Help:Contributing

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Wikibooks is an open content collection of non-fiction books (especially textbooks). You are contributing to a free, publicly-usable database of information. If that is not enough reason to contribute, we have several more below. Once you're convinced, the final section details how you can get started.

Why contribute?

Free as in freedom
The textbooks on this site are all released under a free content license. That means that they are free as in freedom, forever. No one can stop you from using these materials, modifying them or distributing them. Also, the license guarantees that any works that are derived from these materials will be similarly free to modify and distribute, forever.
Gratis, no money required
Are you really going to spend money for a textbook when you can get the same or similar information for free? Anyone can access the Wikibooks textbooks at no cost.
Academia meets the real world
Our textbooks are started by people who are familiar with the subject. Content is continually augmented by Wikibookians. This is no lone professor seeking additional income, it is a community of people who are there to learn the material in the least painful way to get the grade and be prepared for the next step. That means textbooks that make sense.
Up-to-the-minute changes
You will never have to wait months or years for another edition to come out that incorporates the latest changes in the field. The very minute a discovery or advancement is made the text can be updated to reflect that change.
Built-in feedback
Every textbook page has its own associated talk page where students can ask each other questions and help each other with the material. Each page can also receive reader feedback through an interface at the bottom of the page.
Global access to educational materials
Learners from around the globe who have access to the Web can find quality educational information, regardless of financial status, local/regional educational restrictions, or proximity to an educational institution.
Educational flexibility
No time constrains. You can contribute and use the content at your own pace.

Who contributes?

Anyone is free to contribute. One of the best ways to learn about something is to teach it to someone else. Challenge yourself to see how well you really know the material. This site gives you the chance to use and work on a textbook devoted to the subject you are studying. And it's free!

In just a few short years and entirely through volunteer efforts, Wikipedia has become one of the leading encyclopedias on the web. (Wikipedia has more traffic than Encyclopedia Britannica online!) Wikibooks seeks to replicate this success in as much time.
Humanitarians
All of the material developed on this site is released under a license that guarantees that the information remains free forever. Leave behind a tiny legacy with each bit you add to the open textbook project. It really is about giving back to humanity and helping yourself as you help your fellow human beings.
Teachers
You know the times when you could have presented a topic better than the author of the textbook you are using. At Wikibooks teachers have the chance to take an active hand in how that information is organized and presented, and make a lasting contribution to the students in your classroom and around the world.
Teachers should also consider making the development of a textbook a class project. Students learn not only the subject matter at hand, but also the art of collaboration, and they establish contacts with other students from around the world. This is also a great learning activity for teachers themselves in that they can gain valuable insights into the ways that students perceive the topic.
Engineers
Tired of searching for elusive reference texts scattered around the organization or budgeting for a new round of reference data every few months to years depending upon the volatility of your field? Material placed here and eventually crosschecked by many users is now only a click away if you have good Internet access. Unlike your physical reference library, it may also be viewable on your portable computer during field excursions.
Industry leaders
You need today's students to be prepared for tomorrow's workplace. Help get that knowledge into their hands today, and it will be stored in a place that they can always go back to refer to it.

Why not to contribute?

Sometimes, there may be reasons not to contribute. These might be:

Legal reasons
If you are not in the position to provide material that can be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0 and the GNU Free Documentation License, you can't contribute. You should own the copyright to the material you contribute or it must have a compatible license or be public domain. See Wikibooks:Copyrights for details. Never submit copyrighted material without permission from the copyright owner. (public domain is considered out of copyright).
Legal problems can come from areas where you wouldn't expect them. For example in some countries, like Germany, an employer has the legal right to all inventions done by an employee—even if done in the employee's spare time, and outside of the field of expertise for which the employee has been hired. This right prevents publication of ideas without an explicit agreement from the employer. Such things are often not mentioned in work contracts, because it is the law.
There is also an ugly trend in some countries and professions to require employees to sign some code of conduct or code of ethics. Having to adhere to some ethics in business is not a bad idea, but these codes often sneak in some restrictions of what (if anything at all) an employee is allowed to publish without an explicit (written) agreement from the company (e.g. the company's legal and PR departments).
Financial Reasons
If you want royalties or the exclusive right to profit from selling a book, do not contribute. Anyone can make money from selling textbooks available at Wikibooks as long as the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0 and the GNU Free Documentation License are followed.
Control
If you want to retain control of your work evolution, distribution and use, do not contribute. Wikibooks is about collaboration, not ownership.

