Amazon releases book digitizing software

Amazon releases book digitizing software

I will update this later, because I am currently just on my phone.

Note: this post has now been updated.

Amazon has just released software intended to digitize your books and other items so that they are available for the Kindle. This is a major move. The software is currently about $20

Kindle Convert (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I don’t know how they are addressing possible copyright issues, or if they are just thinking it is okay if it is for personal use. I will research more later today.

Update: I’ve had a chance to look at this now…and I’ve purchased it. I’ve also been able to look at the User’s Guide.

It’s both significant and intriguing…and likely to be misunderstood in two directions.

On the one hand, there will be people who buy Kindle Convert thinking it is going to be an easy way to take their paperbooks and convert them into Kindle books.

It’s not.

It’s going to take quite a bit of time and effort.

I’ve digitized books before, in my work with a non-profit. It’s much easier now than it used to be, but if you aren’t willing to tear your books apart (so you can scan the pieces more easily), you still have to at least turn the pages.

It says this will work with inexpensive scanners, and with a DPI (Dots Per Inch) requirement of as low as 300 (and up to 600, I think), that’s going to be true.

In my case, I’ll have the advantage of using my Xcanex:

The Xcanex: a better book digitizer

which will speed things up.

Still, a single book project has seven steps…and number six is “Editing the text and formatting of your book”…that could be a doozy.

There will be a somewhat steep learning curve, I would guess, and some people may give up.

This will probably not be a better choice for most people than buying the e-book, if one exists in the Kindle store and is available in your country (Kindle Convert is only currently available in the USA, by the way).

For hobbyists, it will be fun.

For me, I have books that simply are unlikely to become available…and that I would like to preserve.

This can also be good for non-books: I’m tempted to take a “scrapbook” or travel photos I have and turn them into a book this way.

Misconception one: this will be easy.

Misconception two: it won’t be worth it.

That’s the side you’ll hear from tech writers, who will cleverly point out to you how hard this will be.

If they’ve never digitized a book, though, they’ll miss the advantages this is going to give you.

This is going to go into your Amazon account (that’s important…I’ll address that shortly).

A converted book will act largely like a book you might purchase…that includes Whispersync (reading progress synchronization between devices), increable text size and dictionary look-up.

I don’t see them saying it anywhere, but I assume text-to-speech will work in the converted version on devices that can do it. For me, that would be huge! There are books which I would love to hear in the car.

I would assess this this way: it’s going to be a chore to digitize a book with Kindle Convert, but in many cases, it will be worth it.

Now, as to that copyright question…

This part is especially interesting to me.

It has not been clear to me that the purchaser of a book which is under copyright protection has the legal right to scan and digitize that book, even for their own commercial use.

It seemed logical that they would (like timeshifting with a DVR), but I haven’t seen explicit case law supporting that.

I have to assume that Amazon has checked this out thoroughly, and is comfortable with it being okay.

They make it quite clear: you can not share the books with people outside of your account (unless you share a physical device with them…and I’m not sure if Family Library would work yet), and you can not do this for commercial purposes (you can’t plan to sell the scan).

Another important point:

I would assume that if you leave Amazon, you no longer have access to the Cloud version of the book…and that you can’t download it and take it with you easily.

For the small group of people who will do this, that will really bind them to Amazon.

If I digitize a non-public domain book with this, I’m reeeeally not going to want to leave Amazon and lose access to that book!

I would also expect we may get a condemnatory statement from the Authors Guild in the next day or two.

You might also be wondering why Amazon would do this, possibly losing a sale from someone converting a paper copy.

As I’ve mentioned before, stores look at the population of sales, customers look at individual sales.

Let’s say you convert a book instead of paying $9.99 for it.

First, you paid $19.99 (at time of writing…looks like it will cost $49.99 soon) for the software. Amazon might make $3 for that $9.99 book, so they are doing okay with that.

Second, you are committed more and more to Amazon…which means you might join Prime, and then they can really make money from all the extra purchases you make.

I’ll let you know how good the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is after I’ve done my first book, but I expect there will be a lot of buzz about this over the next month or so.

What do you think? Are you going to buy this? Would you buy a scanner just to use with it? What books would you want to digitize that you own? It’s going to preserve things like autographs and inscriptions (presumably as images)…any good stories about a book with annotations like that in your collection? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Bonus story: if you like to try to predict the Oscars, you might enjoy participating in my

2015 BOPMadness (Bufo’s Oscar Prediction Madness)

No charge, and we are usually pretty accurate as a group…the more people who play, the more fun it is for me, but up to you.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


13 Responses to “Amazon releases book digitizing software”

  1. Harold Delk Says:

    The bad news is that the software only runs in Windows. Nothing yet for OSX.

    • Lady Galaxy Says:

      Once again Amazon leaves us Mac users with our noses pressed up against the Windoze;)

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        Gee, I wonder if they were headquartered in Santa Clara rather than in Seattle if that might make for awkward encounters at Peets…which they are avoiding now. 😉

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Harold!

