Scan and Digitize Your Books for $1 Each

I have recently been scanning genealogy books so that I can “downsize” into smaller living quarters. As I move closer to retirement, I realize that someday I will move to smaller living quarters without room for all the books and magazines I have accumulated. I won’t even have room for the required bookshelves. Also, there is no way I can jam another book into the over-crowded bookshelves I already own. The answer seems obvious: digitize the books! Thousands of books can be stored in a very small computer or even in a tablet computer or a flash drive.

The problem is that my progress to date has been slow. Scanning a book is a tedious process, and I haven’t completed the scanning of very many books. One online service promises to do the job at a modest price: one dollar per 100 pages. The same service will also scan documents, photographs, business cards, and even the old greeting cards from relatives that I have been saving all these years.

1DollarScan has been in business for a few years and has a good reputation. Anyone can use 1DollarScan by filling out an online order form and then shipping the books or other materials to 1DollarScan’s offices in San Jose, California. The company scans them and converts them into PDF files and also (optionally) performs OCR (optical character recognition) to create a text layer behind the images, which makes the text searchable and selectable. The PDF files and text files can be sent to the customer by download or on DVD disks. The PDF files can be read on all the usual desktop and laptop computers as well as the following devices:

  • Apple iPad, iPhone3G, iPhone3GS, iPhone4, iPhone5, iPod Touch
  • All Android phones, all Android tablet computers
  • Amazon Kindle Fire, Kindle3, 4th, Kindle DX
  • SONY Reader PRS-650
  • B&N Nook

And probably all future computers and ebook readers as well

PDF is a standard that probably will be around for many years. When a better format becomes widely available, conversion programs undoubtedly will be available to easily convert the PDF files to whatever format becomes popular in the future.

1DollarScan will also convert your scan to many other file formats, including WORD, epub, txt, audio formats for audio books, and many other file types. Prices depend upon the number of pages to be converted, so you need to contact the company for a quote to match your needs. However, there are a lot of file conversion products available, and many of them are available free of charge. Once the books have been digitized and saved in PDF format, I suspect you can convert the files yourself to some other format rather than paying for 1DollarScan or someone else to do it for you. However, test first with a small sample of PDF files to make sure the file conversion program you plan to use will meet your needs.

After 1DollarScan has scanned the materials and returned the electronic images to the customer, the original paper documents may either be returned (the customer pays the shipping charges) or sent to a recycling service to be shredded and reborn as recycled paper. Obviously, none of us will be sending family heirloom photos to be recycled! For me, this is a great method of recycling all the less-valuable books and magazines I have accumulated over the years. I bet I have 200 pounds of them, and I certainly can’t keep them all when I downsize my living space.

A friendly postal supervisor advised me that one oversized box costs a lot more to ship than several smaller ones; so, it makes more sense to ship 20 or 30 pounds in a box than the maximum allowable 70 pounds. He also cautioned me that boxes may need reinforcement for heavy loads, illustrating this with a heavy-duty box used to ship reams of paper. He also stressed the importance of shipping my books as media mail for best pricing. If I follow this advice, the cost of sending all 200 pounds of my books from anyplace in the U.S. to 1DollarScan in San Jose via the U.S. Postal Service should be around $100.

Once the materials have been scanned and the electronic files sent, the customer manages all future storage as he or she sees fit. In my case, I make multiple backups and then make sure the backups are stored in several different locations for safe keeping. I will use the L.O.C.K.S.S. method (Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe). Luckily, this is easy to do, and the online storage expenses are far cheaper than paying for a larger home to store all the physical books.

Prices for the scanning service seem reasonable:

  • Books: $1 for 100 pages (so, scanning a 300-page book will cost $3)
  • Documents: $1 for 10 pages
  • Business cards: $1 for 10 cards
  • Photographs: $1 for 10 photos
  • Greeting cards: $1 per card

Adding OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to make your documents computer-readable will cost an extra $1 per 100 pages.

Books and documents are scanned at 300 DPI in color. You can see a sample of the scanned images at http://1dollarscan.com/pdf/book.pdf.

When the books are received by 1DollarScan, the workers cut the spines off of them. This makes sure the pages of the book lay flat on the scanner, and makes it impossible to resell the hard copy of the book after it’s been scanned. When the scanning is complete, the pages are shredded and recycled, ensuring that the owner only has access to one copy of their book: the freshly minted digital version, which can be downloaded as a PDF from the company’s website via the user’s password-protected account.

1DollarScan will keep your books for 14 days after scanning. That gives you time to download the results, examine the images for clarity, and request a re-scan if needed.

1DollarScan also offers scanning of new books sent directly from Amazon.com to 1DollarScan’s offices. With this offer you can buy a book on Amazon.com and specify it to be shipped directly to 1DollarScan. The company will then scan the book, send the electronic version to you, and dispose of the paper copy as you specify.

One question that pops to mind is, “What about legalities?” Indeed, the folks at 1DollarScan have examined the issue closely and have obtained legal advice. The company’s managers seem confident that the conversion service does qualify as “fair use” although others, including the Author’s Guild, disagree. The Author’s Guild position is outlined in an article in Publishers Weekly at http://goo.gl/XHOvXr. The attorney for 1DollarScan also is quoted at the end of the same article. The 1DollarScan attorney’s position is that making a backup for personal use is a classic fair use of a work you own, similar backing up your CDs to play later on your MP3 music player. The concept of converting music CDs you already own to another format has already been tested in court and has always been deemed to be legal, at least in the United States.

