1DollarScan: digitize your paperbooks for $1?

1DollarScan: digitize your paperbooks for $1?

I’ve been saying for some time that I’d love to have a machine where I could stick a paperbook into it and get an e-book out of it.

I have digitized a couple of books in my work with a non-profit…it’s a time-consuming, challenging task.

I have only done it with public domain books (ones not under copyright protection).

In the case of the non-profit, they wanted to distribute the books, so of course, public domain was going to  make sense.

It has been unclear to me and it is still unclear to me whether it would be legal to scan a paperbook copy you own to do your own format shifting and change it into an e-book, if it is under copyright protection.

It might seem obvious that it would be. I won’t go through all the legal stuff in this one (and I’m not a lawyer anyway), but the Supreme Court found it was okay to “time shift” TV programs by recording them, and it’s legal (as I understand it) to “format shift” CDs to digital files for your own use.

However, different media do have different rules, and I haven’t seen case law that specifically says it is okay to format shift your copies of paperbooks. In fact, the whole complicated Google scanning settlement has to do in part, with scanning copyrighted materials. Since its being settled, though, I don’t think case law is established…a lawyer could answer that better than  I could.

I bring that up, because


says that what they do is legal under Fair Use…I’m not convinced, but I don’t know. I never quite knew how Fair Use allowed format shifting or time shifting, but let’s presume that what 1DollarScan does is legal*.

What do they do?

You send them a paperbook. For $1 per each one hundred pages, they will turn it into a pdf and send it back to you.

That’s super cheap, even though you do pay for the shipping there.

I have lots of paperbooks I’d rather have as e-books…but at this point, I’m not going to use this service.

It is a purely emotional reason, if we assume that it’s legal.

It has to do with the paperbooks.

They destroy them (in fact, they recycle them).

They tear them into pieces to scan them.

No question, that’s an efficient way to do it.

I didn’t damage the books I scanned. It’s much more awkward to scan a book and treat it gently.

I might have thought I’d gotten a bit past honoring the paper and ink, as opposed to the words.

This tells me that I haven’t.

I just can’t get past the idea of the books being destroyed.

Honestly, it would probably be better if I could. Paperbooks are likely to eventually be lost (damage from insects, fire, water, and general decay). PDFs and other digital files are more likely, to me, to make the book widely available when it goes into the public domain. Once that happens, I do think digital files have a much better chance of being available for future generations.

I won’t hold it against you if you use 1DollarScan. 🙂

If you do, there are more options. For another dollar per 100 pages, they’ll use OCR (Optical Character Recognition), making the books searchable. That’s not a perfect process, but it can be pretty good.

It sounds to me like they are doing a lot of things correctly, even though the website is arguably a bit unpolished. They’ll “fine tune” the PDF for different EBRs (E-Book Readers), for example, giving you a better output for a NOOK or a Kindle.

They do an “Amazon Direct” option. You buy the book at Amazon and have it shipped straight to them. So, you find a book not in e-book format for a penny (plus $3.99 shipping & handling, usually) and have it sent to 1DollarScan…and they convert it.

It’s a company that’s been successful in Japan, by the way. it’s been covered in the mainstream media.

At this point, they only take payment via PayPal…they say they are exploring other options, but that does keep the cost down.

They also do other things besides books…they’ll scan your old diaries or work documents. You could take that typed manuscript and have them convert it.

So, as I say, I’m not going to use it right now…but I thought some of you might want to know about it.

Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think about it…

* In terms of the legality, one interesting spin to me is that they let authors/publishers tell them not to scan the books. Why do that, if there is no question of the legality?

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

9 Responses to “1DollarScan: digitize your paperbooks for $1?”

  1. Zebras Says:

    I started doing the math on the last pre-Kindle book I bought which still remains unread. 600 pages would be 6 bucks plus shipping, one of these days I will give in and buy Kindle version for 9.99. Also copiers at work can now make PDFs so if I really wanted to kindleize something I could do it myself. My devious mind just thinks that once they have copied your book what are they doing with your file? Certainly they would get themselves some free reading. Are they sharing it with their friends? Probably a good service for business stuff where you would want a professional look.

    Typing this on the Fire again. Typing getting faster but excuse missing punctuation it speeds things up.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Zebras!

