Consumer Surplus (“Print Wikipedia” Art Project Edition)

How much would it cost you to procure a complete set of English-language Wikipedia articles in book form? An art gallery in New York City is sponsoring an exhibition titled From Aaaaa! to ZZZap!, featuring work from the Print Wikipedia series by Michael Mandiberg. The Wikipedia exhibit, however, doesn’t actually feature a complete, physical copy of Wikipedia. Instead, according to the gallery’s description of the work, it “draws attention to the sheer size of the encyclopedia’s content and the impossibility of rendering Wikipedia as a material object in fixed form.” (Notice that the word “impossibility” in the previous sentence is really a substitute for “costly.”) But, in theory, how much would a complete copy of Wikipedia cost you? Below the fold is an excerpt by James Vincent, writing for The Verge:

Mandiberg’s approach has been to code software that renders the online encyclopedia into book-sized chunks, and then upload these to self-publishing platform Fans will then be able to order individual volumes for $80 a pop. This sounds relatively reasonable, but it does mean that buying the entire set — estimated by Mandiberg to eventually cover some 7,600 books — will cost $500,000. Still, that’s a saving of around $100,000 compared to ordering each volume individually.

And here is Hannah Ghorashi, writing for Art News:

These individual volumes are discounted from the usual $80 to $68; the entire collection, should anyone want to order it, is $500,000. (Ironically, you can’t actually order it online, as the sheer size of the order would break the shopping cart. If you go to, Denny Gallery’s phone number is listed for interested buyers underneath a fake “Buy Now” button.)


Credit: Michael Mandiberg

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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6 Responses to Consumer Surplus (“Print Wikipedia” Art Project Edition)

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