      I would guess that will happen. I think they like to give people access as soon as it is quality checked. Sometimes the iOS people get something first…although I’m not sure the Mac users have beaten the Windows users to a Kindle function.

      Edited to add: could you run in under a dual boot/emulator?

  2. rogerknights Says:

    If this is just inexpensive OCR software, the author’s guild won’t have much to complain about. Buyers will save money.

    If it helps converting a text file to Kindle format, that’s significant. It’s a stumbling block that has long needed more automation.

    Reviewers on Amazon praise its ability to convert PDFs ..
    It’s rated 2.6 on 9 reviews.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, rogerknights!

      Well, there are too few reviews to get a real sense of it yet, in my opinion. One of the first reviews was a three-star…because it didn’t have a trial period.

      It’s interesting to me that all of the comments so far seem to be about PDFs, not about “I took my paper book and converted it,” which seems to me to be the pitch.

      Certainly, a PDF is supposed to be one of the file types (the others being JPEG and TIFF), but I wonder how many of these are actually PDFs of books scanned for the purpose of conversion (with the Kindle Convert guidelines), and how many were PDFs purchased or otherwise obtained as PDFs.

      I’m looking forward to trying it. I think I’ll do one with my Xcanex, and maybe try one with my phone, and see what happens.

      Oh, and this is a lot more than OCR, since it gives you dictionary lookup, Whispersync, cloud storage, and increasable text size.

      • rogerknights Says:

        That last paragraph should be expanded on in your next article. Thanks for the detailed reply. I hope this is something Amazon will continue to improve.

        Maybe Amazon is using it as a way of prodding publishers to convert all their backlist books.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Roger!

        I appreciate your response…and I think Amazon is pouring a lot of resources into improving the Echo before its general release…and will continue afterwards.

        I don’t think this will have much impact on publishers and the backlist. Not very many people will do it, and those that do, already own the books. We know that people who own p-books (paperbooks) may also buy the e-book, but I’m not sure the publishers see that group as an important hunk of the market.

      • rogerknights Says:

        The indirect threat is more powerful. If a backlist title is only available in e-book form on a pirate site, which will happen if mainstream readers start digitizing them, then would-be buyers will go there and then start to patronize them for more of their reading material.

        It will also embarrass publishers if they are seen as forcing readers to jump thru hoops to obtain material they won’t convert. They’ll look like dogs in mangers.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, rogerknights!

        Kindle Convert doesn’t, I think, make it much more likely for pirate copies to be available.

        Your digitized copy is available through your Amazon account…I’m reasonably sure that you can’t take it and put it anywhere (which would be a violation of your agreement, at any rate). So, I don’t think there will be any large amount of “patronizing”. It would be very simple to trace who did make one available, if someone figured out a way to do it, I think.

        Publishers typically don’t have the rights to “convert” p-books (paperbooks) they’ve licensed…it requires another negotiation. That doesn’t mean people won’t blame the publisher for not having an e-book version (hey, they even blame Amazon for that), of course.

        The potential sale the publisher loses is the person who converts a p-book they already have…and other people who are on that account. We are specifically prohibited from using our Kindle books for commercial purposes, so I actually think this does very little to incentivize publishers to license the backlist. It may do the opposite: someone with the wherewithal to digitize a book may do it through Amazon, rather than another process. If the Kindle version is as locked down as I guess, that might mean that someone who would otherwise have created a shareable file won’t have done so.

      • rogerknights Says:

        Well, I guess then that Amazon’s main motive is to make it easy to convert PDFs. Doing so would involve no scanning, so it would be very simple now, with Amazon’s automation. This could add hundreds of thousands of items to Amazon’s library–maybe a million!

        BUT: I still think that some publishers are dragging their feet in converting their backlists, and that Amazon is trying to embarrass them into being more active.

        AND: I think some people will or may discover a way to use Amazon’s software to digitize a book and then “bail out” and capture the digitized file for to create an untraceable pirated copy.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, rogerknights!

        I think the primary intent is still what I was doing with it…digitizing books and personal items from scratch.

        Amazon also doesn’t gain any rights to use the scanned files, I think…so it doesn’t really add anything to “Amazon’s library”. They might be able to figure out if items are in the public domain and do something with them, I suppose. It might be hard for them to tell if the person added something to it, though.

        You have to have a scanned copy before Amazon’s software can do anything with it, so if somebody did want to pirate it, Kindle Convert doesn’t really help them…they are already at a distributable phase before that. The OCR’d copy is pretty controlled by Amazon, although you can break Amazon’s DRM. They may be watermarking these in some way, making prosecution much easier.

        When you put the information into the system about the book (the title, author), it checks to see if there is a purchasable copy just to let you know…it doesn’t make you use it. That might result in more sales for the publishers…

  3. My first test of Kindle Convert | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Amazon’s recently released book digitizing software. […]

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