Converting My Personal Library to Digital

NOTE: This is an update to an article I published several years ago. I have changed hardware since then and have updated my procedures. This article reflects those changes.

I keep my computers and genealogy material in a small room in our house. I am sure the folks who built the house intended this room to be a child’s bedroom, but there are no children in the house, so I have converted it into something I call “our office.” I bet many people reading this article have done the same with a spare room in their homes.

bookscanningI have several computers and a 27-inch wide monitor in this room, along with a VoIP telephone, a high-speed fiber optic Internet connection, a wi-fi router, two printers (inkjet and laser), two scanners, several external hard drives used for making backups, oversized hi-fi speakers connected to the computers, and various other pieces of computer hardware. Luckily, these are all rather small, and advancing technology results in smaller and smaller devices appearing every year. I occasionally replace aging hardware, and the newer devices are almost always smaller than the old ones. However, I have a huge space problem: books and magazines. They don’t seem to be getting any smaller. My older books still take up as much room today as they did years ago.

“My office” has two bookcases that are each six feet tall and four feet wide, along with two smaller bookcases and a four-drawer filing cabinet. Pam and I share this “office,” so we have two desks, each laden with computers and printers. We squeeze a lot into a ten-foot-by-twelve-foot room.

I don’t want to count how many books I have purchased over the years, but I am sure it must be several hundred volumes. I don’t want to even think about the bottom-line price. I only have space in my four bookcases to store a tiny fraction of them; the rest are stored in boxes in the basement. Out-of-sight books are books that I rarely use. “Out of sight, out of mind.” I probably wasted my money by purchasing all those books as I rarely use most of them. I may have looked at them once, but I rarely go back to them again and again.

While four bookcases sounds like a lot of storage space, I filled them all years ago with books, magazines, software boxes, and stacks of CD-ROM disks. I don’t have room for any new purchases unless I first remove some of the items I already have and move them to boxes in the basement. Nowadays, I have more books and magazines in the basement than I do in the office.

My newly-purchased books and all the genealogy magazines I receive used to end up being stacked on the floor, on my desk, and in most any other nook or cranny I can find. The place was out of control, and I realized that I needed to find a solution. “I used to have a desk, and I am certain that it is still here… someplace. I think I saw it last year.”


In the past few years, I have learned a few lessons. Since there is no space left for storage, I now prefer to obtain all new magazines in electronic format. Not only are they easier to store, but they are also easier to search.

I might want to look something up in the future. Of course, my computer can find words inside electronic files much faster than my fingers and eyeballs can find anything in the printed pages of hundreds of magazines. Many times I have said to myself, “I read an article about that a few years ago. Now, where was that article?” A search on a hard drive will find the information within seconds, but a manual search of books stored in boxes in the basement is rarely successful. Depending on the file format used, I can often find specific words or phrases inside a few thousand files within seconds. Try doing that with printed books!

However, those magazines are the smaller problem. My biggest problem is books, hundreds of them. I cannot afford to go back and repurchase all of the books again in electronic format. What should I do?

I mulled that question over for quite a while before I realized that there were only two possible solutions:

1. Get a larger house


2. Digitize the existing books and all future acquisitions, then get rid of the printed material

I cannot afford the first solution, so I went with the only option left: digitize the existing books and all future acquisitions. The decision became easier when I purchased a scanner.

I am now in the slow and tedious process of cutting apart every book and magazine that I own and scanning every one of them. I am performing this task on a “time available” basis. I try to scan 50 or more pages a day, but I must admit that I haven’t been able to do that every day. In the past year, I have only managed to digitize about twenty books and maybe 100 old magazines. At the rate I am going, the project will take many years to accomplish. However, I feel that I have no choice.

I expect to retire in a few years, and I don’t want to think about “downsizing” by moving into smaller living quarters. If I don’t start solving this problem now, I will face a far larger problem within a very few years.

A few years ago, I moved into a Winnebago motor home full time and lived there for two years. During that time, I learned a lot about downsizing!

