After all these years of writing on the wiki and repeating the mantra "wiki is not paper", I've finally gotten my first printed book for my efforts. Yesterday afternoon UPS delivered what is, I hope, the first of a long series of books with my name on the cover. It was an experience like no other.
Because it's more then just a cool opportunity to get some kind of physical justification of all this time I'm "wasting" at Wikibooks. It's more then being able to hold it up and say "See, this is what I'm doing with my time: Writing actual books that people can actually buy and actually use for class." Of course, then I get the question in return "How much money do you make from this?" Maybe one day I'll have a pile of money that I can hold up and show to people in response to that question too, but probably not. Visual aides to make question-answering much easier.
More then having displayable justification, it's an opportunity to learn something new and to teach new things to people. How long do you think it will take me before I start writing a book about how to write books for this new print-on-demand service? I've already been sending out emails rapid-fire to the PediaPress people with bugs, glitches, and issues that I've found from pouring over my precious new book. Every single page is an opportunity to learn something that I can pass on to others about this experience: Best practices for our authors, fixes and suggestions for the software guys, recommendations for our readers. This first book is a treasure trove of information, and it has my name in big blue letters on the cover. It's an experience that is immeasurably cool.
PediaPress and print-on-demand are here. This is it, this is the sign. When that first book shows up in your mailbox, you know that things have changed. Wikibooks is coming of age today, right now, in a way that most of us 'bookians barely dared to dream about a month ago. The work our authors and editors and volunteers are doing does matter, and will help students and teachers around the world in a very concrete way. All the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place, and the last thing we need is you: your contributions, your books, and your ideas. The books that you write will be printed, bound, and sent to people who can't afford books from traditional publishers. We're going to change the world with this, and we can start right now.
Go to Wikibooks and check out print-on-demand. You won't regret it.