there will be a dozen
different companies offering Wikimedia content for sale, so your caution
is justified. In this case, we are talking about publishing content as
a Wikibooks community rather than as a bunch of mavericks.
Ideally, what I'd like to see is some sort of "official" WMF store that
is able to offer books like this. There should be some restrictions
placed on such content that are primarily quality based restrictions.
This would imply some sort of "editorial board" or some others that
would have the ability to accept or offer suggestions on improving the
content to meet publication standards. All of this can be accomplished
with volunteers, and doesn't require anything new other than some extra
web pages to help organize the effort and helping select the editorial
board. In addition, any such gatekeepers should be selected by the
community and come up from the users rather than something appointed by
the WMF board, as is the tradition for other such people like admins,
If you want to "publish" a book you've written that has Wikimedia
project content, you can organize it and then submit it to this board
for review. If the book is accepted for publication, it is somehow
added to the WMF store. Other "features" at the store can include
featured books, or the host of things you find for book retailers. Or
simply make the book available with an ISBN and it would be available
or a bunch of other on-line bookstores. The exact path
to publication isn't so important as that it is made available.
This is something that I see local Wikimedia chapters being involved
with, as they can help find local printers to make content like this
available to people in their respective countries. Certainly it would
make much more sense to print a book in Poland for Polish readers than
ship something from North America to do the same thing. Still, it would
be nice to have an established process to show high quality Wikimedia
materials that would enhance rather than detract from Wikimedia projects.
I guess I would like to see it done through the community as well to
help reduce costs. Particularly in the printing business, there are
economies of scale that help to reduce costs significantly. This book
which was for sale at $12 a copy could be brought down to $4 or even
less in large volumes. It only makes sense that this is something that
can and should be done with a centralized coordinated effort for this
One huge issue on top of everything else is simply inventory control.
As this is physical items, that means they can be damaged, stolen,
cause damage, and a host of other related problems. Lulu Press does
offer this sort of inventory control, and there are other for-profit
businesses who are willing to do print-on-demand, but that does involve
other compromises. Certainly we shouldn't be tied down to one printer
in any case, and in this situation the Wikimedia Foundation should be
the publisher of the content, not Lulu Press.
There are some legal issues such as placement and usage of trademarks.
You hit that one well, and in this situation we need to have it defined
exactly how and in what ways that the WMF would like to have their
trademarks and logos used on publications. If it is an "official"
publication, there is obviously some more lieniency than for
"non-official" publications, and some clear guidelines should be in
place for at least people like me (an admin) can point to and say "it
says here that you can (can't) do what you are asking." I think
[[b:en:Wikibooks:Copyrights]] does a pretty good job for instance, but
that was something written by decidely a non-lawyer when Wikibooks was a
much smaller project (Thanks mav for your work on that!) Certainly
that needs to be reviewed formally by the WMF to see if that is what is
intended, together with similar copyright statements on the other
BTW, thanks to everybody for your comments on this matter.
Robert Scott Horning