Google Book Search

Wow. Google just released full indexed scans of every Popular Science and Popular Mechanics issue online as part of Google Book Search.

This is really great, but it does mean that I have a lot of magazines it would be pointless to scan. It also means that I need to decide what direction to take the site.

What do you guys think I should do? Stick with more obscure magazines? They don’t seem to have Modern Mechanix or Mechanix Illustrated… yet. Or link to articles in their archive?

They did a pretty amazing job with this and I’m really curious to find out how they actually scanned those mags. The old PS and PM issues have really thick spines that are very hard to keep open and photograph. I wonder if they cut the pages out or something.

  1. sweavo says: December 10, 200812:42 pm

    For my money, both would be cool: scans of the magazines they don’t have, mixed with links to interesting bits of the google stuff.

  2. Al says: December 10, 200812:55 pm

    That works well – go with what YOU find interesting, either linked or scanned as needed. There’s always the scans from Sexology and Nudism Today… :>


  3. Joe L says: December 10, 20081:10 pm

    I enjoy the interesting articles you find. My father has a collection of the old magazines–many of which you have scanned. What I like best about your site is the pure joy of having someone say, “Hey, look at this.” Even if we could find it in Google. I like the recommendations. Now, if having Popular Science and Mechanics online leaves you more time to scan other magazines, I would say go for it.

  4. Keir Hardie says: December 10, 20081:47 pm

    I agree with the others, if I see something neat on your feed it doesn’t matter to me if you’ve scanned it yourself or it’s from Google, I’m never going to read every issue of those magazines from cover to cover on Google!

  5. zach wilson says: December 10, 20081:48 pm

    the thing that I like about your site is your authorial point of view; the fact that you scan them in and post them means that they caught your eye for a reason and fit into a bigger point of view that you have about the material. The filter is as important as the material featured.

  6. Chris Radcliff says: December 10, 20081:55 pm

    Yes, please do continue sharing what *you* find interesting, and link to articles in their archive when available.

    Oh, and thanks for pointing out the new archive. I might spend a few happy hours lost in 1930s science…

  7. Rangachari Anand says: December 10, 20082:04 pm

    Please keep your great work – it complements what we can read via Google.

  8. Don says: December 10, 20083:00 pm

    Well, *I* think you should . . . do whatever YOU want. I’ve enjoyed your site immensely and I trust you will do the right thing.

  9. Paul Carney says: December 10, 20083:15 pm

    I think that I agree with everyone else. You have done a great service, and we thank you for it. I also would like to see it go on, and enjoy enjoy some of the more obscure articles you have posted. Links to some of Google’s scans would be great, especially with the ability to post comments and exchange ideas here. Many times I have found helpful information in the comments about some of the articles.

    Most of all, I agree with Don… “do whatever YOU want.” You have already done a massive amount of work and I, for one, thank you for it.

  10. Jerry says: December 10, 20083:20 pm

    Keep on doing what you’re doing. This is one of my favorite sites, and I visit it every day. Your selection, editorial comments and humor make this a much more value-added site than trying to drink from the firehose of a complete Google archive. You’ve done an amazing job with this site. Please, just keep it up.

  11. P-E Fronning says: December 10, 20083:57 pm

    I’ll just agree. Scan your favorites. Use Google if you want to. Your work is appreciated. Keep it up. If YOU want to that is…

  12. Charlie says: December 10, 20084:25 pm

    Thanks for all of the kind words folks. I think for now I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, posting whatever I feel like. But going forward I’m only going to scan magazines that aren’t in the google archive. No sense duplicating their efforts.

    Even excluding PM and PS I have almost an entire bookcase of unscanned magazines. This will actually be pretty helpful. There are a few multi-part articles that I’ve been wanting to post, but don’t have all the magazines to complete the series.

    I’m also thinking it might be nice to add on a forum for people to post and discuss their favorite finds from their personal stash, the google archive, or the web in general. Would people be interested in that?

  13. Bobby Yates says: December 10, 20084:26 pm

    Ditto, keep up the good work.

  14. Gazzie says: December 10, 20084:36 pm

    Don’t shut down this site because the comment from Jerry #10 stated the facts. We don’t need a firehose and you post more then just PM & PS.

