Publishing Perspectives has an interesting look at Japanese jisui company BOOKSCAN and its American subsidiary 1DollarScan, via an interview with CEO Hiroshi Nakano. Jisui companies are the do-it-yourself e-book makers who will, for a fee, take customers’ paper books and scan them into e-books for them. This allows the customers to get rid of the bulky books and replace them with compact electrons—extremely important in space-cramped Japan.

Both the Japanese and American companies charge rock bottom prices for scanning, and both have been highly successful—the Japanese branch more so than the American, but both have been doing pretty well. And as for the jisui lawsuit we mentioned here a time or two:

Nakano stresses that the service complies with all copyright laws; scanning services are provided under the condition of Fair Use and all customers have to agree with the Terms and Conditions to use the scanning services.

“In Japan we have no issue with publishers, though seven authors did file a lawsuit against a rival, poor quality scanning service, though they later stopped the lawsuit. On our website we make it clear that we do not want to compete with publishers. We want to work with them to expand the market. We also have a copyright management system on our website for authors and publishers. If publishers do not want us to scan their content, they can register with us. We are open and cooperative, and so far nobody has registered.”

At the height of its popularity, BOOKSCAN users faced a four month wait before the busy company could get around to scanning their books, though the wait is down to about two months now. Nakano suggests the company might expand to other parts of the world, as well as going into partnership with libraries and universities.

One interesting service the company offers in both Japan and America is that people can buy books from Amazon that don’t have e-book versions available, and have the books shipped directly to them for e-book conversion. That’s a pretty clever idea, don’t you think?

In a separate discussion post, editor Edward Nawotka ponders whether the ethics of scanning books have changed in recent years, pointing out that whether fair use really applies to this sort of transformation hasn’t ever been tested yet.

Legalities aside, is it ethical? If an author refuses to allow their publisher to put out a digital edition — perhaps for artistic or personal reasons — is it nevertheless okay for a user to convert the book to a digital format for their own personal use? There may be nothing stopping them, but is it right? And, as a result of our relatively new comfort with digital books, have the ethics changed?

This is quite the question for our digital age, isn’t it? After all, quite apart from these scanning services, it’s quite possible to build or buy your own scanning rack very inexpensively. And from scanning your own book, it’s just a short jump to downloading a cracked e-book of a book you already bought in print. After all, the end result is the same as if you scanned it without having to go to all the extra work. And the author got paid for one copy either way.