So, how do you create your own personal ebook? Start by clicking the “Create a book” link located in Wikipedia’s left sidebar under the “print/export” section. From there you can compile articles (or complete categories) into a personal collection, and then export them. Supported formats include PDF, EPUB, and OpenOffice. You can watch a video of the feature in action here.
The EPUB export feature was developed by brainbot technologies, the same company that created PediaPress, which lets you order a printed version of your custom book. Wikimedia says PediaPress is “the official print-on-demand partner of Wikipedia.”
If you’ve come this far and are still wondering why the hell you would want to read Wikipedia as an ebook, or a printed book, don’t worry, it’s a great question. The best explanation is very simple: offline reading. While most mobile devices nowadays are always connected to the Internet, there are cases when that’s just not possible.
“EPUB files can be used very easily in an offline environment,” Tomasz Finc, Director of Mobile at the Wikimedia Foundation, said in a statement. “They can be opened and distributed just like normal files. Plus, there are readers for almost every platform.”
Personally, I would love to be able to access Wikipedia while on the subway, and this new addition is a decent way to do that, assuming I know what I want to read in advance. In countries where Internet access is still very rare, not to mention mobile devices are the only devices, this won’t be seen just as a feature of Wikipedia. It will be Wikipedia.