I later sold the motor home and purchased a second home in the sunbelt where I can spend my winters without shoveling snow or worrying about falling on ice and breaking a hip, such as a friend of mine did last winter. Life is great in the sunshine!

However, this move creates two new problems. The first is a repeat of the problem I mentioned earlier: my winter home is small, and I don’t have room for hundreds of books and magazines. The second problem is an even bigger one, however: there is no way I can duplicate everything on paper and keep duplicate copies in each home!

The primary reasons that I have not yet been able to scan many books and magazines are: (1.) time required and (2.) the speed of the scanner. The first scanner I purchased is a great device, but it was never designed for speed. It can only scan one side of one page at a time. I need something faster and something that has an input tray that will accept a stack of pages and will scan both sides of each page automatically.

To address this problem, I went out and purchased a sheet-feed scanner. I can insert up to 50 pages at a time, push a button, and relax for about a minute while the scanner digitizes both sides of every page and then deposits all the pages in an output tray. I check the electronic scan to make sure it worked properly, and then I throw away the paper.


Yes, I throw away the paper. As a long-time genealogist, I am used to saving every scrap of paper. However, I soon realized that this was no longer necessary when I had a duplicate copy of everything, a copy that is easier to search than paper. Once digitized, almost all the pages go into the trash bin or into the shredder.


I believe there are no copyright issues involved, even with the newly-published material. I am making copies solely for my personal use and have no plans to ever share any of the newer books and magazines in digital format with anyone else. Current U.S. copyright laws allow for making copies for one’s personal use, and I think most other countries have similar provisions. I can legally share electronic copies of out-of-copyright printed books, but anything that still falls under copyright laws will always be used solely for my own personal use.

The Process

I must admit that I had emotional difficulties when I first cut the pages out of some of my “valuable” books. That is, those that I felt were valuable, regardless of their actual replacement cost. Cutting pages out of the New England Historic and Genealogical Register or out of that family surname book that I paid $150 to purchase years ago is a gut-wrenching experience. Even tougher is the prospect of throwing the pages out in the trash after they have been scanned. However, I really feel I have no choice: I cannot afford the storage space. The emotions subside after cutting apart the first three or four books.

One trick that I learned recently concerns the many out-of-copyright, reprinted books that I own. Before cutting them apart, I first look on Google Books and at The Internet Archive and then search on Google to see if someone else has already scanned a copy of the same book and made it available online. If so, I simply go to the appropriate web site, find the electronic version of the book, click on DOWNLOAD PDF, and save the entire book to my hard drive. Then I simply throw away the printed book that I have. If someone else has already scanned the book, there is no need for me to duplicate the other person’s effort!

Local libraries don’t seem to want these cut-apart books; they already have space problems of their own and are already throwing away lesser-used books by the hundreds. The last thing they want is more old books, especially if the book is already available in electronic format. Major genealogy libraries typically don’t want the books either as they usually already have copies of the books that I am digitizing.

So far, about half of the out-of-copyright books that I have checked have been found in The Internet Archive, in Google Books, or in at least one of the other online web sites specializing in out-of-copyright books.


There are a handful of books that I will never cut apart: the family Bible printed in 1828, the signed autobiography of Lorenzo Dow published in 1838, my high school yearbook, and a very few others. However, the remainder of them are being sliced. I don’t hesitate to slice reprinted books or magazines. I have an Exacto knife for the purpose. I refer to this process as “meeting the guillotine.”


I have converted most of my magazine subscriptions to e-subscriptions. Don’t send me paper! For the few subscriptions that are not available in electronic format, I now read the printed magazine for the first time WHILE I am cutting the pages apart and feeding them into the scanner.

Which scanner should I use?

For a while I thought about purchasing a bunch of scanners and evaluating them in a side-by-side comparison article in this newsletter. I soon gave up on that idea because (1.) there are a lot of scanners available, and comparing would be both expensive and time consuming. Also, (2.) it’s already been done!

If you are thinking about purchasing a new scanner, I would suggest you first look at The Best Scanners of 2016 in the PCMag web site at It is a great comparison of most of the leading scanners of today.



