Introduction: Practical Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Using Kiwix

About: I make all sorts of weird things. Lately I have been creating (mostly) functional versions of props from TV and film.

This tutorial will help you create a practical version of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy using an offline version of Wikipedia and the Kiwix android app. Kiwix allows you to use lots of different content offline like Ted talks and Project Gutenberg using a special .ZIM file format. The only limit is the local storage on your device. This Instructable will cover setting up Wikipedia but all other compatible content follows the same steps.


  • A large capacity Micro SD card. I went with a 64GB SanDisk.
  • An Android tablet with a Micro SD card slot
  • A tablet cover with the words "Don't Panic" written in large friendly letters across the front.

Regarding the tablet:

I recommend finding a relatively new tablet that can run the latest version of android. Some of the super cheap tablets may not have a Micro SD card slot. The Nook was a perfect match for size and price.

You could use and iPad or iPhone but they don't have an SD card slot and you may end up using all the on-board storage. There are SD card attachments for the iPad but you would have to find a way to tuck it inside the tablet cover. If you want this tablet to be permanently dedicated to this project, an iPad may be too expensive for this anyway.

Regarding the Cover:

I found one on Etsy that roughly fit my tablet. I think this is somewhere where you could get really creative. If you can hollow out a book and make a custom cover, yours could look really cool and unique.

Step 1: Setup Your Tablet

Follow the setup instructions for your tablet and update it to the latest android version.

Insert the Micro SD card. You may be prompted to format the SD card to only work with your tablet. The Nook will definitely show this prompt. Make sure you choose the option that allows you transfer files between devices. Other tablets may have slightly different prompts.

Go to the Google play store and install Kiwix. The Wikipedia app from the Wikimedia Foundation also reads Zim files. You could download both and decide which one you like.

Step 2: Download Files

Kiwix offers a lot of content for download that is already in the .ZIM file format. The "light" version of English Wikipedia is only 20GB. This is a text only version with no pictures. I chose that one for my project.

I recommend using a regular PC to download all your content and then transfer what you want to the micro SD card. If your PC does not have an SD card slot, you may need to get an adapter to USB. Make sure you have a good internet connection and keep the computer awake during the whole download. Depending on your connection, you may have time to watch the latest Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie!

Once done, transfer the file to the micro SD card. Eject the Mico SD card and insert it into the tablet.

Step 3: Load the ZIM File in Kiwix

On the tablet, open the Kiwix app and open the drop down menu in the upper right represented by 3 vertical dots. Select "Get Content" from the menu. Select "Device" from the top menu. You should see the ZIM file/s from the micro SD card in the list.

You should now see the front page of Wikipedia. There is a search option at the top of the screen to look up different articles. Play around with the interface and enjoy offline Wikipedia!

Step 4: Insert the Tablet Into the Cover

Place your tablet inside the cover and you're done!

Now Grab your towel, make a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster and enjoy your new guide to the galaxy!