    BTW… I’m from Baltimore and I plan to make a trip to NYC with my wife and another couple next month. I’ve showed them your fathers resturant menu and that’s the first place we’re gonna eat. I really want to try his Mac&Cheese Pancakes. They weren’t thrilled about the Mac&Cheese Pancakes, but they saw a lot of other stuff that looked good.

    Last Word…. DON’T SHUT DOWN.

  15. Ergosum says: December 10, 20084:48 pm

    Hi. The way I see it, if Google saves you the work of scanning old magazines, just use the Google scans and move on.

    Please keep on the good work, I enjoy very much your posts, and I’d like to see your comments more often.

  16. Robert Oshel says: December 10, 20085:02 pm

    Please continue to do what you have been doing and ignore the fact that Google now has magazine scans. Your judgment as to what is interesting is far more important than the fact that we could go through some of the Google scans ourselves. Please keep up your good work, and thanks for all your efforts!

  17. vse says: December 10, 20085:30 pm

    And from me, too: The editorial aspect is what makes your site!
    (And of course the other readers’ comments…)
    If YOU like to keep this work up, I will continue to come here twice (or thrice) a week.

  18. Gutie says: December 10, 20085:49 pm

    I too enjoy this site even tho I keep waiting for Tom McCahill road tests. My GF the digital archivist consultant tells me that Google has a “top secret” robot scanner developed with Stanford U in conjunction with their book scanning projuct of which this is a part. However it is probably very similar to the one from this company’s product. http://www-sul.stanford…. She also advises the producer of online Modern Mechanix might want to check out Internet Archives, who also do Book scanning and are interested in bringing it to everyone. - They host and scan at a very reasonable cost. Please keep up the good work. It will be years before they get around to all the treasures that you have such as your enviable “Naturalist” publications collection.

  19. Gutie says: December 10, 20085:51 pm
  20. billytheclam says: December 10, 20087:52 pm

    i’ll check out whatever you scan. i eat this stuff up like oatmeal on a cold day.

  21. jayessell says: December 10, 20088:10 pm

    Charlie, there were many short lived magazines of the 1930s.
    ‘Ken’ if you can find any ( I have one.)
    The article I posted at flickr about television is from ‘Picture’.
    (Its’ first and perhaps last issue!)

  22. jayessell says: December 10, 20088:12 pm
  23. lennyb says: December 10, 20088:19 pm

    keep on as you have been.
    linking to googles scans wont affect my enjoyment of you website.
    its those funny little gems pointed out is what makes the difference.

  24. Erica says: December 10, 20088:39 pm

    I agree with what the trend seems to be — keep doing what you do, and just consider the Google archives to be a shortcut for you since you won’t have to scan as much!

    I’m not particular about where you source your material, just that it is served regularly and is quirky 🙂

  25. Jesse says: December 10, 20089:02 pm

    Do what /you/ like. I enjoy your site a lot. Even though they are putting up full text, that doesn’t mean that they will find the nuggets of goodness.

  26. Mike says: December 10, 20089:10 pm

    I’ve always wished that you’d do more tagging and also provide commentary and other links to related material. So maybe do more of that in the time freed up by not having to scan.

  27. slim says: December 10, 200810:41 pm

    I can add nothing to what has already been said except that I agree with them.
    Thanks Charlie for all your work.

  28. fluffy says: December 10, 200811:05 pm

    At Amazon, the company they hire to scan books (for “search inside” etc.) just does it by cutting off the spines and then running it through a sheet feeder. They were also experimenting with a non-destructive scanning robot for rarer books, which looked rather a lot like the one Gutie linked to in comment 18, but I think they eventually decided it wasn’t cost-effective enough.

    As many others have said, Google’s index saves you the trouble of scanning things, but doesn’t provide the same thing that you do (finding the especially-interesting stuff and providing a place for people to comment on it). I say keep the site going the way it is.

  29. Toronto says: December 10, 200811:16 pm

    There’s a difference between data and information, Charlie, and what you provide is the winnowing needed to make this interesting. The fact you use some somewhat obscure magazines, too, is a bonus.

