How to "Steal This Book"




About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific...

Or rather how to digitize it if you don't have time to turn the pages by hand.

Cut the binding off with a tablesaw and scan it with a scanner that has a sheetfeeder.
Assemble the scans into a pdf file using Adobe Acrobat.
I use "Steal This Book" by Abbie Hoffman as an example.

This book is somewhat hard to find in libraries, possibly because of its title. It consists of about 80,000 words on the subject of how to get by without consuming much and cause trouble for authority figures. At the time it was written the U.S. was conducting some upopular wars and many young people concluded that the whole "system" was evil. The tone and content of the book reflects this.

Abbie is no longer with us but I've asked a couple of his kids what they thought of my scanning this book this way. Both said they didn't think their dad would mind. If you are the publisher and you object, let me know and I'll scan one printed by someone else.

Scroll down for the pdf of "Steal This Book" by Abbie Hoffman. Enjoy!

Step 1: Saw Off the Binding

Use proper tablesaw precautions so you don't get hurt.
If you want an extra clean cut use a new thin-kerf blade and clamp the book between two boards. Then you could use a push stick and it won't look like your hands are going into the saw as in this view.

Step 2: OOPS!

So that's what it's like to feel really stupid.
The blade kicked back when it hit the bone of my finger, knocking it away.
Lucky for me the flying pieces of finger didn't put my eye out.
I'll just use this bloody tube of paper instead of a finger. Pleased to meet you!

This has really been a lucky day. I didn't even get any blood on the book, so the scans are fine.

Step 3: Sheetfed Scanner

I like to scan text and line art as 400dpi bitmaps. The scanners I've used did a better job that way than scanning greyscale and thresholding to bitmap later.

I've found that tiff is the best format for scans destined for pdf. Compressed or uncompressed doesn't usually matter. The files can be large, but Acrobat digests them well and the resulting pdf file is small.
DO NOT USE .JPG FORMAT!!! JPG uses "lossy" compression that fills your files with crap that can't be compressed. Use a real format like tif or gif or bmp from the good old days that isn't too smart for its own good.
New multifunction print/scan/fax machines often have a "scan to pdf" feature which might or might not do what you want. Most likely it'll use jpg format to slowly make large ugly files and then die.

You'll need to feed your book to the scanner twice, once for odd numbered page sides and once for the even sides. Do each pass into a separate directory. Then use a utility such as Thumbsplus to rename the scans so that when you put them into the same directory they'll be in the proper order. Then use Adobe Acrobat (the full version, not "reader") to assemble your files into a pdf file.



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    120 Discussions

    Mr Ti

    2 years ago

    This is amazing. You have my many thanks friend.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    i "lost" my hard copy years back thanks for leting me relive that good laf
    always liked that book never seen other books by abbie
    if you or some has send to


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I actually did "Steal This Book" but failed to remove the rfid tag and and had to go running away from the local Barnes and Noble.

    Ahhh abbie hoffman would be proud.


    10 years ago on Step 2

    you should join my club. it's for all of us who have done something extremely stupid in our lives, or injured ourselves due to something we forgot to do.

    15 replies

    HEY ill join =P

    i was stupid and went and touched the casing of a compressed Armstrongs Mixture after i lit it and it didnt go off...

    Spent that saturday morning in the hospital, and the rest of the weekend, with my hand straight up in the air to stop the throbbing. My hand is all healed now, but i got some nasty chemical burns, and my nail got ripped back, and yeah its so not fun =P

    if you wanna see the stuff that i blew up with look up
    Potassium Chlorate and Red Phosphorous
    on youtube, its pretty intense.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Well, a few weeks ago, I challenged my son to a race through and obstacle course. I ended up with a free trip to the hospital in an ambulance (sure wish I could remember it), concussion and a sore back and neck for four weeks. Seems I fell off the top of a cargo net tied to a couple of trees and landed hard on the ground (there was a mattress which I did land on - well, most of me that is). Knocked myself out. Hubby reckons the section of ground where my head hit (and strangely enough, I had no sore spot or lump on my head) was going to be called McIntyres folly and used as a swimming pool (funny fellah, my husband). Another side effect has been a distinct dislike of food that is too fatty or too sugary and I am now finding my battle with being over weight much easier to fight and I have lost quite a bit of the excess and the plans to loose the rest of it on track. Hiubby doesn't think the concussion diet is going to catch on however. LOL


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I vaguely remember reading that there were doctors, if you could call them that, that would take little hammers and pound the bumps of the skull for various reasons. Too much weight, not enough, not tall enough, and so on...


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 2

    You're talking about Phrenology, a Victorian belief that you could determine someones personality by the shape of their head.


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 2

    No; that's something different. I think this is like the practice fo drilling holes in people's skulls.


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 2

    I tripped over a sign that said do not walk here...It was the second day of a 3 week trip to France with the fam and I broke my wrist lol Can I join??


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 2

    I tried something new while ice-skating and learned the hard way that ice is really quite hard... And then I learned that shortly after a concussion you shouldn't wolf down your food because your hungry. Hooray for my first trip to hospital!