CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan are worlds apart geographically, culturally and technologically.

Yet these disparate worlds have touched in a research project that has produced a bit of publishing history: "Bhutan: A Visual Odyssey Across the Himalayan Kingdom," the largest commercial book ever published, according to Guinness World Records.

"Bhutan," released Monday, is 5 feet high, opens to nearly 7 feet wide, and weighs more than 130 pounds. A picture book of 114 pages, it pushes the technological frontiers of digital photography and computer printing.

Each book uses a roll of paper 5 feet wide and 400 feet long, a third longer than a football field. Each copy consumes 2 gallons of ink and takes 24 hours of printer time.

The big book is also a philanthropic endeavor. The plan is to print 500 copies of the book, with a price of $10,000 each. Each book costs about $1,000 to produce; the remaining $9,000 will be a tax-deductible charitable contribution. The proceeds will go to the Bhutan ministry of education and into a scholarship fund to send Bhutanese students to college abroad.

The mastermind behind the project is a 42-year-old computer scientist of a decidedly artistic bent, Michael Hawley. He is the director for special projects at MIT, but for a decade until 2002 Hawley was a professor at the MIT Media Lab, heading imaginative research programs like "Toys of Tomorrow" and "Things That Think." His research interests range widely across fields and disciplines touched by digital technology, including education, photography and music.

The Bhutan book is a byproduct of four trips from 1988 to 2002, each involving a few MIT students. "What I'm pushing at MIT is that the world is our lab, not just the campus," Hawley said. "These kinds of trips can be life-altering for the people who take them. We learn from differences."

The technical challenges of producing the book were many. To make such large pictures print crisply requires densely packed image files of about two gigabytes, which strain the capacity of today's software. Evenings in the field were spent downloading photographs from cameras into notebook computers and assembling a database of 40,000 pictures, all sorted by location using global positioning system, or GPS, technology.

Recently, as he tried to revive a crashed printer, Hawley wondered if the project was folly. "But I've always felt that any interesting endeavor should have a daft quality to it," he said. "You ought to aim high."