Obviously, I also have to make sure these documents are well preserved in their digital format. Can you imagine the emotions if I spent hundreds of hours scanning several hundred old books and then threw the originals away, only to have a hard drive crash?

In fact, I keep a MINIMUM of four copies: the original copy is kept on the Macintosh’s hard drive; a backup copy is kept on an eight-terabyte external hard drive that plugs into the Mac’s USB connector; a second backup copy is kept on various USB “jump drives” and a third backup copy is kept on an off-site backup service “in the cloud” on the Internet that automatically backs up any new files or newly-changed files from the Mac’s hard drive once every fifteen minutes.

Right now I am also keeping a fourth copy on my laptop computer and a fifth copy on another computer in my office by using a middle-of-the-night process that automatically copies files across my in-home network.

Every spring and every fall, before moving to my other seasonal home, I also make backups of everything to another USB hard drive and take the new backups to the computers at the other location. I guess that is a sixth copy. I can even carry my entire digital library, along with a suitcase and a few other things, in my 2-seat sports car when driving north to south or in the other direction.

no_uhaulIf I was to carry my entire library when it was all in print, I would be renting a large U-Haul van twice a year!

I am not sure if I will continue with the fourth, fifth, and sixth copies, however. If those disk drives fill up, I might reconsider the process. A “belt and suspenders” approach is a good idea, but I am not sure that I need three belts and three sets of suspenders! I make fourth, fifth, and sixth copies right now simply because I happen to have the disk space available.

flashdriveThere is an unexpected side benefit: the jump drives (also called flash drives) slip into a pocket and is barely noticeable there. When I go to genealogy conferences, to a library, to a courthouse, or to a cousin’s home, I am carrying my digitized library with me. My present 265-gigabyte jump drive has sufficient space to store thousands of books and magazines. Someday I will have my entire library with me in my pocket, although that might require two or three jump drives at today’s technology. On the other hand, jump drive capacity is likely to continue growing faster than I can scan old books. If I want to check a book or magazine that is in my home library, I can pull a jump drive out of my pocket, insert it into my laptop or a friend’s computer, and check on it quickly. In contrast, can you imagine carrying around an entire library of printed books and magazines?

If copyright laws allow, I can even provide legal copies of an entire book to a friend by simply clicking and dragging a file onto my friend’s computer or by sending it to him or her in e-mail. I can legally do so with the out-of-copyright books that I own.


Converting one’s library to all digital files can be a gut-wrenching task. Admittedly, slicing “valuable” books is an emotional challenge. However, once the available physical storage space is used up, one is left with few choices.

How do you store your collection of books and magazines? Do you have them all neatly stored and organized? Can you find what you want quickly? How about future purchases? Where will you put those? Can you carry all of them with you on a trip? And what if you move? There’s a saying that “you can’t take it with you,” but you might be able to keep your printed resources for as long as you need them – and make them much more useful – if you convert them to digital files.


You are probably correct in saying most larger libraries aren’t interested in those cut apart books, but I can say from a small library experience, we rural, low budget libraries would LOVE to have your cast offs. I don’t know what libraries you have asked, but if you are getting no’s from a library, I think you are asking the wrong libraries. Offering those cut apart books to small libraries as a donation, would be a God send. We would never say no to donated books of any kind. If we can’t use them we pass them on to other libraries or historical/genealogical societies around the state, or offer them to our patrons free. Or maybe even consider selling the cut apart books for sale cheap on eBay, or in a Facebook group, have them paypal you the shipping cost, after all it goes media mail, which is the cheapest way to ship. It might help recoup a little of your investment and help an amateur “starving” genealogist.


    I am sure you must be correct. However, the two small, local libraries near where I live were not interested.

    By the way, I see your user name of “Fort Fairfield Public Library.” I have been in your library, although it was many years ago. I used to live in Caribou and worked in Presque Isle.

