How can I digitize my entire library?
August 11, 2010 5:17 AM   Subscribe

I have many books - several thousand. I may soon be moving to a house with more limited space. I'm considering scanning all the books, and then destroying them or putting them into storage. Is this feasible? What hardware and software would I need? Has anyone done this already, and are there any internet resources to help with this?

I like books, and I like the physical experience of reading from paper - but I won't have room to store all of my books. A while ago I digitized all of my CDs, and my music library now takes up a corner of a hard drive (backed up) rather than taking up space in my living area. I'd like to do the same for my books.

Cost is not too important - the relative cost of "getting a larger house" makes "an expensive scanner, some software and an iPad or something" seem quite cheap. Convenience and time is important, though - while I don't mind spending weekends and evenings doing this, I don't want to have to turn every page in every book manually.

Obviously I need a scanner - what sort do libraries/Google etc. use for this kind of task? Are there scanners with built in page-turners? Or would I be best off getting some sort of guillotine to remove the bindings, and then using a tray-fed scanner? I'd prefer not to destroy the books, but I don't mind doing so if necessary.

Then, I assume it would make sense to convert the scanned books to PDF - will I need to get separate software to do this, or will any decent software that comes with a scanner do this for me anyway? Or would it make sense to convert to something like ePub instead?

Finally, I need a pleasant way of reading the e-books. Discussions of back-lit screens versus electronic paper aside, the iPad seems like it is the reader with the best support for PDFs at the moment. Is this the only good option, or should I be considering the new Kindle as well?

I don't intend to distribute any of the scanned e-books, or give away or sell on the physical books, so I assume that it's the same legally as converting CDs to MP3s for personal use (i.e. not actually legal everywhere due to antiquated laws, but morally justifiable and very unlikely to be prosecuted).

Is any of this feasible, or am I completely crazy, and best off waiting for ten years until the technology is more mature?
posted by siskin to Technology (56 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Destroying the books would be a terrible waste, couldn't you donate them to the public library near you instead?
posted by Grither at 5:25 AM on August 11, 2010 [24 favorites]


I start off by making a list of those of your books which are already scanned and available online for free. Start with Project Gutenberg. If you have something like an iPad then all those titles are already available to you.

Secondly consider those books that you already have but where it would be cheaper and quicker to buy an online copy than to scan the book again. If I was in your position I would make heavy use of this. Remember that if you can't afford to buy an online copy of each available book just now the option will likely still be there for you in the future - ebooks don't really go out of print.

Finally you are left with those books which you need to scan if you are going to have them in digital form. Remember that an ordinary digital camera may do just as well as a scanner for getting a record of a book - it can certainly be reasonably quick to set up a camera on a tripod with suitable lighting - then take an image of each open (single or double) page.
posted by rongorongo at 5:26 AM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think you're crazy for wanting to destroy them. What's your reasoning for that, rather than finding them a new home?

That said, I read all my PDF ebooks on my MBP. It's very tiring on the eyes after a while.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:27 AM on August 11, 2010


You might find some ideas from this thread on the blue.
posted by TedW at 5:27 AM on August 11, 2010


You might find helpful the discussion of tech in the first link on this post on the Blue. The post is called "confessions of a book pirate"--but don't let that put you off--I have no information, legal or otherwise, about scanning books you own, but your MP3 analogy has coherence. Essentially, the pirate in question uses a flatbed scanner with an OCR function and scans two pages at a time while he watches a movie. Others may have other insights.

Of course, all of your public domain stuff is probably already available on Gutenberg, which will cut down on some work.

Personally, I like the iPad, though I'd probably wait until the next generation comes out, presumably with the high-resolution "retina" display from the new iPhone 4. My dad has both the Kindle and the iPad, and uses them both--the Kindle when he's on the beach (where its screen is the clear winner) and the iPad inside, or in bed at night (where its screen is the clear winner). It may go without saying, but to the extent that you are ripping your own files to PDF or ePub format, it doesn't matter whether you use a Kindle or iPad. Not sure about the other ebook readers.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:30 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Although your new house has less space, chances are there is room for at least one bookcase, somewhere in the house. Since you do like books I see no reason why you have to get rid of all of them. You could get rid of most of them and still save a collection of your favorites.
posted by grizzled at 5:36 AM on August 11, 2010


I think what you're looking for is a Bookeye. A lot of academic libraries have them. But note that you're going to have to scan every single damn page. Which sounds like a monumental task. You can do a dozen or so scans a minute, but that means it's going to take like twenty minutes to scan a 400 page book. Times a thousand...

Get yourself a bigger shelf.
posted by valkyryn at 5:36 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Your primary problem is lack of space. How many of those books are you feasibly going to read again? I would hate to be parted from my library but I imagine a good 60-80% I'm not going to read again, even for reference. I would suggest your best solution is to radically prune your book collection, donate what you don't want to charity and then only buy ebooks in future.
posted by ninebelow at 5:37 AM on August 11, 2010


Copying several thousand books is going to take an extremely long time.
Have you fully considered modular shelving options for those books that are not already available via Gutenberg or ebooks?
posted by adamvasco at 5:46 AM on August 11, 2010


do not destroy.
that is all.
posted by segatakai at 5:48 AM on August 11, 2010 [8 favorites]


Nthing things that have already been said or implied: for a large collection, there's no way this is even remotely feasible. If you've got thousands of rare volumes to which you are very attached, then you need a bigger house. If most of these books are replaceable then you need to either reconcile yourself to possessing far fewer books, or get a bigger house. That's your choice. Technology will not save you from having to make it.
posted by jon1270 at 5:51 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I should add that I've been using a large office copier / scanner to scan some old financial records that I want to keep, but don't want to store physically anymore. All told, I've got maybe 2000 sheets, the vast majority of which I can run through the document feeder on the copier. Out pops a PDF.

Even running this through the feeder is a mind-numbingly boring process, AND I have fewer sheets to copy, AND I don't have to worry about OCR.

It's probably not worth your time--I think I'd just get sort out the books I really needed to keep, and put some subset of the remainder in a low-cost mini-storage somewhere, and donate the rest.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:56 AM on August 11, 2010


You could get yourself a Fuji ScanSnap which comes with Adobe Acrobat Pro. The ScanSnap will scan a load of pages and turn them into pdfs automatically.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 5:59 AM on August 11, 2010


bottom line, unless you have NO life and your time is worthless, this is not a practical idea.
posted by HuronBob at 5:59 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Destroying (or putting into long-term storage) rather than finding a new home for the same reason that I haven't sold my CDs even though I've ripped all of them - I don't think it's moral or legal to create a copy of the books for my use and then pass on the physical books to others, whereas converting one physical book to one e-book is very different.

Thanks for the other suggestions and advice - please keep it coming.
posted by siskin at 6:05 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I'm considering scanning all the books, and then destroying them or putting them into storage."

Thereby keeping them out of the hands of people who could use those books now.
Don't do either of those things. The first is wasteful, the second is selfish.

Pare down! Unless you're running a law library, nobody needs "several thousand books."
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:07 AM on August 11, 2010


I think it's insane, personally, and the fact that you'd even present "destroy" as a possibility once you were done is even worse.

It's not worth it. It'll be expensive. It'll be time consuming and mind numbing to an extreme you haven't even grasped. It'll result in an inferior product in terms of readability, convenience, and quality.

You're clearly attached to your books or you wouldn't even consider this. If you want as many books you're going to need a bigger house. That's really all there is to it. Or you could sit down and decide which books are worth it to you, fill one bookshelf, supplement with free ebooks where you can, and donate the rest.
posted by lydhre at 6:08 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


And for what it's worth, I think it is infinitely more immoral to destroy perfectly good books in order to spare some self-involved wisp of your conscience the trouble, than it is to donate them to a library where people who can't afford to own expensive scanning devices, thousand book libraries, storage space, or even houses can read them too.
posted by lydhre at 6:15 AM on August 11, 2010 [15 favorites]


Just donate the books to a library. If you ever want to read them again, check them out. Or if you must have your own copy, get an e-book or audio version.

Scanning all of those books is going to be very time-consuming (or expensive if you pay someone else to do it)
posted by MorningPerson at 6:17 AM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's moral or legal to create a copy of the books for my use and then pass on the physical books to others

I totally understand why you say this, and mostly I agree, but I think giving them to a library is different. It's like putting them in storage - it's just that lots of people have access to this storage. You can access your collection at any time. No money is passing hands, and you'd be helping out your community.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 6:19 AM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I run DIYBookScanner.org, a community that works together to help people to design and build their own book scanners and scan their own books. We also produce open source book scanning software.

At the moment, commercial book scanning equipment costs 10-100 grand and you still need to turn the pages. Page turning is a Hard Problem.

However, if you can destroy the physical book, then you should just buy a tablesaw and a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner. This, plus a DIY Book Scanner (which you can build for 200 to 2,000 dollars) will get your collection scanned in a hurry.

Since I answer these questions all day on my forum, I suggest you spend some time browsing/reading there to see how it's done. There are also lots of technical questions answered in my talks, some of which are on Youtube.
posted by fake at 6:22 AM on August 11, 2010 [15 favorites]


Also, with our camera based scanner designs, we routinely get between 400 and 1000 pages/hour scanned and ready for postprocessing. It's the fastest form of non-ADF scanning available, as fast or faster than commercial units.
posted by fake at 6:24 AM on August 11, 2010


1) Make a catalogue of every book you have.
2) Check the usual suspects (torrents, gutenberg) to see which are already ripped.
3) Get rid of the ones you find are ripped right now (destroy (ugh), or donate).
4) Don't bother downloading the rips at this point. Just know the rips are there.
5) Of the ones that remain, how many do you truly need? Destroy or donate.
6) You may find you only have 25% of the books you started with. Problem solved.

If you need access to one of the books you got rid of but knew was ripped, find the cheapest (or most conscience friendly) way of getting ahold of an ebook copy -- only when you need it.

Don't scan anything yourself. It's not worth the time of scanning and then post-processing and then keeping track of the data. Really it isn't.

Paper books that you have touched maybe once with your fingers in the past few years are a waste of space and should be given to someone will use them.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:27 AM on August 11, 2010


Positioning the book on the scanner and scanning each page of all of those books is likely to take, oh...let's estimate just about one-third as long as it might take you to re-read all of these books. Once you get good at using the scanner. This task could easily occupy a full-time admin for months and months. How much is your time worth?

I don't think it's moral or legal to create a copy of the books for my use and then pass on the physical books to others

That's a topic for a separate askMe, but this intellectual property attorney is appalled by the idea of destroying the books.
posted by applemeat at 6:31 AM on August 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


I find myself faced with the OP's dilemma also, though it's not space that's the problem but just my dislike of accumulating clutter. In my case what I have is oodles of 20/30/40 year old technical publications which look bad on the shelf and are difficult to find due to no spine, but which I often have to refer to. That said, I agree that 5000 books is absolutely not doable... I think 50 would be about the practical limit for one individual with a consumer-grade scanner. I have struggled just to get a single 250-page book done (and quit halfway because the consumer-grade HP scanner was just too damn slow and the software was too crappy).

I think the only feasible way to accomplish any of this would be to dissect the books at the spine with a box cutter into loose-leaf sheets and feed them into a sheet-fed scanner that takes care of all the repetitive work, since the biggest pain with scanning projects seems to be dealing with clunky front-end software, especially that which adds an extra click here or there.

So even just to do a morsel of this project, I would take a close look at mainly (1) ease-of-use of the scanning software, (2) its suitability for multi-page scans, and (3) listed speed of a whole scan cycle.
posted by crapmatic at 6:31 AM on August 11, 2010


Destroying (or putting into long-term storage) rather than finding a new home for the same reason that I haven't sold my CDs even though I've ripped all of them - I don't think it's moral or legal to create a copy of the books for my use and then pass on the physical books to others, whereas converting one physical book to one e-book is very different.

Then buy digital copies of books you don't have room for but think you'll want to read again, and donate the physical copies.

Chances are you have a core set of books that you love for their rereading or sentimental value, and then the rest is stuff you've read once or twice and probably won't miss once you bite the bullet and get rid of them. When I need to pare down my book collection, I use a simple three-step mental flow chart:

1. Am I going to read this book again?
- Yes/probably - step 2
- No/probably not - discard
2. If I get rid of this book and later realize I want to read it again, would it be easy to borrow a copy from my local library/friends?
- Yes/probably - step 3
- No/probably not - keep
3. Does this book have strong sentimental value, OR do I read it often enough that borrowing from a library every time would be impractical?
- Yes/probably - keep
- No/probably not - discard

If the first runthrough doesn't pare down my collection enough, I do it again.
posted by bettafish at 6:34 AM on August 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


By weight, the majority of what I own is books. And I've moved a lot in my life. So I've learned a thing or two that may be useful to you.

Point one: A good library is like a garden. You have to prune it to get it to grow properly. If it's been a while since you've "pruned" -- and by that I mean scrutinized the titles, and separated out titles that can be sold or donated -- you should certainly do that first. Maybe after this, you'll have a much more manageable collection.

Point two: I considered what you're considering, at one time. In part because I'd digitized my CD collection, and was delighted by the results. It opened up some space, and it better reflected how I listen to music. So I thought about doing it with my books, and did get .pdf versions of a couple things, to see if I'd like that too. Turns out, I hated it. And I'm glad I learned that I hated it before I committed wholeheartedly. The "physical experience of reading from paper" -- and the stubborn ways I've developed of marking up that paper -- were too ingrained for me to shake. The point here is that you shouldn't just consider the feasibility; you should also consider how your reading habits will change, and if you're okay with the change. I wasn't.
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:35 AM on August 11, 2010


You could hire a high school student to do the scanning for you. But even at minimum wage, that could cost you a heck of a lot of money.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:36 AM on August 11, 2010


Re: donating them to a local library

Just want to point out that there's no reason to expect all or even most of your donated books to end up on the shelf at any public library. Library's aren't desperate for your used books; they know where to get the ones they want and need. At my library for instance, 90% of a load of donated books would end up in the Friends of the Library Book Sale, with the cash raised benefiting the library directly.
posted by General Tonic at 6:49 AM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Couldn't you just donate/sell the books and then buy them electronically on an as needed basis? You're never going to actually read every one of those thousands of PDFs.
posted by whiskeyspider at 6:51 AM on August 11, 2010


Chances are you have a core set of books that you love for their rereading or sentimental value, and then the rest is stuff you've read once or twice and probably won't miss once you bite the bullet and get rid of them.

This. I had to pare down my library (at least 1800 books) a decade ago when I was moving across the country. And I did. I probably got rid of 2/3rds of it. You know how many boxes, unpacked, I still have in the attic? A lot. And I've bought a whole lot more books since I moved.

The ones I kept were the ones I'd read again, a lot; ones that had sentimental value; and ones that would be difficult to reacquire. The ones I got rid of I didn't destroy (the thought horrifies me, frankly); I sold them to a local secondhand shop - they bought them as a lot. Someone else is now getting pleasure or use from them. I've probably re-bought copies of things I got rid of. It's okay. You can do that too.

However, if you're really set on this - scan and destroy! - I would urge you in the strongest possible terms to look carefully at your collection: are there books that are out-of-print/difficult to find that you've kept but haven't looked at for at least a year? Donate those books, or sell them. Don't scan them. It is more immoral to get rid of a book that is hard to find, but that someone may find useful, just so you can keep a digital copy that you'll never look at.
posted by rtha at 7:01 AM on August 11, 2010


consumer-grade HP scanner was just too damn slow and the software was too crappy

This is exactly why alternatives exist -- scanners with auto document feeders like the Fujitsu Scansnap series, and also the camera-based designs that I work on, which can capture two pages every second or so. Don't throw scanning out the window just yet.
posted by fake at 7:29 AM on August 11, 2010


Chances are, if you are willing to go to the grey market, you will find that your books have already been scanned and released into the wild. I was able to get rid of 1,500 books that I could replace with files found online. In truth, it was easiest to dowload a 10,000 book mega collection, and then start boxing up any physical books I found in it. Once you know how readily available some of your books are, you might feel better about donating the unused physical books to people without the technical resources.
posted by No1UKnow at 7:33 AM on August 11, 2010


Like you, I have a bunch of books. I bought a Kindle a few monoths ago in an effort to reduce future clutter. I have not stopped buying pape books; about 1 out of 3 books i want is not in Kindle format.

Digitizing books is an appealing idea, but the time and effort would be daunting. I'd also be concerned that I could scan well enough to preserve the formatting. Some Kindle books have odd gaps and other format weirdnesses. As a rank scanning amateur, I'd likely create many more. Also, photos, maps and illustrations seem to be occasional issues for the Kindle.