  30. Rick Auricchio says: December 11, 200812:13 am

    There’s little I can say that hasn’t already been said.

    – I would not have known about Shopsin’s if it weren’t for you. Eventually I’ll get there. I grew up in NJ, worked for several years in Manhattan, and have been a Californian for almost 30 years. I still love the menu. And the video of your dad making the pancakes.

    – It’s almost a disappointment when an article doesn’t have one of your “leadin” comments. They make the article!

  31. Bob says: December 11, 200812:21 am

    This site is a daily must see for me. I enjoy all the posts, more obscure magazines like Mechanix Illustrated are always appreciated, especially Tom McCahill’s auto tests. I don’t care if you use Google scans wherever needed.

    Keep up the great work!

  32. rsterling78 says: December 11, 20081:40 am

    If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. This site is fine the way it is. Think of Google as your “editorial assistant” and post what you find interesting. We’ll keep logging on.

  33. Robert N. says: December 11, 20081:49 am


  34. Markie G says: December 11, 20082:48 am

    Please carry on regardless because:

    1) The value you personally add by selecting the best bits is way beyond anything that could be automated by google, or replicated easily. Editorial skills like yours are VASTLY underrated.
    2) The UI – layout of the site, the scaling of thumbnails and article navigation – is perfect
    3) is an essential part of my daily web-read. I’d be crestfallen if it went away

  35. NefariousWheel says: December 11, 20087:55 am

    I suspect Google decided to scan in all those magazines because they were impressed by your awesome site and wanted to follow in your footsteps.

    Your value as an editor is still more than Google’s value as an archivist.

    If you ever decide to back off from the scanning job, I certainly hope Google picks up your option.

  36. Dave says: December 11, 20088:21 am

    I like reading the entries that you select. Going to Google might work, but then I’d miss the choice bits.

    I used to work at a computer center for libraries. One division did “preservation” which means cutting books apart to digitize them. Never mind that the equipment keeps getting better and it would be nice to have those materials available today to scan at higher resolutions; they’ve already been “preserved” to death.

  37. Dave W says: December 11, 20089:25 am

    I say use the google and any others you might find. You were the first, most unique and entertaining. I for one will keep coming back for the obscurities you present. Thanks for those by the way.

  38. gmcgath says: December 11, 200811:59 am

    I’ve heard Google has clever scanners that only have to open the book or magazine a little bit. The Harvard Library would have had a major fit if Google had cut pages out of old, rare books!

  39. Rick Auricchio says: December 11, 20081:25 pm

    And it’s our comments here that make things fun too. We’ve always learned more because one of our contributors has posted a link, or, in the best cases, a personal-experience story!

    I forgot to mention that MM is a daily read for me, right on my bookmarks bar.

  40. Ray B. says: December 11, 20081:51 pm

    Hi, here is my opinion if you still feel like reading some more niceties.
    There are 2 things on your site that Google doesn’t have:
    – your comments, as most other pointed (and the fact that you just choose what you want to show and share). Invaluable. Enough has been told about that (and…er…they were getting scarce recently, what about getting back to work)
    – The top quality and high resolution of your scans. I have a small collection of those magazines myself. It’s a cherished treasure, although yellowish fragile and dusty. When I enlarge tour scans to full size, I have that same feeling I have whenflipping through there pages.
    I tried that Google stuff. Doesn’t work the same for me.
    My advice: focus more on other mags if you want, but, otherwise: DON’T CHANGE A THING!

  41. Grant Zurko says: December 11, 20083:47 pm

    >>This is really great, but it does mean that I have a lot of magazines it would be pointless to scan.

    So? This just means Google has saved you the trouble of scanning in the articles, as well as storage and bandwidth.

    You can still:

    1. Find the hidden treasures among their stash
    2. OCR them to get actual ASCII text
    3. Post the text and a link to the images on Google’s servers, along with a brief commentary.

    Honestly, I don’t have the time to look through all of Google’s scans, and a website that finds interesting tidbits and posts them is of more use to me. This is absolutely a “win” for you. And that’s even assuming that you never scan in another article from your stash of non-Popular-Science/Mechanics. Frankly, I’d still like to see some of those, as well.

