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Google Tackles Magazine Archives

Google Book Search: Popular Mechanics Jan 1905 Cover ImageAs has been reported around the web today, Google is now digitizing and adding magazines to Google Book Search. This follows on the tails of the recent Google Life Photo archive announcement.

I took a look around to see what I could see. I was intrigued by the fact that I couldn’t see a list of all the magazines in their collection. So I went after the information the hard way and kept reloading the Google Book Search home page until I didn’t see any new titles displayed in their highlighted magazine section. This is what I came up with, roughly grouped by general topic groupings.

Science and technology:

Lifestyle and city themed:

African American:

  • Ebony Jr!: May 1973 through October 1985
  • Jet: November 1961 through October 2008
  • Black Digest: Named ‘Negro Digest’ from November 1961 through April 1970, then Black Digest from May 1970 through April 1976.

Health, nutrition and organic:

  • Women’s Health and Men’s Health: January 2006 through present. I found it very amusing to be able to scan the covers of all the issues so easily – true for all of these magazines of course, but funny to see cover after cover of almost identically clad men and women exercising.
  • Prevention: January 2006 through the present
  • Better Nutrition: January 1999 through December 2004
  • Organic Gardening: November 2005 to the present
  • Vegetarian Times: March1981 through November 2004

Sports and the outdoors:

They of course promise more magazines on the way, so if you are reading this long after mid December 2008  I would assume there are more magazines and more issues available now. I hope that they make it easier to browse just magazines. Once they have a broader array of titles – how neat would it be to build a virtual news stand for a specific week in history? Shouldn’t be hard – they have all the metadata and cover images they need.

I love being able to read the magazine – advertising and all. They display the covers in batches by decade or 5 year period depending on the number of issues. I also like the Google map provided on each magazines ‘about’ page that shows ‘Places mentioned in this magazine’ and easily links you directly to the article that mentions the location marked on the map.

I think it is interesting that Google went with more of a PDF single scrolling model rather than an interface that mimics turning pages. In many issues (maybe all?) they have hot-linked the table of contents so that you can scroll down to that section instantly. You can also search within the magazine, though from my short experiments it seems that only the articles are text indexed and the advertisements are not.

Google’s current model for search is to return results for magazines mixed in with books in Google Book Search results – but they do let you limit your results to only magazines from their Advanced Search page within Google Book Search. See these results for a quick search on sunscreen in magazines.

Overall I mark this as a really nice step forward in access to old magazines. As with many visualizations, seeing the about page for any of these magazines made me ask myself new questions.  It will be interesting to see how many magazines sign on to be included and how the interface evolves.

To read more about Google’s foray into magazine digitization and search take a look at:

For a really nice analysis of the information that Google provides on the magazine pages see Search Engine Land’s Google Book Search Puts Magazines Online.

Posted in access, digitization, future-proofing, historical research, information visualization, interface design, journalism, search


  1. jaremy

    there is no even a single sector in which google is absent.
    google is going to be god or evil within few 5 or 6 years.
    i think google will become good for layman.

  2. pieman

    Unfortunately the magazine search includes only the magazines scanned as part of this deal with publishers and none of the out of copyright magazines Google had already scanned under their deal with libraries.

  3. Jeanne

    Good point. Do you know where those out of copyright magazines are in the Google landscape? How do you get to them? I would love to see a sample link to one of them.

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  8. Michae

    I’m amazed how recent some of these titles are. But after looking through Jet magazines archives I’m realizing how much changes in 5 years!

    Perhaps Google is feeling a little more bold as magazine’s are losing readership, and probably lack the legal funding to take on huge litigation. Thanks for this awesome resource.

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