$10 gadget contains "the entire English Wikipedia with 3 million topics" (now $25)

(UPDATE: They've jacked the price up to $25 $29!) I don't have a WikiReader so I don't know if it's any good or not, but I love the idea of a $10 hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy. I ordered one just because it has a "Random" article button. If you have one, please let us know what you think of it in the comments.

  • Palm-sized device contains the entire English Wikipedia
  • Pre-loaded content, no internet connection needed
  • Ready to go right out of box
  • Touchscreen controls and keyboard
  • Uses 2 AAA batteries

Get in the know with the WikiReader. This palm-sized electronic encyclopedia contains the entire English Wikipedia covering 3 million topics -- equivalent to more than 1,000 volumes. No internet connection is required, it comes preloaded with the entire Wikipedia and is ready to use right out of the box. Easy touchscreen controls and touchscreen QWERTY keyboard allow you instant access to a world of knowledge. Never be out of date, either, as the content can be updated quarterly via online download or via MicroSD card. Runs on 2 AAA batteries which will last approximately 1 year.

UPDATE: I'm going to do this when I get mine.

WikiReader Pocket Wikipedia $10


        1.  Yeah, I live in Asia. Amazing to realize that not everyone lives in North America…esp when trying to purchase something on the Net.

      1. I wasn’t trying to be snide. I followed the project for a while, was interested in getting one. It just never seemed to come to fruition- . Everything I read suggested they never got their OS up and running to the point of being usuable as a day to day phone. I think they got some other software running on the hardware after a fashion, though?

  1. I ordered on about a year ago, also when it was being offered for $10, but it has sat in a box for the last year, along with all the other $10 random junk I order.

    There was a hack to get linux running on it, which is what I bought it for, but never got around to it.

    1. Even if getting Linux to run on it is more work than you feel like doing, it’s probably open enough to add your own content without much trouble.  I’d enjoy having a WikiScraped version of IMDB sitting by the TV, for instance…

  2. “Never be out of date, either, as the content can be updated quarterly”.  Because Wikipedia only changes every 3 months? 

    1. All those more frequent updates you’re seeing are essentially randomly generated. The quarterly updates are officially sanctioned by the secret guild of bejewelled wikifactota. True.

    1. Don’t worry. Wikimedia Foundation still ships the actual Wikipedia to Canada. It’s even in color!

  3. The hell? I bought one more than 2 years ago, but it was $100 then! I used it for a good while, but the screen broke. Pretty good while it lasted, but I remember that navigation could be a bit janky, and some articles weren’t structured quite right in the reader’s format.  Worse, sometimes an article would reference a picture that, of course, wasn’t there. That could be confusing sometimes.

  4. Ideally, I think it needs some sort of alternative power source, like a hand crank or solar cells.  (Do they make hand/solar-powered AAA chargers?  I’m thinking they’re not very efficient.)

    1.  I was thinking the same thing.  If it can go solar, it would be essential EOTWAWKI or SHTF (as they say) equipment.

  5. I’ve always wanted to buy one of these for some people in my life who have a survivalist streak. Sure they will horde bullets and food, but never think to horde the information to rebuild. Maybe I’ve just read “The Postman” (not the movie!) too many times.

  6. I bought three when they were selling for $15 last year. Gave one to a friend. Kept one for myself. The other I was planning on using as a gift.

    The support site, kept going by a skeleton staff, has instructions for loading multiple Wikis, Project Gutenberg, as well as Wikipedia on a 16 gb micro SD.

     Um . . . it works. There are no graphics, tables, or much in the way of formatting. Navigation is via links and a history. Kind of like those text-only web browsers.

    I’m not sure of the use case, though. Other than pulling it out of your shirt pocket and saying “Look! A gigantic encyclopedia, a dictionary, and hundreds of works of literature, all in this little gadget!”

    If you had that solar battery charger, it would be a swell thing to have on a desert island.

      1. That’s how a lot of amazon shops work.  They are automated so when an item gets a lot purchases (or even just page views) all of a sudden, they automatically jack up the price.

        There are other bots/features that will vary pricing based on other shops pricing, which can lead to bizarre, automated, price wars.  There was an article (on boingboing, I think) a year or so ago about this phenomena.

        1. Amazon is currently trying to sell a single copy of Ted Nelson’s book Computer Lib for thirty five thousand dollars. It came from a library sale, initially, and is in ‘fair’ condition.

      1.  Cool stuff.
        I can get used, dead-ish android phones for less than $25,  and an easy-to-setup wikipedia reader is potentially useful.

    1.  There is. It’s called “Wikipedia Offline.” Search for it on the iTunes store, there should be an Android version also.

      It downloads entire Wikipedia DB, about 4GB, takes awhile. But then it’s all available offline on your device. Updates whenever you get to a WiFi connection.

      I didn’t develop the app, but as a journo who often works without a Net connection, it’s great.

      1. Cool!  A long time ago, when Wikipedia could fit in 1GB, there was a version you could run on an iPod.  I didn’t have an iPod with a screen at the time, and Wikipedia was growing rapidly, but it’s cool to hear that you can still get a reasonable subset into 4GB.

        If it weren’t for compression, an obvious Android implementation could be Your Favorite Browser, and a bunch of Wikipedia articles with the links changed to “file://whatever/whatever/articlename”

  7. I bought one of these two years ago to use for a backpacking trip through Southeast Asia and it became indispensable. $70 was a bargain back but I wish I’d paid only $10!

    It truly was a Hitchhiker’s Guide because I always used it to find new sites to visit. My friend and I also relied on it as a tour guide while stumbling upon the the ruins at Angkor Wat. I never tried it but read that you can download Wikitravel on there too, which is pretty sufficient to travel many places.

    I got sick once during the trip and used the reader to look up dosing and side effects of these antibiotics that I had.

    And it’s a great way to pass time on long bus/train rides.

    I think you can do any of the above with a solid smartphone (which I didn’t have back then), but this thing is pretty sturdy. I kept it wrapped up in a sock in my backpack that went through rain and dirt. 
    Also, you can find AA batteries in any corner of the world. If the batteries are good and depending how often you use the unit, you can keep it going for a couple weeks.

    There’s not much use for it stateside. Although, I did use it for amusement last year during the Wikipedia SOPA blackout.
    But for minimalist travel, this thing is portable, rugged, and perfect.

  8. I dunno, I mean, I’m looking at my smartphone right now wondering what kind of situations there could possibly be where I’d not have any signal and *need* to read wikipedia…

    1.  Well, if you’re off the beaten path you may incur steep roaming charges on your smartphone. Then again, turning on mobile data and shutting it off again once you’ve read “Bear Gryll’s disgusting food tips” or whatever it is you need should work too.

    2. The WikiReader can also load in Project Gutenberg and be used as a cheap e-reader.

      1.  It seems clear to me that Amazon uses algorithms to determine “market price.”

        Analyze the $$$-skyrocket on this piece of kit and you will learn just how much a single mention on Boing Boing is worth.

  9. I wonder how much more it would cost for a version that reasonably reproduced the various formatting options on Wikipedia?  Going to a page that makes heavy use of tables and finding an unreadable mess is a real bummer.

  10. My wife got one as a gift. I guess the most honest thing I can say about it is “I’m sure it could be useful to someone who doesn’t have access to the internet.”

  11. I’m in for at least a pair.  They make good study guides for kids who cannot resist being sucked into something flashy on the internet if they need to know some random factoid.

  12. It is good to have many many offline copies of important databases like this.  Ever read “1984”?

    If the reference everyone uses changes and there is no copy elsewhere to say “This was not so yesterday”, we are at the mercy of those who control the information and there are many in high places who have no mercy whatsoever.