  42. StanFlouride says: December 11, 20086:23 pm

    Ditto to the previous comments
    (I hate showing up late at a party like this)

  43. Vincent Gable says: December 11, 20087:01 pm

    I have really liked this blog, especially the more obscure magazines. I would love to keep reading it, even if all the magazines were scanned by google.

  44. Al Bear says: December 11, 20087:22 pm

    Screw Google! I love this webpage of yours! please keep it up!

  45. Ruth says: December 11, 20088:30 pm

    Would much rather see the stuff on your site. The way google does it is very hard to look at. You always have a nice clean scan of the page and a link to a bigger picture. Makes it far more interesting to read the weird stories you find!! Please, keep up the good work and don’t let them take it away from you.

  46. Fred Fagal says: December 11, 200810:29 pm

    I too love what you have done. Your choices say something about YOU. You give direction. Do not be “down” — follow your desires. That way you will not burn out. I think the other comments are “right on.” Fred F.

  47. Jerry says: December 11, 200810:39 pm

    One more thing — when you see all these comments, it’s clear that Charlie’s created a community of fans here. The comments and the cross-comments are an important part of what makes this site so worth reading.

  48. Barry says: December 12, 20083:43 am

    Please ignore Google. I love your blog and whatever Google puts up is nice for reference but no substitute for my daily dose of “Modern Mechanix.” The work you do has a human side to it that cannot be approached by the Google archives. Please continue doing what you love. Thanks for so many hours of wonderful, thoughtful, and entertaining work.

  49. CurtisP says: December 12, 200810:15 am

    I agree with several others. Find the articles you like and let Google do the work. It is sort of like a podcast I listen to that pulls the interesting stuff off of slashdot and other websites.

    Great job.


  50. Luis Brudna says: December 12, 200810:32 am

    Keep up the great work!

  51. Avery Montembeault says: December 12, 200812:45 pm

    I’ve looked at the google site, and while I have to say it is a great idea, its a little cumbersome to simply go in and casually browse. What I like about your site is you essentially condense out the “cool” stuff and ignore the crap. Keep it going!

  52. Charlene says: December 12, 20083:44 pm

    Coming late to this (darn head cold)…

    Do whatever you think best. I love your articles and your way of choosing them. Sure, there may be a vast repository somewhere, but you know how to choose interesting articles.

    I’d really miss your site if you stopped posting. There aren’t many other blogs (if any) that I enjoy as much as yours.

  53. RagManX says: December 12, 20084:06 pm

    Considering you’ve already decided to keep going, at least with otherwise unavailable stuff, my comment probably has no weighting. Still, I like to type. 🙂

    Please don’t stop. And keep posting stuff even if it is available via Google. I just won’t ever read everything available, and like this site so much *because* of the things you choose to put up. I visit 1 to 5 times per month, but it’s better to get selections from someone with sense than to just hit a full scanned mag and hope to find something I like while I’m looking.

  54. Eliyahu says: December 12, 20087:44 pm

    Keep ’em coming. If you can use their scans, go ahead, but it’s still fun to look at them and discuss them here.

  55. Mikey says: December 15, 200811:41 pm

    Dude! Keep it up. I’ll go into withdrawal without this site.
    Google Schmoogle!

  56. Jari says: December 19, 20085:39 pm

    Greetings from Finland. First a very big thak you, this blog is one of my favourites, as I’m interested, how things ere made before WW2. Please keep up doing this. This blog has some human touch in it. Also those Google articles are scanned too low resolution, one caannot read all the text. Also I haven’t figured how to save those in my HD….

  57. Nik says: March 30, 20093:01 pm

    Dear MM blog creator,

    Your efforts are more valuable, and use-able, than that of many ‘professional’ archivists and museums. They could take a lesson from you on effective methods of spreading knowledge and good will.

    As for future ideas – How about the classic “The Amateur Scientist” – this, coupled with the immense industrial and scientific surplus in America, is enough material and inspiration to possibly ignite that long needed technological revolution we have been waiting for… You know, wireless power, flying cars, geothermal energy, personal greenhouses – in the backyard, and robots for delivering the pineapples from where ever they come from to get to Chicago…

    One day I will pay you back handsomely, till then, all the best in your work,


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