I made a hard decision to give up my bookshelves and the hit the highway. Part of that involved tossing a lot of magic books in the recycling bin, and sending even more off to certain doom.
The object of the game was to convert a huge, heavy library of books, and hundreds of DVDs into digital form. Some of it I did myself, but many off the books were sent off to a scanning service.
I got started with my own office scanner, which did come equipped with an Auto Document Feeder (which runs through a pile of papers). With this I was able to handle many of the comb-bound books and lecture notes on my own.
Converting paperback and hardcover books into PDF files is a big job. There are book scanning machines that will let you flip through and photograph every page, but I needed a more serious solution.
I sent hundreds of books for “destructive scanning”, where they saw the spine off the book, and then run the loose pages through a scanner. It’s fast, and cheap.
I went with an online service called BookScan.us, which offered the service at about $1 per book (up to 300 pages)
The Results (So Far)
It’s been two months since they received my books, and so far I’ve only received a small portion of the scans. They tell me they prioritize small orders first, and let large orders take their turn in the queue.
The scans I have received have been high quality, and I’m impressed that they include the covers and even the inside flaps of dust-jackets.
The scans are high resolution photos of each page, and as a result the PDF files are quite large. “Classic Secrets” weighs in at 70 MB for its 269 pages.
I’m a bit of a techno-nerd, so I expect to be applying OCR (optical character recognition) to make the books searchable, as well as compressing the PDF files. If that sounds beyond your reach BookScan.us will do this for you, for a fee of course.
Converting DVDs to digital video files is a much easier process. I’m using a free program called Handbrake. You put the DVD in your computer, and tell Handbrake which chapters to digitize. (usually all of them) and it spits out video files.
Depending on how the DVD was encoded from the publisher it may create one short video file for each chapter, which is annoying.
In the better scenario, which is the majority, it turns the whole DVD into a single file and adds “bookmarks” for each chapter, which can easily be skipped through in your video player.
Enjoying the Digital Lifestyle
The primary mission was to be able to move across the country in a hatchback car, which was simply impossible with books in tow. Even if I had shipped the books, as some friends suggested, I would still need to get two large bookshelves, and take up room in my apartment. No thank you!
I’m working on a minimalist lifestyle as much as possible, and so far the digital library is a treat!
I find the videos to be much more accessible, as it’s easy to browse my files, double click, and play instantly. I’ve found I’ve been reviewing videos more than I used to.
The books are not quite there yet. As mentioned, I’m still waiting on the bulk of them to be scanned, but at this moment I’ve found I don’t have a great way to read them.
My tablet and eBook reader are both too small for practical use. Many of the eBooks are scanned from a full size page, which is now being shown in a shrunken form. The plan is to acquire a large 12-inch tablet to get (close to) normal size.
All in all, I’ve found that I was able to “get over” the emotional connection I had to my books. Even now, I’m ordering the occasional new book and having it shipped direct to the scanning service to be destroyed… never passing through my hands at all before leaving the physical realm!