Convert your own books: a new resource
July 22, 2009 | 9:09 am
By Paul Biba
Now here’s an interesting blog. It is dedicated to showing you how to convert your own books to digital format for your own use. Nothing illegal about that, and it has a lot of advantages over buying a DRMed copy of a book you already own. The article is reprinted with their permission. Take a look:
Digitizing your own books
The Book Ripper community, bkrpr.org, came together to take the difficulty out of digitizing books. Unlike music, movies, or even loose paper, books have proved surprisingly difficult to break out of their analog format. Very complicated robotic scanners, costing tens of thousands of dollars, have been built to address this problem, but their size and cost make them practical only for large institutions, leaving individuals who want digital books at the mercy of book publishers.
As it turns out, digitizing your books is not hard. The advances in small cameras make it possible to achieve high quality results cheaply and at a rate of 600-900 pages per hour. That is what we do at bkrpr.org and there are a number of advantages compared to getting your ebooks from publishers.
The most impressive advantage is cost. For people who own books already, getting digital copies of those books from publishers is an expensive prospect. Commercial ebooks have no commodity price and can vary wildly by publishing outlet, but let’s assume a $10 price for each ebook. The book ripper design we use costs around $250 dollars, which includes the price of two small point and shoot cameras. If you own more than 25 books, building a scanner will be cheaper than buying electronic editions. For those of us that own hundreds or thousands of books, the math becomes obvious.
In the wake of Amazon’s memory hole-ing of George Orwell’s works, their retroactive disabling of the text-to-speech capabilities on new readers, and the continuing industry wide obsession with DRM, control over your ebooks has been gaining visibility as an issue in the digitization of our vast printed catalogue. With publisher-made ebooks, they control what devices can read it, what software can do to it, where it can be stored, how many times you can download it, and how long you have access to it; people doubt so strongly that you will even be able to read the closed formats that publishers sell books in that they suggest insurance as a way to cover your losses when your digital copies disappear.
The books that you convert, you control.
Of course, the illegal distribution channels release everything in free formats, and release it all for free, so there they would seem to be ahead of publishers on both fronts, and much less effort than home book ripping. Where the illegal copy market falls short, besides the obvious issues of copyright infringement, is in the reliability of their versions.
Illegal copies are known for typos and OCR errors, lack of text and page formatting, and spotty availability of works. Unfortunately, legal ebooks are known for these same things. Neither can be relied upon as an authoritative representation of the author’s work and neither offer any way to verify or improve the accuracy of the digital work other than by reference to the printed one.
In contrast, when you scan the books yourself, you retain high quality images of every page. Viewers and other tools will let you jump back and forth from the text to the image versions. OCR can be corrected over time or re-run with better software and formatting can be added or corrected, but only if you have the page images.
Until digital distribution becomes the original and authoritative method of book publishing, as it has for the web, having the page images will remain the only way to guarantee or improve the accuracy of your digital books.
Because you love your books
If you love your books, if you care enough about them that you need every word to be right and you want the digital copy to be as beautiful as the paper one, you should scan them yourself. If you don’t care that much about a book, the publishers’ copy or the illegal copy may be all you need, or you might be better off cutting the spines off your existing books and feeding them through a high speed USB scanner. You can always recycle the pages afterwards.
If nothing but the best will do, or no other options are available, come on over to bkrpr.org and see how easy it is.