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    It’s a great place to live, we moved here 11 years ago from living in SE PA our entire lives. It’s a bit cold today, -25 wind chill today, so I am a bit envious of your “sunbelt” home right now 🙂


    I work in a small library and we definitely can’t take donations. We have nowhere to store them and our cataloguing is already backed up. It all depends.


Great article! I just showed it to my wife and she said you are my “twin”. I’ve long been scanning my old newspaper clippings (I used to be a photojournalist), photo albums, magazine tear-sheets, photos, etc. etc. for digital storage and access. And I too know the “pain” of discarding the originals, though I do keep a few specials things in their original form.

As you note, the reduction in storage space is amazing and the ease of access is unmatched. Plus, the scans can be tweaked to look even better than the originals (in the case of yellowed newsprint especially).

Just the other day I scanned a book I took out from the library, where a few of my 17th century Massachusetts ancestors were mentioned. I’ve also found them in many Google and Internet archive books. Wonderful resources.

One thing to consider is the use of a smart phone to shoot these images, which would be sufficient in most cases and way quicker than a scanner (I have not tried a batch-fed scanner though, which is probably the best option). I have also been known to use the smartphone in libraries and bookstores to grab quick images of an interesting page or two, to look up printed web addresses later (for instance).

The resulting images can be made into a single PDF using Adobe Acrobat Pro or perhaps other software.


Reblogged this on My Greenwood Family Tree and commented:
Ideas that I can realate to. Too much paper around.


After scanning, do you have any issues or techniques to ensure that the scanned pages are then in the correct order, and of course, before you re-cycle the book or magazine?
Following your previous articles it has prompted me to get a double sided scanner but am yet to start on numerous magazines that I have been reluctant to throw. Perhaps a New Year Resolution.


    When using a sheet-feed scanner that scans both sides of each page at once, that is a non-issue. If I insert 50 sheets of paper (which is 100 pages), and press the button to scan them, the scanner automatically scans one page at a time through the scanner and scans both sides of each piece of paper at the same time.

    The result is a PDF file (or a JPG file or whatever option I chose) with pages 1 through 100 displayed in the correct order.

    Now, if it is a 300-page book, I do have to do this 3 times and I end up with 3 separate files: File #1 contains pages 1 through 100, file #2 contains pages 101 through 200, and file #3 contains pages 201 through 300. I then use a separate PDF editing program to combine the three files into one. There probably are a dozen or more such programs. I use PDF Toolkit for Macintosh. I have no idea if that is “the best” program or not. It is simply the first one I tried and it meets my needs well. I never went looking for any others.


After scanning your magazines, how do find articles?


    —> After scanning your magazines, how do find articles?

    Actually, that is very easy.

    I usually save the scanned images as searchable PDF files. Let’s say I place 100 scanned magazines or books in a folder. I then use Spotlight (a search program that is included with every Macintosh) and I can search for any word(s) or phrase anywhere in the computer’s hard drive or I could limit it only to that one folder. Not only can I search for titles of articles, but also can search for any words within an article. You can’t do that with printed magazines!

    For instance, I might have 1,000 or so articles saved. If I am looking for any information about Penobscot County, Maine where my ancestors lived for generations, I can click on the Spotlight icon and enter the word “Penobscot.” Within 2 or 3 seconds, a list of all the files with the word “Penobscot” in the file will appear on the screen. I can click on any of those file names listed and a second or so after that the article appears on the screen. That is much, much faster than manually looking through stacks of printed magazines looking for every occurrence of the word “Penobscot.”

    Obviously, you need to search for the more unique words. If you are searching for rather common words, such as “Washington county” or “Lincoln county,” you probably need to add in a town name or your ancestors’ surname or some other identifying word(s) to narrow down the search. It works essentially the same way that Google operates.

    Spotlight for Macintosh works well but there are similar programs for Windows. I haven’t yet found equivalent programs for iPad or Android, however.


    I haven’t read through all of the comments for this thread yet, but had to mention that I did a double-take when you mentioned Penobscot County, Maine, as I, too, have deep roots there. One of the earliest is the White family who settled in Greenfield back when it was still Hancock County. Hard to search since it is no longer a town, but the more experience I gain the more tid-bits I find!