In short, 1DollarScan does not make copies. Instead, it makes conversions. The customer gives up the original book in order to obtain a PDF version. I am not an attorney, so I cannot guess at the complex legal issues involved. However, I suspect it will be difficult to convince most judges that 1DollarScan is committing copyright infringement by converting a customer’s books and documents from one format to another. It should be interesting to watch this issue if it ever does wind its way through the courts.

You can read more in 1DollarScan’s Terms and Conditions at http://1dollarscan.com/terms.php. Scroll down to item #9: Intellectual Property Right.

I’d suggest this is a great service for genealogists and for many others as well. I won’t use it for scanning everything I plan to digitize, but I do hope to send most of the “tedious” scanning to 1DollarScan. I still plan to scan my fragile materials and more valuable items myself.

You can learn more about 1DollarScan’s services at http://1dollarscan.com. Many questions are answered in the FAQs (Frequently-Asked Questions) at http://1dollarscan.com/faq.php.

7 Comments

I just ordered the HoverCam and hope this will make life much easier for me to digitize and store not only many of my books, but over 10,000 photos and documents I have collected over the last 60 years. You told us about this new product. They are on back order, however, because of so much response by genealogists and schools. Great price with gigantic number of functions. I cannot wait to get my new toy.

Everett Stonebraker June 29, 2014 at 9:59 pm

I found out about 1DollarScan soon after they started operations and signed up for their Platinum membership which allows you to send in about 100 sets (a set being 100 pages of books, magazines, etc.) per month. The Platinum membership is a much better deal if you are going to digitize more than a dozen or two books. They prefer to regulate the amount of material you can send monthly to 100 sets so they will be able to complete your work in a reasonable time. I found that the postage to send a box of 100 sets of books cost about $15 – $18. I also paid for insurance which is about $1.50 per $100 of insurance. I sent them about 10 boxes over 10 months using their Platinum membership and was very satisfied. I did page through most of the books and found only 3 pages which had folded over during the scanning process. I sent in a request to rescan the page in each book, but they rescan the entire book and they did so without hesitation. I now have a computer full of digtized books and nearly empty bookshelves. Each book is fully searchable so you can find the instances of surnames or full names very quickly. All in all, I am very satisfied with their service.

Years ago when I was a much more active musician, the rule of thumb for making copies of music was very specific for fair use: *accompanists* (not individual choristers or players) could make a single copy of a piece of music if it would make the using of it in performance easier (make it larger, wider, spread out on a music stand or piano, etc.), but only if the authorized purchased copy was visible on or somewhere near the performance instrument. Same for conductors–for instance, when they couldn’t see well those tiny images on a crowded page of purchased, rented, or library-borrowed manuscript.

I wonder how this recycling of the original book will play out with what otherwise seems such a wonderful scanning service. How would anyone be able to prove he or she had received through legitimate means the book in question if it was recycled after scanning? It doesn’t allow that particular copy to be recopied, but the problem is that authors and publishers want continued purchases of their books, not a one-time scanning of a book that may or may not originally have actually been paid for by the one paying a dollar per 100 pages to have it scanned. I doubt whether keeping the receipts from 1DollarScan will satisfy anyone about original ownership.

It seems to me that a type of contract between authors/publishers and 1DollarScan is in order to form some kind of pool, if nothing else, that covers any perceived loss of income that would be drawn from to pay for intellectual rights, similar to an ASCAP license. If this doesn’t happen or something similar to it, I can imagine the future of published authors standing to lose income through duplication of the scanned image that could conceivably be shared and probably would be by more than a few. Great idea, though, for the honorable reasons of using the service. Some bugs need to be worked out. Until that happens, I bet this will be in the courts soon and for some time to come.

To my way of thinking, you have bought the book – now you are running out of space to keep books. You want the contents but not the actual item – digitize it. You still have the contents but not the physical item.
I have a NOOK – I download books to it because I have NO ROOM to have all those books in my possession. When you download it states that the book is only for your use – you cannot pass it on to anyone else – if you let them read it on your NOOK that is OK.

    Yes, you apparently can legally do that because there is something already in place–some kind of agreement between the parties in charge–that allows libraries (at least) to download books to your NOOK. It seems I read something about that not long ago. But it wasn’t a foregone conclusion at the outset that scanning the whole contents of books was an OK thing to do. Because so many people were doing it and authors, distributors and libraries could see the writing on the wall, they worked out the details. That’s where I think this situation is headed: for a mutually agreed upon solution. It’s the complications of the new technology that necessitates working it all out. It’s new territory for all parties to sort through.

Alejandro Milberg June 30, 2014 at 1:09 pm

As part of my planning for a move from Boston to Washington DC I got rid of books that took up about 10 yards of linear shelf space, using 1DollarScan and based on Dick’s review of their service last year. They did a fantastic job and I realized how much easier it is to access these books now. Highly recommended and thanks a lot, Dick!

Since you talking about the scanning and digitizing PDF files, I found a great freeware PDF reader, PDF-XChange PDF Viewer by Tracker Software, that includes a free OCR module. You can make other people’s scanned documents searchable.

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