Today I have the pleasure of unveiling Wikitravel Press (WTP), an independent company that will publish printed guidebooks based on Wikitravel content.
The model is simple: text and images will be selected from Wikitravel, combined, abridged or changed by (paid) editors, published on demand and shipped anywhere in the world. This means that Wikitravel guidebooks will have up-to-date and reliable information, eliminating the infuriating years-long gap between research and publication that inspired Wikitravel itself.
Wikitravel Press is a commercial venture, owned and operated by Jani, Michele and Evan. Internet Brands has licensed the Wikitravel trademark to the company, but is not managing and does not own the company. Books will be sold at competitive prices (typically US$10-20 plus shipping and other fees), initially through the Web and later through other channels. Per the Wikitravel copyleft, the books themselves will also be subject to the same Creative Commons license as Wikitravel Web pages, so they can be copied and reused freely.
Wikitravel Press will hire book editors to assemble relevant destination guides, abridge or expand them, and make final copy-editing and fact-checking tasks. Where this work coincides with the Wikitravel manual of style, they'll contribute that work directly back onto wikitravel.org.
Book editors may be existing Wikitravellers with exceptional domain knowledge and language and research skills; they may also be professional editors or freelance travel writers. Book editors will be held to a strict code of conduct in their interactions with other Wikitravel community members. They will not have any extra authority of any sort on the website. In particular, they don't get "final say" on any article.
On related Wikitravel destination guide pages, there will be non-intrusive links to the wikitravelpress.com site to buy a copy of the book that includes that guide. As usual, input from the community will be an important part of the process in determining the placement of these links.
Our expectation is to begin shipping the first titles in the Wikitravel Press travel guide series in Fall 2007. Our initial books will be pre-assembled; typical books will be city guidebooks, regional guidebooks, and country guidebooks. Our first books will be in English, but we hope to quickly provide guidebooks in other Wikitravel languages. In the future we hope to provide "ad hoc" books, so you can assemble a guidebook from several different destinations.
Our goal with this announcement is to solicit community feedback on the plan. What are your expectations for a guidebook based on Wikitravel content? What would you consider acceptable and unacceptable conduct by a Wikitravel Press book editor? What kind of guidebooks would you be interested in? Jpatokal 21:03, 2 August 2007 (EDT)
I just want to jump in and say how excited I am personally about this project. This is a goal that has been unfulfilled for too long. I hope that printed guidebooks will help the general public see and use the great work that Wikitravellers have done over the last 4 years. Thanks so much to Jani for making this important milestone happen. --Evan 21:12, 2 August 2007 (EDT)
Congratulations, Jani. This is an awesome venture and I hope you guys do well. -- Sapphire • (Talk) • 22:19, 2 August 2007 (EDT)
A "normal" guide book costs ($US10-20) too . Why do you use the community that way? Now the contributors are slaves - working for your revenues. -- DerFussi 03:45, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday. --PeterTalk 04:57, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
That took me a minute, but, that is funny. 2old 10:41, 4 August 2007 (EDT)
This sounds like a brilliant idea! I am looking forward to see the first guidebooks... I am wishing you good luck with your new company! --Flip666writeme! • 04:32, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
DerFussi -- thanks to the CC by-sa license, I can make a printed guidebook from Wikivoyage content, sell it and take all the money. Does that make you my slave? I'll answer my own question: no, it doesn't, because the whole point of open content is that it can be freely reused.
Of course we'd love to give away books for free, but printing physical books on paper costs money, print on demand is expensive and we just can't compete with Let's Rough Planet's 100,000-copy print runs on price. Instead, our advantage will be that we're much, much more up-to-date than "traditional" guidebooks.