Do your cut-apart pages ever “jam” in the scanner, or become damaged in any way? I have two three-ring notebooks of my mother’s genealogical work, mostly typewritten in the 1960s. The paper is pretty robust, but I’d hate to have any of the pages damaged. I’d still keep the original notebooks, but it would be great to easily scan the pages for interested relatives.


    —> Do your cut-apart pages ever “jam” in the scanner, or become damaged in any way?

    Rarely. However, I believe that depends upon (1.) the scanner being used and (2.) the condition of the paper being scanned.

    I am using an Evernote sheet-feed scanner (see ) which I believe is actually manufactured by Fujitsu but it has an Evernote logo on it. As long as I insert paper that is in good condition (such as a bill received in the mail today), it never jams. However, if I insert a crumpled piece of paper that was in a box in the basement for the past 20 years, I have occasionally had jams. Nothing is ever perfect.

    I have a clear plastic folder that I can use for scanning paper that otherwise might jam. I can insert a sheet of paper into the clear plastic folder and insert that into the scanner. That never jams. The downside is that I can only scan one sheet of paper (both sides) that way.

    If the paper being scanned is old, fragile, or otherwise appears to be delicate, I never insert it into any scanner that has a sheet feeder and rollers to pull the paper through the scanner. Anything that looks delicate gets scanned in my other scanner: a single-sheet flat bed scanner that never moves the paper and therefore never jams and never causes damage.


Although this book made me want to throw it against the wall several times it has an insidious and ultimately wonderful side effect. You may want to check it out. “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. I will caution that the word “joy” may not be the best translation from the Japanese but over time you will “get” it if you stick with it. Its not about what we get rid of its about what we CHOOSE to keep! Lightening our loads has a very freeing effect. In her method clothes are first and then books. I am not usually one for organizing systems but I think she has something of value to offer. BTW I enjoy your blog!


    I have heard of “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” before but have never read it. It was on my mental list of “books I should read someday.” Based on your strong enthusiasm for the book, I just ordered it this morning from Amazon.

    Of course, I ordered the Kindle (e-book) version, not the printed version! I don’t have room or interest in printed books.

    Besides, I am taking an airline flight next week and I think this will be excellent reading with the iPad while on the flight or while sitting at the airport gate. I don’t want a paper copy. About one minute after deciding to buy it, the e-book version was sitting on my iPad waiting for me to read it.

    You deserve a salesperson’s commission!


I took 3 large boxes of genealogy books to my state genealogy convention this past spring and arranged them on a freebie table. They were gone in less than an hour!

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As an example: This morning the latest edition of Family Tree Magazine arrived in an email message. I displayed the attached PDF file on my computer’s screen, clicked on SAVE AS… and selected the folder for Genealogy Magazines. I clicked SAVE.

Total time required? A few seconds. The entire magazine is now saved on my hard drive and, within a few minutes, will automatically be copied to an external hard drive next to my computer and also to a file storage service “in the cloud.”

Space consumed? Essentially zero.

Trees killed? Zero.

Postage expense? Zero.

Availability and convenience when I need it? Almost limitless.


Why don’t you donate your books to Google. I believe they’ll scan them and put them on line.
Along that line, I rejoined Ancestry for a month recently because I wanted to research thie NYC city directories. Found a couple of records. Then, I decided to look up one of my ancestor’s address on google books and (Internet Archive). Entered addesses like “h 87 Columbia” in the text search. Voila, a bunch more hits in directories not available on Ancestry.


    —> Why don’t you donate your books to Google.

    Google will not accept them. Google only works with large libraries. It isn’t even cost-effective for Google to work with smaller libraries. A list of participating libraries can be found at:

    In contrast, the Internet Archive DOES accept scanned books from individuals. I wrote about that three days ago in my article Free Genealogy Books on The Internet Archive when I wrote:

    “The Internet Archive is working with several sponsoring libraries to digitize the contents of their holdings. In addition, private individuals are invited to scan the public domain books in their personal libraries and upload them as well. (See for information about contributing your books.)”

