January 28, 2013

Using Wikipedia to Create an e-Textbook

This text was initially published by Profweb under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, before Eductive was launched.

During the La Vitrine technologie-éducation (VTÉ) laboratory session entitled Exploration du manuel numérique (Exploring the digital textbook), participants explored in depth how to use academic content to produce a digital textbook in EPUB format. As a result, in this column, I invite you to try a simple experiment, namely the easy publication of a digital textbook that you can then distribute to your students in various formats.

Step-by-step eBook Publication

Wikipedia is an excellent resource for building an ebook which explores a topic or launches research for sources. To encourage students to use Wikipedia as a tool to start researching a subject rather than as the ultimate source of information, a teacher can easily provide students with a collection of reference articles in the form of an ebook. Here’s how it works:

1- Navigation and Creation

  1. Start by selecting a first article on the site.
  2. Click “Create a book” in the Print/export section of the menu on the lefthand side of the page.
  3. Click “Start book creator”.

The “Book creator” bannner will appear above your article.

Créateur de livres

The Wikipedia “Book creator” bannner. Source : Wikipedia

Then, you just have to navigate within Wikipedia and look for items to add to your forthcoming ebook. You can assemble up to 800 pages of articles, but take into account that a 500-page book is rather big.

2- Organize

Click on the “Show book (x pages)” in the banner to add a title, change the order of pages or even remove a page. You also can create chapters where you can group certain pages.

In the banner, the “Suggest pages tool” can prove useful to add additional content related to the main subject of the proposed book.

3- Download and Distribute

Your ebook is now finished; you just need to download it to your computer in EPUB format. This format will allow your students to consult the book directly from their computer, tablet or smartphone. The contents of the ebook will adapt to fit the dimensions of the tool that they use.

Do not choose the PDF format, since many students will then need to horizontally scroll to read the text. In addition, the table of contents and pagination could be out of synch because the PDF does not take the text structure into account. This format is comparable to a photograph of a document that has fixed dimensions.

Examples of eBooks on Wikipedia

Explore shared books on Wikipedia. Adapt them or make your own handbook to record knowledge, practices and rules related to your discipline. Your students will be able to keep them on hand and consult them at any time offline or online.

Here are some examples of ebooks available on the Wikipedia site, which you can edit and re-publish:

Mediagraphy and Copyright

Note the last section of ebooks created using Wikipedia where you will find a mediagraphy containing:

  • All sources (authors, contributors) of selected articles.
  • Picture credits accompanied by copyright conditions.

Such ebooks therefore demonstrate good practice respecting copyright.

EPUB Open Format

An ebook published in EPUB format can easily be consulted on smartphones, tablets and digital readers.

To read an EPUB file on your computer, you can install an EPUB reader such as
or just use an extension for reading EPUB in one of the web browsers such as Firefox (EPUBReader) or Google Chrome (Readium).

Beyond Wikipedia

If you do not want to limit yourself to Wikipedia articles, the Firefox extension
Grab my books
can transform any page on the web into an EPUB file. This extension is even more interesting in that it also can manage RSS feeds. Simply select items that you want in the RSS feed and convert them into EPUB format.


Where do you envision the creation of ebooks in your teaching? Do you have stories of your own experiences to share?

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