Those Wikitravellers who opt/are chosen to be editors — and make no mistake, it will be a job — will get paid for their work, and a large part of any future profits from WTP will be plowed back into Wikitravel the website. I, personally, think that giving people the option to buy printed copies of guides they like is a much friendlier way of funding the site than advertisements or begging for donations. Jpatokal 05:23, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
DerFussi, you know that according to the license you can make and sell printed guides too, don't you? -- Mark 08:52, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
Previous conversation: Theft Curious who elected Jpatoka community leader? 2old 10:56, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
Sorry, I'm not really following you here? The difference between re-use and theft is following the conditions of the CC by-sa license, and WTP intends to adhere to them scrupulously. As for "community leader", that wasn't my turn of phrase, but I suppose it's just a fancy way of saying "administrator" and you can find the archives of the nomination process for that right here. Jpatokal 11:08, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
Thank you for clearing up the difference: "is following the conditions of the CC by-sa license", between that and theft. Now I see. I also understand the term "touting". I think you may have delivered a "destructive blow", to Wikitravel. We will see. 2old 13:53, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
Just throwing out speculative thoughts here... Most people will not to want others to profit from their endeavors. That's human nature, I guess. Sure, there is the CC by sa license, and I'm sure most people would not object to an article or a phrase being reused here and there, but actually seeing their work sold in book format might create a different kind of reaction. If that happens, then the source of edits done by regular contributors may possibly dry up, and the project will fold. A possible way around this might be to make Wikitravel Press a non-profit enterprise. Salaries can be taken and profits plowed back into WT, but anything remaining should not be passed on as profit. Instead, perhaps it can be used to fund charities nominated by contributors. Personally, I don't think contributors will object to that, but I believe that they will feel taken advantage of if their endeavors are used to fund someone's new car or vacation at a beach resort - though perhaps not... WindHorse 12:07, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
Windhorse, I'm sure you're right that some people aren't going to get it (witness DerFussi), but the simple fact is that this is what the license is all about. If Jani wants to print Wikitravel out and sell it good for him! If you want to print Wikitravel out and sell it good for you! If either of you make changes in order to bring the articles up to editorial standard then great, you've improved the content and you have to contribute it back that's the rule. -- Mark 17:59, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
Just to rephrase, maybe people who don't want to see others profit from their endevours shouldn't get involved in open content projects. It's the whole point. Just to remind you there's nothing stopping anybody, anybody from doing this. It's in the license, and it just proves once again that IB's ownership of the domain has changed nothing. -- Mark 18:02, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
@Mark. I know the license very well. But I do not like the gradual transition of WT to a commercial project and businesses with this modern kind of outsourcing -- DerFussi 12:12, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
Listen DerFussi, I don't understand what you mean by outsourcing.
Here are the facts: sombeody, not the founder of the project, not the owner of the domain, but a long term contributor, one of the most valuable contributors we have, is going to print up Wikitravel in book form and sell the books. In getting the books into shape he's going to improve the original articles in accordance with the license, meaning that if you don't want a copy of the book you still get the content, and you can always just print it out on a printer if you like. What exactly is the problem? -- Mark 17:54, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
Although we painstakingly try to explain, some people still do not understand the possibilities of our license: There are already people earning money with our work! E.g. this site copies our whole content or here a photo made by me is used according to our license. So why should we condemn a member of our community to earn money with Wikitravel, when we allow other people to do so? Besides, and they are even giving back something to the community! --Flip666writeme! • 18:44, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
Commercialization, schmercialization. Nobody has addressed the real issue here, namely: in these books, what is the ToC going to look like? What manner of floating, collapsing, whitespace-eating beast slouches toward Montreal/Singapore to be born? Gorilla Jones 19:15, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
Let me make a commitment to the community: I hereby solemnly guarantee that the book's ToC will be removable, collapsible, and floatable. Eating whitespace, though, will require some pretty fancy folding on the reader's part. Jpatokal 01:55, 4 August 2007 (EDT)
This thread is fast-becoming one of my all-time favorites in the nearly three years that I've been contributing - many thanks to Gorilla for focusing it on the truly important issues! I was also very worried about the TOC, as well as whether the printed guides would use British or English spelling, whether there would be appropriate warnings about the Meyer Centre, and if I could remove my images from a book if I later decided that I really didn't like the terms of the CC-SA license. Those concerns aside, best of luck with this endeavor, and I look forward to seeing the finished product and (hopefully) the additional polish and professionalism that the project should bring to existing Wikitravel articles. -- Ryan • (talk) • 02:49, 4 August 2007 (EDT)
Horrors! There probably won't even be a three page debate or any vote on that!! Congrats to those in this venture. You deserve any good fortune that follows. OldPine 20:23, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
Hi Mark, thanks for your comments. I fully agree with you. From a legal and rational point, you are totally correct. However, people are not rational animals, any many may feel that they are offering their efforts for someone else to make a profit. As I stated above, people using the content to print a few articles here and there has a totally different feeling to someone directly using the work to fund a profit-making book project, even though both are legally within their rights to do so. Don't you think so? I'm not encouraging this reaction or stating it is correct. I'm just pointing out that there could be a backlash, and that Jpatokal should be prepared to deal with it, and that perhaps setting up the venture with a non-profit status could be a way to do so (as well as being an altruistic gesture!) That would be the way I would do it. However, perhaps I'm being too pessimistic as many people have already expressed their support. Personally, I wish Jpatokal well in his venture. He is a good editor and an interesting character WindHorse 21:40, 3 August 2007 (EDT)
I understand your point of view, but Wikitravel Press's core business is selling books at a profit, and this is just not fundamentally compatible with being a non-profit organization. For example, due to legal/tax issues the Wikimedia Foundation cannot make more than 10% of its earnings through sales of any kind, the rest has to come from donations. Wikimedia can pull this off because they give away their product for free, but that's not an option for WTP.