    Probably 75% of my out-of-copyright books are books that I downloaded from The Internet Archive. Obviously, they do not need those books back. (smile)


I like to use my digital camera as my scanner. When I am at a library and I find a book I would like a copy of, I just take a picture of each page, plus cover, index, etc.. I then have my own copy of that book. When I finish I can give a copy of the “book” to the library. This works very well for original typed manuscript that the library will not loan out. Plus they then have a back up copy of their only book. I can then link the page image to my genealogy program as documentation as to what information I have found and used. I think there is a way to take these images and convert them to a PDF “book” so you can then do searches, but I am not sure how to do that.


    —> I think there is a way to take these images and convert them to a PDF “book” so you can then do searches, but I am not sure how to do that.

    There are probably a dozen or more such programs. I use “PDF Toolkit” available from the Macintosh App Store for $1.99 at and it does a good job. However, I know there are others as well. I haven’t investigated all the various PDF editing programs available.


    You might check It’s an online program that can merge pdf’s, split pdf’s, and do various conversions, such as jpg to pdf, pdf to jpg and more. I’ve mainly used it to merge pdf’s when I download a set of pages, one at a time, from an online book. I can then merge them into a single pdf file. So far the program has let me do three actions for free; if you want to do more, you can pay a monthly fee or wait awhile till the “free” clock resets.


Shuddered a little when you said you threw the paper in the trash. In our area paper can go into recycling – that helps alleviate the guilt of getting rid of some items. While hardbound books cannot go that route those you have separated from the outside covers can.
Some library copies of books may be “well-used” by now. If you have books in really good condition perhaps they might take them to replace their battered copies. When I have something to move out of the house I also usually at least do a quick check of the local library’s catalogue re. their holdings.

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Now to the next issue. How do you keep track of your flash drives? I have several, but have not found a convenient and systematic way of keeping them so that I know what is on them without putting them in and reading the drive. Have you devised a simple method?


    —> Now to the next issue. How do you keep track of your flash drives?

    With difficulty.

    I have never worked out a good plan for that. I do have one 256-gigabyte flash drive that has all my documents, ebooks, newsletter articles, and more backed up on it. That one flash drive normally sits right beside my desktop computer. However, I have never found a good method of organizing all the other flash drives that seem to accumulate.

    Does anyone have suggestions?


    How about using a tag with the metal around, or a tag like those for keys that have a tiny paper slip that slides in? (You would have to ‘downsize’ the writing.) You could also keep a list for each in AnyList (for Mac)-or any other list app- which I have on phone, iPad, and computer, and somehow mark/name the drive or use a different color.


    I put each one in a snack size baggie with a piece of paper stating what is on the flash drive. Haven’t found a better way and so far it works really well.


    I have an excel spreadsheet that uses a macro to load a list of all files on any device
    i left columns for comments, grouping codes
    use data filters i can search this list of files
    i have macros that will open the file and its folder


Ditto on everything–in my small office, I have accumulated almost 50 years of files, books, research, scanners, etc. This year I gave myself a Christmas present that is supposed to scan up to 250 pages in 10 minutes. It’s a SKANSTICK for my Samsung Note 4 Smartphone which has good resolution camera. I am about to set it up and try it out to scan my early years diaries, which I started out doing a year ago, got sick and it was too cumbersome to try to do manually. The SKANSTICK W has a free SKANAPP that lets me remotely click the shutter as I quickly turn the pages. I will try to update this with the results (if I have time as I am so behind on scanning all my personal docs, diaries, photos, etc.

You can find it at and get it for about $40


    Please post another comment in the future and describe your results with the SKANSTICK. I am curious. I have purchased several portable scanners, (probably too many of them!) and haven’t yet found a perfect solution. I don’t have a SKANSTICK so am very interested in your experiences in a “real world” situation as commonly encountered by a genealogist.