  13. Best to carry one of these if you think you will find yourself time traveling and trapped in the past.

  14. I have two of these. The first time I showed it to a friend, he said “I no longer really want single purpose tools.” I thought about it and replied, “That’s why we have a box of screwhammers.” If you think that the best thing that can happen is that your phone does everything, then this likely is not for you.

    What you think of this is going to depend on your view of tools. Your modern mobile phone is like a multi-tool — it can do many things, and many of those it does well, but it pretty much does only one thing at a time. You can’t scan for open WiFi hotspots as the same time that you use the video camera.

    This device will appeal to those with a toolbox preference. One of these often sits in the back seat of the car, especially on long trips, for when something needs looking up. Because it doesn’t use any external data, it will work anywhere — even up at the cottage when you’re thinking about how to best build a parabolic reflector to try and pick up nearby WiFi. You can give it to your child even when you are busy doing something else with your phone.

    The device itself is compact and reasonably robust. It emphasizes industrial design over cool, and manufacturing cost reduction over cool. In that sense, it just aspires to a different idea of cool. The white of the case is the white of the plastic — there’s no paint to chip. You have to remove the MicroSD card to do updates outside the box. It is thrifty on batteries; since it has no backlight, you typically get about 90 days out of a pair of AAA batteries.

    Updates are straightforward, but they do take a while. This might save *mobile* data, but an update often runs about 12 to 12 GB over your home connection.

    The limitation of text only varies according to what you are looking for. Many technical pages have extensive tables, so that is going to be a limitation. No pictures or maps is clear, but complaining about that strikes me as complaining that your paring knife is not as good as a fully equipped commercial kitchen. It’s true that it’s not as good, but — it never claimed it would be. It does exactly what it says – looks up plain Wikipedia (and Wiktionary, Appropedia, Project Gutenberg, Wikiquote, Wookiepedia, and WikiTravel – I have 16GB) anywhere without a data connection, running on internal batteries for a couple of months. It will also run an extensive selection of alternate language Wikipedias.

    Personally, I really like mine. I got my original at about $80 in late 2009, and two more at a big box electronics store much later for closeout at $20, and immediately flipped one of those to a friend at cost.

    The original interface was a little clunky, but the software update soon after launch cleaned this up considerably. It’s not all singing and dancing animated colour, but it works.

    My favourite tip? If you want to know when the Wikipedia image was taken, look up “Deaths in 2013”. The last date with a death in it is likely the image date.

    In summary? If you want a reasonably capable lookup device for your car, backpack or toolbox, this is great. If you want to just slip your phone in your shirt pocket and take on the world, then this is likely not a device for you.

  15. Thinking of getting a WikiReader? Get one instead for kids that have no internet access by donating to our Indiegogo Campaign ow.ly/kIEmr

  16. I can think of M ANY use cases for this device. Holiday home with no Internet and no 3G coverage, e.g.  You can go offline for a week and still be able to look up things. Also, if you want to turn off your phone and your computer because you don’t want to be disturbed but still want to be able to look up things. Plus, a gadget is better than a laptop if you’re the type who likes to work with hand-written notes and a mountain of books .

  17. I bought mine when the originally came out and then bought a replacement 2 years ago when the original screen broke.  It is invaluable as a cheating aid when working NY Times crosswords that use clues that reference obscure people or places that you never heard of but that are otherwise fun to work. You can easily find lists of actors in little-known films or other strange knowledge that normal humans don’t store for later crossword solving. The advertised battery life is bogus, the two AAA batteries give you 90 days or so, but that’s fine for what I want.  If you do crosswords, pick one up and try it.

  18. I purchased one.  The contrast is terrible (even after adjusting).  To adjust, hold the search and random button while powering on.  Then set.  Then power off.

    The SD card is nearly impossible to access – it requires disassembling the device (which doesn’t seem like it was made for disassembly).  At the $10 price, I was hopeful I could order a large number and flash them with Wikipedia and  as many books as possible, then send them to a rural school.

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