Custom Book ScanningI 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.

Custom Book ScanningWhen 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.

Custom Book Scanning


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.

The Competition

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.


  1. I don’t want to detract from Custom Book Scanning’s customer base, but if you buy PDF-Xchange Viewer (yes, it’s a weird name, get over it) from Tracker Software you can OCR your own scanned PDF files with excellent results. It does nearly everything that Acrobat does, and costs much less. I don’ t have any connection with it — I’m just a satisfied customer.

  2. @Chris and Jon, I’ve considered building my own scanner, but it still requires more work than I’m willing to invest. I’d rather pay someone to do the “heavy lifting,” so I can just do the reading. Although I guess the Xchange Viewer might make 1DollarScan a bit more attractive as an option.

    I’m also fussy about Tables of Contents. After doing my own DIY e-book conversions, I’m really happy to pay someone to do that work as well. Worth a few bucks for my time.

  3. The $9.99 is for a destructive book scan is it not? The link on the site to the non-destructive book scan didn’t work on my iPhone.

    So the cost of the book should also be included. I suppose you could dismiss that cost if you already own the book and don’t care about its loss. But the books I’d like to scan are cost prohibitive for this method. For example, Women and Men by Joseph McEllroy will cost at least $65.00 on the Amazon used market.

  4. Generally, the lack of backlist isn’t due to the publishers dragging their feet. The publishers probably no longer have rights to publish those titles. Publishing contracts for books are generally for a limited time, with a reversion to the author shortly after the book goes out of print. That’s what the “orphan works” hullabaloo is about.

    As for legality, there’s no way this is legal, unless the company is Google. However, it’s the company that’s legally exposed, not the customer. They’re the ones who are copying without permission. learned about this the hard way.

    But… if the publisher no longer has rights to publish the title, there’s no real benefit to them bringing a copyright-infringement lawsuit. So don’t hold your breath waiting for the fireworks to start.

  5. John: it’s legal for Google because of the settlement with the publishers in the Google Books lawsuit. In that settlement, the publishers not only accepted Google’s past scanning operations, but also gave Google blanket permission to continue scanning copyrighted works. The settlement also noted that this permission didn’t extend beyond Google.

  6. I just found out custom book scanning is now offering a clickable table of contents for their pdfs. Have you ever tried to to comb through the pages tab in a large pdf file looking for a specific chapter? It’s an eyesore. I don’t foresee 1dollar going through this kind of trouble in the near future so to have my ebooks done professionally sounds worth the few extra dollars.

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