Using an OS X utility called Google Book Downloader, Andrew Hearst downloaded every issue of the late Spy magazine into his dropbox account, giving him a tablet-ready version of the fantastically funny and much-missed magazine that poked fun at infamous assholes.
Scrolling through the pages of Spy in Google Books using a desktop or laptop web browser isn’t a great reading experience. Luckily, there’s a much better option: Using a Mac desktop app called Google Book Downloader, you can scrape Google Books to create PDFs of many of the publications and books in Google’s archive. (I’m sure there must be Windows apps that do the same thing.)
On a recent weekend afternoon, I used Google Book Downloaderto generate a PDF of every issue from Spy’s heyday, then pulled everything into my Dropbox account to allow me to access the archive from anywhere and any device — primarily my iPad. The whole process took me less than two hours. The filesize of the PDFs ranges from about 25 megabytes to about 50 megabytes, and the quality is quite high; the issues look fantastic on my new iPad’s retina screen. An iPad gives a much better approximation of an actual print-magazine experience than a web browser does, and if you save an issue into a PDF-friendly interface like Amazon’s Kindle app, you can use page thumbnails to navigate. It’s pretty sweet.
You can use Google Book Downloader with other magazines, too. Try Popular Science, August 1927, or Baseball Digest, September 1966, to name just two at random…
Andrew Hearst: How I Created an iPad Archive of the Entire Run of Spy Magazine (The Funny Years) in Two Hours
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects