Wikipedia on CD/DVD

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

Almost all of the content of the Wikimedia projects is published under licenses which allow anybody to download the content and publish it any way they like. This has allowed various projects to republish our content, for example from the German, Polish, Portuguese and English Wikipedias.


Before any new project is planned for publishing Wikipedia on DVD, flashcard, or any other form of fixed digital medium, it should be clear what the goal of the distribution will be. Should it simply be a means of accessing Wikipedia offline, or should it offer a more feature-rich multimedia encyclopædia, such as the Britannica DVD, or Microsoft's Encarta? Will it incorporate interactive features?

Offline releases involve a clear series of steps:

  1. Determine the scope of the release, which is often dictated by the space available on the medium used and by the expected use of the CD/DVD. Will the release be a general one, or limited to (say) just articles on birds? Will it include all articles, or only the more important/better quality ones? Will it include text-only, or thumbnail pictures, selected pictures, or complete image/video files?
  2. If some selection process is involved, then criteria for selection must be determined, usually based on a combination of topic-importance and quality. Then the process itself needs to be determined - this needs to be scalable (experience has shown that manual selection is very labor-intensive and impracticable beyond 5000 articles) - and the relevant infrastructure put in place. In the English and French Wikipedias, selection has been successfully done using metadata compiled from WikiProjects; on the English Wikipedia, a selection of 31,000 articles was made from a pool of 1.6 million assessed articles.

In any case whether the offline version will be an HTML dump, or a more sophisticated application, it must also be decided how it will be compiled. Should it be possible to download a version of the offline Wikipedia at any time, getting an up-to-date version? Or should one be compiled say every week, or every month or year...?

After this has all been decided, one must decide on a way to package this (digitally) given how much space it will require and whether it should be targeted for CD, cd-rom, etc, and decide on what to bundle with it. Should it come with interfaces for an array of platforms, say Linux, Windows, Mac, or should it simply be a general data-only distribution where a client is required to be downloaded separately? This becomes less applicable if an HTML only approach is taken, but a decision must still be made regarding what file system to use on the distribution media.

Lastly, after ALL the work above is done, one can start talking about physical distribution. The most common distribution method is to simply allow the disk image to be downloaded online so that people can create their own media sets, since it is a free publication. If instead you wish to distribute pre-produced media it would be useful to determine what price people would be willing to pay before committing to the potentially substantial costs involved in producing physical media and shipping them. Relevant questions are: Would people be willing to pay for the additional cost of a more environmental disk? etc.


Read more Kiwix
Kiwix: Take the whole Wikipedia with you...

Kiwix brings internet contents to people without internet access. It is free as in beer and as in speech.

As an offline reader, it is especially thought to make Wikipedia available offline, but technically any kind of web content can be stored into a ZIM file (a highly compressed open format) and then read by the app: there are currently several hundred different contents available in more than 100 languages, from Wikipedia, Wikiquote, the Wiktionary to TED conferences, Gutenberg library, Stackexchange and many others.

Past implemented projects

See also the sidebar.

other goings-on

  • Wikimedia France is developing a free software to build a DVD version of Wikipedia;
  • Wikimedia Italia is also developing a DVD, based on a web browser interface;
    • italian user Emc2 is developing a Qt based visualizator for wiki content (could be used also for the dvd);

The ugly is trying to put all this efforts together... (2006-2007)


A software (currently only GNU/Linux version) for generating the CD/DVD of the selected Wiki articles.

See also