Fifty years ago, when anyone wanted to access magazines and newspapers that were more than a few years old, it was necessary to visit a library that maintained archives of the actual publications. A decade later, library patrons found themselves sitting at ungainly microfilm reading tables scrolling through reels and reels of periodicals on film and hunting the pages visually to find what they needed. Nowadays, due to the rapidly blossoming field of digital downloads, Google and publishers such as People Magazine are making it possible to rapidly access old magazines online.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- high speed Internet access
- CD-R or other storage device
Visit People Magazine's archive (see link below in Reference section) of issues going back to 1974. In the yellow search bar near the top of the page, click on "browse all covers." At the top of the new page, under the purple bar, select whether you want the covers sorted by "newest" or "oldest." Actress Mia Farrow appears on the oldest cover (March 4, 1974), which shows her as Daisy Buchanon in the movie "The Great Gatsby."
Select a cover and click on it. This leads to a page where you can click on the cover story or scan a table of contents for the issue and select other stories. Look for the blue arrow buttons beneath the cover picture, which allow you to scroll through the entire issue. To download the magazine, go back to the top of the page and look for the button next to the cover that says "download the entire issue in PDF."
For a wide variety of old magazines, visit Google's book search page (link below), which contains more than 400 choices. Near the top of the page, click on the strand titled "magazines." This leads to a page where you can view an alphabetical list of periodicals. Scroll through the list and select a magazine. When the next page opens, look for the "browse all issues" button in the left-hand margin next to the thumbnail picture of the magazine's most current back issue. To view really old issues, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click "10" in the Google page buttons.
Are you interested in researching a specific topic in this magazine? Go back to the first page you opened for the magazine. In the left-hand column, you will see a search bar directly below the thumbnail picture of the magazine. Post your topic. Then, before hitting "go," decide whether you want to search in more than one issue. If so, then check "search all issues" below the search bar and then proceed.
Unlike People Magazine, which allows you to download PDFs of entire issues for free, Google neither sells nor allows downloads. You can, however, open a free Google account and create a "My Library" virtual bookshelf containing favourite back issues of magazines. Information is available on the "Google Books" page.
Accessing Old Magazines Online
Tips and warnings
- Perhaps you don't know the titles of magazines that match your interests and don't want to sort through all the thumbnail pictures on Google. Instead, browse by subject on the main Google Books page.
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