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.