      As someone who has taught both Project Management and Time Management, I would point out that you should account for your salary in scanning that work. Let’s say your work scanner takes you…five seconds a page, and we need to count the time to tear the book apart, put the pages on the scanner, then probably to combine the pdfs…oh, and proof the scan (which they say they do).

      Let’s make this easy and say ten seconds a page.

      Six thousand seconds is one hundred minutes. Do you make six dollars in an about an hour and a half in your normal occupation?

      I would guess they are not sharing the file with friends…that might give them some real legal headaches.

  2. Roger Knights Says:

    I might have thought I’d gotten a bit past honoring the paper and ink, as opposed to the words. This tells me that I haven’t. I just can’t get past the idea of the books being destroyed. Honestly, it would probably be better if I could. Paperbooks are likely to eventually be lost (damage from insects, fire, water, and general decay).

    Other losses must occur from being discarded. Paperbacks have been around in a big way since 1935 or so. But one rarely sees paperbacks from before 1960 or so still around.

    Many owners, faced with a move, and lacking a nearby used book store, or having one with only trade-in payment, must just dump them. Recipients of donations, like hospitals, must discard their “oldies” from time to time.

    And of course, many unsold new books get “pulped.” (Fewer now than in the past, now that remaindering is more common, I guess.)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Roger!

      Absolutely! I certainly could have included “abandonment”…good point. Part of that is tied into the the “general decay”, especially with paperbacks from the 1970s forward, I’d guess. They simply fall apart. However, as homes cease to have bookshelves (and “entertainment units” with storage for CDs and DVDs), many may opt to simply toss their books rather than move them.

      People cite having books which are a hundred years and still able to be read (I have some). They extrapolate from that that p-books are much more durable than e-books. A hardback published in 1900 is far more durable than a paperback published in 1975.

      Older paperbooks may also increasingly move into the hands of collectors, who may have a disincentive to letting those books be scanned once they are in the public domain. Let’s say that you have a rare book by a brand name author…let’s say Stephen King. It’s existence is nearly of mythical proportions. People will pay a lot of money to own one of the few copies, even to read it. If you own it as an investment, is it to your advantage to make it freely available once that’s legal? Perhaps…if it heightens awareness, but I think that rarity will tend to be more of a price driver.

  3. Jj Hitt Says:

    I would have to have OCR. The ability to search and annotate is a EBR’s greatest plus for me.

    Now, if the book is destroyed, I can not do the proofing of the OCR scan. They say they do it, but they also sound like English is a second language for them. That is my primary concern.

    OCR scanning can be pretty good, but it 3an /Foo c3 lcriH1 BAD.

    My second concern is that a penny a page is still more than I am willing to pay.

  4. Rick Askenase Says:

    I read about this company (and bookmarked the website) about 6 months ago. I seem to remember that there was a maximum charge so a long book was not very expensive. I haven’t used it yet, but may do so at some point.

    i would only do it for books that are NOT yet kindleized (John Jakes “Kent family Chronicles” as an example). I would have no qualms about them destroying the book as they must to do the scans. Also, there are already tons existing, and even used books evetually get dumped (even by libraries after the library sale is over). OCR is too much work, because the resultingfiles are so often filled with mistakes (the OCR is still quite mistake prone- we even see that in many officially relased kindle versions!!) So, I’ll take the pdf’s, which should read well on my Kindle DX!!

    But, as I said, I haven’t done it yet.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Rick!

      I’m curious…why differentiate between Kindleized and not Kindleized? If it’s legal, it’s legal, right?

      It isn’t necessary to destroy the books to scan them…it’s just easier and cheaper. 🙂 When I scanned books, the books were fine afterwards…I’d say no more wear and tear than reading them (and perhaps less, due to even more mindfullness).

  5. Round up #161: Mamet goes indie, Kobo’s new premium EBR | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] I wrote about them in July 2012, and it’s interesting to see their success. I still have trouble (emotionally) with any destructive scanning technique. Heck, I practically have to avert my eyes if we are somewhere and someone has made “art objects” by destroying old books and combining them somehow. […]

  6. The Year Ahead: 2014 | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] lead to methodologies that make it much easier, perhaps including more services that do it for you. 1DollarScan does it now, but I’m not entirely convinced that they couldn’t be challenged legally, […]

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