Downloading the Internet to a bunch of PDFs

2021-06-03

INCOMPLETE

Summary:

  • export your bookmarks to HTML
  • send it to yourself
  • Install Kiwi HTML extension (iffy on FF Android)
  • Or use PDFTools app (couple of extra clicks)

I bought a tablet recently. It’s a Chuwi Hipad Plus. Yes, it’s a total iPad Pro ripoff but seeing as how Samsung abandoned the wonderful 4:3 aspect ratio for the frumpier 16:10 years ago, I had no choice.

Anyway, I was surprised to find that it came with 128GB storage. The grotesquely proportioned Samsung tablet it replaced only had 32GB + microSD. I don’t watch much video, let alone keep a bunch on my device, so what could I do with the storage?

Well, the whole reason for wanting 4:3 is to be able to read PDF magazines without having the pages look squeezed in portrait mode. But what if I could read the Internet on a PDF?

Ludicrous, I hear you cry. Why, Pocket and Instapaper exist so that man would not have to suffer the indignity of having bookmarks on multiple devices. I agree, and I’ve been using Pocket for a decade. It is a great product. It even integrates with my ancient Ebook reader from 2013.

But it’s online-first, and it’s not going to download 10 years worth of articles on to application storage. It assumes you will eventually rejoin civilization and turn your Wifi back on at some point, so it can feed you the info on o “just in time” basis.

And even then, apps like Pocket don’t deliver the full web page, just the text. And sometimes the text doesn’t render properly, or at all, particularly if the site in question has a paywall. I’ve also noticed that clicking on saved articles loads the live page in a webview inside the application. There’s no way to disable this, but switching to airplane mode will reliably load the locally saved all-text version. I imagine they do this to sidestep concerns from publishers that they’re scraping content without proportionate attribution to the original site (e.g. ad impressions on the publisher’s site). Sometimes you’ll get lucky and find an archive.is link, but that’s rare. And it’s a hassle.

I don’t want that to happen. I want to have a portable archive of stuff I find on the Internet. It’s gotten to the point where my own bookmarks are dead ends, because websites don’t last forever. I remember coming across an absolutely scathing takedown of the The Economist some years ago. It was a well-written, to-the-point piece that covered a lot of my own criticisms of the magazine; I couldn’t have articulated some of their points anywhere nearly as well. I bookmarked it, and returned to it many years later, only to realize the site was no more.

Fortunately, I was able to locate it once I recalled its title: “Why aren’t Milennials buying The Economist?” The original site it was published on (The Leveller) is no more, but the writer fortunately reposted it on Medium. I’d rather not have the spectre of linkrot hovering above me, so I’ll just download to PDF and get on with my day.

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