I know lots of e-book readers who virtually stop reading paper books once they discover e-books. I’m one of them. We recently sold/gave away more than half of our paper book collection. Basically we kept the hardcover books that look good on the shelf.
But that leaves the question of how to replace beloved favorites. Some can be repurchased as e-books, and I’ve certainly done my share of that. However, as you know, publishers haven’t released their entire backlist, which can leave you stuck. Of course, you could scan them yourself, and I know people who do that. But that’s way more work than I want to tackle.
When Mark Burger of Custom Book Scanning contacted me and offered me a free trial of his service, I was interested.
I’ve had this one book on my shelf for years that I’ve been wanting to have digitized. I almost did it myself, but it was just too much of a hassle. Every so often, I check the publisher to see if it’s been released as an e-version. So far, no luck. So, I sent him the book.
There are many options to select when sending a book for scanning, and I was fortunate to be able to try them all. So, I chose destructive scanning (which would provide the best scanning/OCR option), EPUB with clickable table of contents, audio book version and delivery of the jpegs of the scans (in case I needed to make changes).
I’m happy to say that it went well. The book looks good. Yes, there are some remaining OCR errors and a few odd line breaks, but the book is perfectly readable, and of better quality than other releases by this publisher. The audiobook uses Ivona (which means you should choose the female voice and get the amazing “Amy” voice). I did run the EPUB through Calibre to change the paragraph style from block to indented, but that’s just a personal preference.
Pricing is based on the length of the book, and starts at $9.95 for a 100-page or less book. You add $3 for each subsequent 100 pages. EPUB or Kindle formatting adds at least $10, or more if you want a clickable table of contents. My book would have cost me $35.95 (not including audio or .jpeg files).
Yes, that’s expensive. If you can buy the book from Amazon, it’s a much better deal. However, if, like me, you have a few beloved books you can’t find in e-version and really want them, I think it’s worth it. Especially since Burger has created the code “THIRTYOFF” for TeleRead readers! If you’re not good at doing math in your head, that would have brought the price for my book down to $25.16.
How does it compare to 1DollarScan? The biggest difference is that Custom Book Scanning gives you an EPUB or Mobi file, not just an image .pdf like 1DollarScan. PDFs are a pain, and I wouldn’t want to scan a fiction book with 1DollarScan. Especially when you run a price comparison.
I did a check of what my book would have cost from 1DollarScan. I did select some of the extra options, like OCR (which only makes the book searchable–it doesn’t give you a text file you can modify) and high-quality scan. My book would have cost $21 from 1DollarScan. It’s worth the extra few dollars to have a reflowable document where you can change font size.
Now, here’s the big question: Is it legal? That’s a good one. While it’s definitely legal to scan and OCR books yourself, it’s questionable whether a service like this is strictly legal. I asked the owner that question, and here was his response:
“The legality of book scanning and fair use has been a topic in the media recently. Custom Book Scanning respects the works of authors and publishers and takes every measure to prevent piracy. At the same time, we also support the rights of book owners to be able to read their paper books digitally or through audiobook for personal use. Aside from the convenience of having your books on an e-reader, we receive many responses from people who aren’t able to enjoy a traditional book because of being visually impaired and find the text to speech feature on an e-reader or an audiobook to allow them to enjoy those titles as well.”
I think that’s a fair answer. I didn’t worry too much about sending in my book. I don’t see it as that much different from doing the work myself. Except for the part about not having to spend the hours doing it.
Do you want to scan every book in your library? Probably not. Is it worth it for those special books you can’t find in an e-version? Definitely.