I only buy flash drives that have a loop on the business end, not on the cap (if there is one). Then I attach a small key fob that has a place for “writing” the contents of the drive. Usually, I use my computer and printer to create a small clear plastic label that I apply to the paper insert on the key fob. There are many different such fobs available on Amazon and elsewhere. I find them on Amazon by querying for “flash drive tags”. Some, such as the Arbor Home Assorted Color Plastic Key Fobs, come in color coded sets of eight and have a split ring at the top and a second hole at the bottom of the tag so they can be attached to a lanyard, another key ring, etc.

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Ouch! As a retired librarian, your description of your “backlog” is every bookie’s nightmare. The embarrassing part is that we all have them. First, I would do those basement boxes before anything else. Depending on where you live, you risk silverfish and mold you can’t see until it’s too late. Mold will travel from box to box before you realize what has happened. If you take those books upstairs to scan, you can risk contaminating your good books in your office. When you do scan, do the verso page (title page and reverse side with cataloging), the table of contents and index, and then only the chapters that are relevant to your own work. A book containing only scant info you need would not be worth scanning the entire thing. Last, I don’t know how you organize your books (by century, location, etc), but once done use an old bookie trick called MUSTY, as in Misleading, Ugly, Superseded, Trivial, and You don’t need it any more. Keep only what is most useful and not duplicated elsewhere. Good luck!


    Solution for the silverfish & paper lice found in dusty/old books–I have for years used BAY leaves. insert one into the spine area of some of those books and also place them here & there on the shelving or in the boxes where they are stored. Also have some damp-rid-moisture absorbers in the area to stop the formation of musty mold/mildew. Less dust, less mold, keep them covered or vacuum them periodically.


I gained a foot of shelf space when I downloaded the digitized magazines from two national genealogical societies to which I belong. I downloaded only the issues I had on my shelf plus the indexes, if they were available. I considered it a great member benefit.


I just completed this task myself with the handy scanner from evernote. In minutes it created a pdf and I was able to either send it to the cloud
Or/and to my hard drive. I used to use my scanner but this app has been a godsend! The best part? I was able to donate books and magazines to our local library.


Howard Knickerbocker December 17, 2016 at 7:44 am

The secret to my getting started with paperless on my thousands of magazines and old catalogs was the purchase of a Dahle paper cutter. This is a precision cutter that will go through 400 pages at a single swipe. I was leary of parting with the 100 bucks (Amazon) but the beast really does work. Many magazines use a glue to bind them so its almost impossible to separate the pages. I can have a stack of magazines reduced to individual pages for scanning in my Epson DS-510 in a few minutes. I’ve probably digitized 20,000 double sided pages to searchable PDFs. It seems like genealogists have multiple hobbies and collections which leads to crates full of magazines and journals that are too valuable to heave. Without the paper cutter I would have never started.


Many great ideas…but I’ve just about filled up my hard drive, so now have another issue to deal with.
Another question: how can I pass on all the information in my genealogy software to generations over time? Whoever takes it over after I die would have keep updating the software, on and on…I’m not sure that will happen. There is no way to make a hard copy of it all, I’m sure. How can all this information be preserved over time?


Dear Mr Eastman. I must say I am very happy to have recently found your blog site and have been reading everything I can. I will probably subscribe to the Plus Edition after Christmas when things are a little less hectic. While I am new here, I am not new to computer technology having used the old punch cards for the data processor in the early 1970’s in my second University degree through to Applied Computer technology and programming in the 1990’s and on and a career in business management of many years. Plus 40 odd years of working on the family tree. I used everything from dos and 298 to Win3.1, Win 95, Win98 and XP Win7 and Win10. I am retired now and finding time to get back to the family tree after an abscence of about 10 years.

My concern (for me personally) is letting go of all my boxes of ‘stuff’ about the family history. Technology rapidly changes and what once worked on Win3.1 didn’t work well on Win95 and didn’t work at all on XP. My XP stuff worked on Win7 and not on Win10.

In my will, I feel uncomfortable about simply leaving a ‘flash drive’ to my son containing all my years of research which might work a few years from now but probably won’t. So he gets all the boxes of ‘stuff’ and the filing cabinets.