All that said, should you happen to know any rich philanthropists who'd just love to fund a Wikitravel Press Foundation, I'm all ears! Jpatokal 00:56, 4 August 2007 (EDT)
Got it. I appreciate your explanation, and from the reaction of regular contributors I was being too pessimistic. So, good luck, and if I run into any rich philanthropists, I'll point them in your direction. By the way, in a few weeks I will be out of action for a while, but it has nothing to do with this matter, more to do with intermittent web access. Take it easy. Ps. OldPine, don't count on the debate not running to three pages, we have already reached one WindHorse 04:52, 4 August 2007 (EDT)
Jani, may I propose the first guide to publish? "Wikitravel's Guidebook to the Most Pointless Licence Discussions on the Internet". 350 pages plus 45 pages TOC including 10 pages "intentionally left blank"... ;-) --Flip666writeme! • 06:19, 4 August 2007 (EDT)
Hey... that's kindof a fun idea. The last couple of pages of the book could be blank postcards addressed to Wikitravelpress, with prepaid postage in the destination country. -- Mark 09:03, 4 August 2007 (EDT)
Sorry, but I see this as a "parsitic" use of the community. I would propose that the book be printed, IB directly receive the proceeds, 10% go to the founders of which 10% be diverted to say, The Wikitravel Childrens Health Fund, to be administered by Windhorse solely at his will to ten charities in full on an annual basis. I think you would have willing participants in that rather than the community beng "forced" to support a community member. Further, I think all community members, other than the founders should be excluded from any financial gain. This could cloud the decisions of that party and effect all. I have been a willing participant and contributor to what I considered a community effort, I am somewhat soured by the idea of supporting anyone other than the owners and founders. The idea that anyone could do this without "license" from IB is a it misleading. 2old 09:52, 4 August 2007 (EDT)
Um, no, it's not misleading. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from setting up your own company to publish books with Wikitravel content and distributing their revenues any way you like. Seriously. You don't need IB's permission, the CC license gives you all the rights you need. The only catch is that the name "Wikitravel" is a trademark, so you can't call it that without IB's permission. (Just like you can't sell anything called "Wikipedia" without Wikimedia Foundation's permission.)
I'm glad you've raised this though, because we are concerned about the effect of paying editors on the community, and we want to take all possible steps to minimize the potential negative consequences outlined so well by Evan in his essay on the topic. The safeguards we propose include explicitly not giving any additional power on the website to paid editors. I can also see a lot of a value in paying people outside the community to do tedious that community members wouldn't, like, say, dialing every phone number in the Singapore guide to make sure they're correct. However, I think it would be counterproductive to completely exclude the community, because there are some great people editing this site and, if some of them are willing to work for us, it's the best of all worlds.: WTP and the community gets experienced editors with a deep understanding of the community, and the money goes to them instead of a stranger.
What are your exact concerns regarding how this could "cloud decisions"? Would there be any other safeguards you, or others reading this, would like to see? Jpatokal 12:00, 4 August 2007 (EDT)