Fundraising 2007/Why Give blog/Wikibooks: The Future of Free Education

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Wikipedia is an excellent resource for almost any topic imaginable. I know that it was Wikipedia that first introduced me to wikis, and the WMF projects. In fact, I think that most people have Wikipedia to thank for their introduction to the world of wikis and open content. However, while Wikipedia was my first wiki, my heart belongs to Wikibooks. Wikibooks is younger then Wikipedia, smaller, less well known, but did you know that Wikibooks is the largest free e-book website in the world? A lot of people will point out that many college professors regard Wikipedia as "unreliable", but did you know that several books on Wikibooks have been used as the official textbook in several college-level courses? From Advanced Data Managment at the University of Georgia, Human Physiology At Provo College, to Social and Cultural Foundations of Education at Old Dominion University, our textbooks are finding their way into the classroom as a free, high-quality alternative to traditional texts.

I was attracted to Wikibooks at first because it had all the features of a smaller project: It was more intimate, it was less hectic, it moved at a more reasonable pace. But while the pace was more laid-back, the atmosphere was certainly more electric, more explosive. You really get the feeling like any moment Wikibooks will break out into it's own, driven to the top by the passion and hard work of it's many dedicated members. Every day, you feel that you're a little closer to the next milestone, a little closer to the next big moment. The sense that you are a part of something with so much potential is almost overwhelming.

One day we are helping to launch our sister project, Wikiversity. One day, we are receiving a donation of e-books from the United Nations. One day we are helping schools in South Africa to develop free textbooks. One day we are talking with book publishers, and representatives from the OLPC project distribute our Wikijunior books. One day, we are helping a class of students to write a book for their class. Every day, there is something exciting happening on Wikibooks, and everybody can get involved in it.

There are big things on the horizon too. We are talking with book donors, and book consumers, and book publishers. We are actively recruiting new members, and we are trying to grow our collection of ebooks. But these are all things that we can't do without more time, and we can't get more time to work if we don't have the money to keep the servers running. Many people will talk about how great Wikipedia is, and how you should donate to support what Wikipedia is. What I am saying is that you should donate to support what Wikibooks, and all the small sister projects, could become. Imagine a world where quality multilingual education is available for free, at the click of a button. Wikibooks is working to make that world a brilliant reality, and you can help.

Andrew Whitworth is an active editor and administrator on English Wikibooks. He's a member of Wikimedia's Chapters Committee, and is working to found the "Wikimedia Pennsylvania" chapter.