Analogy: The young granddaughters are getting iPods for Christmas.Things will be good unless they lose them or the format changes. I remember my record collection in the 1960’s and then changed to 8tracks (which I bought) and then changed to cassette (which I bought) and then changed to CD (which I bought) and DVD burners. Back to computers, unless you continually buy the latest and greatest, ‘flash drive’ technology has a high probability of not even existing five years from now. And ‘the Cloud’ is simply a marketing thing as we all look up to the cumulus nimbus white thing in the sky and think ‘that’s where great Grandpa’ is safely stored. Getting back to my son, due to his lifestyle he has an iPhone and that’s it. Maybe the boxes of family stuff which I leave him will sit in his storage to 20 or 30 years but at least he or his children will be able to open it. And in the meantime I don’t have to worry about continually making numerous backups on numerous drives and worrying about the kids having the latest technology in the future to open it.

I will probably digitize everything for my own ease of reference but the boxes of ‘stuff’ will remain in their fireproof cabinets.

Kudos to you Dick and I’ll look forward to subscribing to the Plus Edition

Liked by 1 person

    If I could give this FIVE stars I would!! In fact I think I will. *****
    This is why our library will accept any historical donation, family, town, county or state.
    “A library holds everyone’s history, everyone’s family and everyone’s knowledge and imagination, all under one roof. A library is the very foundation and definition of community.” – Jennifer Gaenzle


Dick you’re destroying books that someone else might give their eyeteeth for. They may not have advanced technology, the books may have a different use for them, be hard to access, perhaps their interests are in a single piece of information of no significance to you, and they may already be out of print. Like that city directory you’ve filleted: you’re cutting up the address of their grandfather for ever, when it could go to a charity bookshop like the one I work in, where they’d come across it. Not everyone can afford to continue paying a regular subscription to a website when their needs are quite small and specialised, and the volume could sit for free in their bookcase. It’s all very well being organised, buy it stifles inspiration. And electronic information is so susceptible to undercover editing.which leaves no trace . Downsizing is just short-termism.

Liked by 1 person

    Perhaps… but there are some copyright laws to consider as well. I am not an attorney and cannot offer legal advice. However, for any book published in 1923 or later, is it legal to keep a copy (an electronic copy) and also give the printed version to someone else? That makes two copies in use while the author and/or publisher have only been paid for one copy. Is that legal?

    I do not want to violate copyright laws.


    Honestly you may be violating copyright law even by making personal electronic copies. Since you are keeping an electronic copy for your own personal use, you are not selling the electronic copy, nor are you giving the electronic copy away, you maybe okay, but I would double check with an attorney (however, I believe that if you pass away the electronic copy would need to be destroyed) Also see this PDF article=1218&context=articles
    Giving away the original even after you have made you electronic copy is also not violating any copyright, especially if you donate it. This is why I too stressed to give the original to others who may need it in my original reply.


After scanning I OCR the information for search capabilities. My question is there a Linux based program out there that I can use to search all the books at one time with out opening each one?


Hi there,
I am responding with an idea for labeling your flash drive(s). I have a Brother P-Touch Extra label maker (model PT-310) that I use for all kinds of things. It uses the TZ tape that comes in colors, or just white with several available colors of ‘ink’. This label maker also has the capacity on it to make a ‘double line’ of text, perfect for a flash drive. The TZ tape is a laminated tape, and sticks on very, very well. I can say that from the labels on my son’s water bottles that go through the dishwasher on a regular basis. You can peel it off, but it takes some effort at a corner to get it going. The laminating of the tape as it prints makes the lettering very sturdy and permanent also. I think this is the answer to labeling your flashdrive(s) with their contents, or even just your name and phone number for return if you happen to lose it. I would worry with the aforementioned suggestion of putting a key tag on the loop end of a flashdrive, as who knows when that loop might let go or lend itself to being snagged and the loss of the flashdrive on it’s own.
I’m really enjoying the newsletter, too!


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