Starting a book

Books, chapters and pages can be created, rewritten, altered, renamed, and improved by anyone. Chapters can be changed in order, added, and deleted. Books should conform to the definition of What Wikibooks is about.

Please check Subject:Books by subject to see if your work could be part of an existing book, before starting a new one. Perhaps it is better to add the text to a related page (especially if the text is not very long); that page can always be split later, after it has grown.

Basic considerations

Redundancy
Does the world really need the 1001st introduction to some topic? If the web, library, and other documentation projects are already full of free information about a topic, is there really a need to have yet another document? Maybe the time would be better spent to support an existing project, or start (and finish) something truly original?
Triviality
Is your effort really well spent on some trivial piece of "book"? In the extreme case, if the yellow press (or what amounts to the equivalent publication in a certain area) has already covered the topic extensively for years (and they even got it right), is there really a need for such a book? Wouldn't your effort be better spent on some less trivial task?
Lack of Perseverance
Does your perseverance not last longer than setting up a "wish list" of chapters? Are you not in a position to regularly spend time to ensure some coherence in a book, and is there no reasonable expectation that you will find other contributors? Then maybe your time is better spent contributing small parts to an existing book than rushing out to set up the structure for THE ultimate book about some subject, and then abandoning the book.

No complex rules

You can learn how to create a good book and find new ideas by analyzing existing ones. Wikibooks doesn't have strict policies determining shape of a book so don't be confused if you find books that are designed completely different. Generally, it's a good idea to look up some Featured books like Using Wikibooks and How To Assemble A Desktop PC.

  • Review the book naming conventions.
  • Choose a book title carefully. Names are important, undoing mistakes can take time, so it's always a good idea to do it right the first time.
  • Once you have a few strong ideas about a new book, write a few paragraphs and lay out an outline for it.
  • Decide on a writing style and how to format contents. See Wikibooks:Manual of Style for ideas.

Defining an outline and scope

Wikibooks are all about working with others. To help others contribute to a new book, it helps very much to define and publish the concept, layout and scope of the book right from the beginning. This serves as some kind of contract and can avoid long discussions what should or shouldn't be in the book and how the book should look. Please be aware that there is really no such thing as "your" book on a wiki like this - it is up to early contributors to demonstrate the writing and leadership for other contributors to accept them as the "lead authors" for a book. Some books have no lead authors, and develop organically over time.

Some questions you want to answer in defining the book:

  • What type of book will it be? Reference, textbook, self-study course, tutorial, experimentation instructions, travel report, etc.
  • Who is the target audience? How old are its constituents? What is their background? How advanced are their reading skills? Are they children or adults, students, hobbyists, or professionals, researchers or scientists? An advanced level for a hobbyist is quite different from that of a researcher.
  • What is the scope of the book? How much you want to cover -- in terms of topic, history and/or audience level -- helps determine where you start, and where you end. This also determines what to leave in and what to leave out.

Publish this information at the beginning of the book and on the discussion page, so people can decide if this is the right book they want to read or contribute to.

Write the first page

Read the naming policy on how to arrange and name your book. Visit Help:Pages for details on creating a new page for the book's table of contents. Choose a title, something short and descriptive without abbreviations. Create the page the way you want it, and save it.

When creating pages it is also good practice to run the text through a spell checker before submitting. You may find it more convenient to take a copy of the original page, work on it, then paste the edited copy back in. Creating brand-new topics is a great way to help Wikibooks increase its breadth (and depth).

Show the book to the public

Make the book available to other users. Of course, people can see it on Recent Changes, but its visibility on that list is not permanent, so you need to properly categorize it. Put the {{subjects}} template on the main page to put the book into an appropriate category. If you are not sure what category to put your book in, you can browse Subject:Books by subject, or ask at the projects reading room. Place {{status|0%}} on the main page to indicate the book's new status and adjust in increments of 25% as the book develops. Add your book in the correct category (if applicable) in alphabetical order with {{alphabetical}}. Readers will find your book in no time!

Create printable books

If you want people to read your book as continuous text, in a PDF file etc., it is worthwhile maintaining a "collection" and/or "print version" from the start.

Note changing stages of development

You can mark which chapters are finished using development stage marks. You should similarly show how much of your book is ready next to its entry on the pages for its parent bookshelves.

Suggested chapters and appendices

Forewords and Postscripts
You can create "Foreword" or "Introduction" or "Postscript" chapter explaining the scope of the book and how to read it.
List of authors and manual of style
It's likely that other people may edit your book. There should be a page listing most important contributors to the book. It can be named "Authors". It is also good practice to create a local manual of style for the book - explaining how it should be written, which templates are used, etc.