A Million Penguins does not a coherent bird make?

An interesting comment from Douglas Rushkoff about the A Million Penguins collaborative wiki writing project, quoted on NewsForge:

“A Million Penguins looks like fun, but it’s still likely to remain more a million penguins than a cohesive or coherent bird,” says Rushkoff, who points out that every book needs its author.

Assuming he did actually say the last comment, rather than it being a piece of journalistic interpretation, I’m rather surprised. Surely the number of writers is irrelevant – plenty of books have multiple authors. The thing that every book does need is an editor. However I wouldn’t envy the job of editing the penguin text(s): less the actual editing job than the inevitable discussions that would take place with all the writers.

Jeremy Ettinghausen, Penguin’s digital publisher, mentions in the same article:

“Penguin owns the site and technically owns the content that has been created,” Ettinghausen says, “but there is no DRM on the site and we’re not making any money from it. I can’t see how we’d be able to publish the wikinovel in a print format, but I am thinking about how we could create an ebook out of it at the end, which we’d distribute freely.”

This is the first time I’ve heard any mention of what might happen to the text after the experiment ends. It would seem very in keeping with the spirit of the wiki to publish it as an ebook (and please, if this happens, offer a plain text version as well as the ubiquitous but clunky and huge pdf version). Ideally the project would continue in some form – perhaps new chapters, or new books, even if this doesn’t quite fit with the reporter’s concept of “a finished product”.