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Building a Universal Encyclopedia of Information

The Frankfurt Book Fair is regarded by many as the most important event on the annual calendar of the publishing industry. The five-day annual event brings together top industry leaders and professionals from around the world to take part in its massive array of activities.

Among the global brands participating was Wikipedia. What would it offer for the Frankfurt fair and what it would add to the audience?

Nasher put these questions to Ronald Stynritt, a supervisor of the Wikipedia stand at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Why does Wikipedia participate in a book fair?
Wikipedia is no stranger to books although it is not a publishing or distribution company. For many, a comprehensive, free encyclopedia represents a primary source of knowledge about a book or a writer or a publishing house. This is evident from the searching habits of internet users who begin their research on Wikipedia before going to other sites if they wanted to expand on the topic.

Statistics show that two million people take Wikipedia as their initial source for information when it comes to knowing about a writer or a book, a figure which drives us to enhance our performance even further.

Does Wikipedia participate in other fairs?
The organisers of the stand at Frankfurt are also the supervisors of the encyclopedia’s German pages, however I think Wikipedia will participate in some of the other international fairs in the future such as New York and Buenos Aires.

The Frankfurt Book Fair has set aside a special hall dedicated to scientific advancement in the book industry, an initiative by the fair’s management that encouraged us to participate because we believe that Wikipedia reflects a development in the relation between the audience and books.

As Wikipedia is one of the most popular means to learn about books, what does it hope to offer in the future?
The most important thing for us is to develop the encyclopedia’s information, and this needs more systematic interaction. For example, as France is the guest of honour at this edition, we cooperated with the French mission to establish a list of French literary and scientific names needed for the German pages on Wikipedia. We have embarked on translating the extra pages, and we will extend this strategy in the future to include other languages.

How do you evaluate publishers’ interaction with Wikipedia?
There is great trust placed in Wikipedia. This is expected because Wikipedia is not a publisher itself, but it is an open space for everyone, where publishers use the encyclopedia as an effective and inexpensive tool to promote their publications or the authors who work with them.

For the Wikipedia management, this is extremely positive provided there are elements such as the writer’s values and traits, and that the book is also worthy of its own page.

During the five-day fair, we met with many German publishers who talked to us about ways to develop their pages along with scientists and artists who want to collaborate with us individually. This is the general principle adopted by Wikipedia to build an encyclopedia of information on the grounds of partnership.