Powell's in Portland has a deal whereby you send them a list of the ISBN's of books you are willing to sell them. If they agree, you get a prepaid shipping label to put on the box. Powell's assumes the books are in pretty good condition: Covers, no highlighting or such, no broken backs. I've been meaning to give that a try, because, while I have access to local bookshops, it's unlikely they'd give me a fair price for many of my books.
posted by justcorbly at 7:46 AM on August 11, 2010


couldn't you donate them to the public library near you instead?
donate them to a library
Just donate the books to a library. If you ever want to read them again, check them out.
donate the physical copies.


Donating books to a library is not always (or even usually) a kind and generous thing to do. Libraries, public or academic, are not generally empty warehouses with vast expanses of empty shelves crying out to be filled with whatever dross the community doesn't want any more. Instead, they have to think hard about what books to put in their very limited shelf space to serve the needs of their community. More often donation, if the library actually accepted them, boils down to telling a cash-strapped and hard-working public agency "Here, you throw these away so I don't have to feel bad for doing it."

At best, there might be a FOTL who will take them, sell what will sell, and then dispose of the rest. But do not even try to donate to a library in the expectation that you'll be able to check the book out again later.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:52 AM on August 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


A friend of mine had a job in a library archive, overseeing the digitization of authors' important papers, manuscripts, and the like. It took him and his team more than six months of full time work to complete the project.

I've also scanned small books in the past for work - it is tedious. And I was getting paid to do it.

It might be more worth your while to do a very committed purge of your books, replace as much as possible with free ebooks from Project Gutenberg and the like, and re-buy what you need to. Only if something is unobtainable in digital form should you bother to scan it.
posted by Sara C. at 8:21 AM on August 11, 2010


Echoing the outrage at the mere suggestion of destroying books. You know they're not like single-use gift cards, right?
posted by Mertonian at 8:33 AM on August 11, 2010


1) Buy a scanner
2) Determine a workflow, including notes about how ensure optimum quality of the scan, and where to store the scanned data
3a) Determine a budget
3) Hire 2 bright Grade 12 students for a reasonable rate
4) Provide them with pop and snacks of their choice
5) Let them work at it until it gets done
posted by KokuRyu at 8:36 AM on August 11, 2010


Echoing the outrage at the mere suggestion of destroying books. You know they're not like single-use gift cards, right?

If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:38 AM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


3) Hire 2 bright Grade 12 students for a reasonable rate
4) Provide them with pop and snacks of their choice
5) Let them work at it until it gets done


6) Hope they plan to stick around town for college.
posted by Sara C. at 8:53 AM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Since nobody's suggested it, and since I can echo a lot of what's been said about how libraries work, you might find another charity to donate them to. Goodwill sells books. Or, ideally, find some way to get them, free, to people who may not be able to afford books. Or to schools, if any of them are appropriate.
posted by hought20 at 8:55 AM on August 11, 2010


Catalog, sort, and sell the books, use the money to subsidize the cost of buying legit ebook editions. The books, your access to them, your sanity and your conscience all live on.

Or, if you really can wait ten years as your final question suggests, then yes, one way or another, I think it's safe to say that it will be much easier to get high quality ebook editions of your books for less time and/or money ten years from now.
posted by lampoil at 9:01 AM on August 11, 2010


Why not sell the books (either to a local used bookstore or online at Half.com or similar), and then use the resulting money to offset the cost of buying e-book versions? It would probably be a lot cheaper and faster than scanning, doesn't oblige you to destroy anything, and you will end up with much more readable copies.
posted by missix at 9:04 AM on August 11, 2010


As to scanning the books, I think the technology is just Not There Yet for even a well-heeled consumer with some moderate levels of patience. I'll be waiting, myself.

Library donation! *falls over* I'm sorry, I hear that all the time. That's what I originally thought I might do with my books when I die.

You ever stare into a dumpster filled with books libraries do not want? Books donated by well-meaning people who thought "Hey, libraries, they'll take these"? I have. It's awful. Perfectly good books in a dumpster out in the open with precipitation, to boot. My tiny book hoarder soul shriveled and twitched at that moment. I know it goes on and I know it will keep going on. It hurts me in a place most people have reserved for teddybears with worn fur and one missing button eye. I know it's ridiculous ("they're just books," the more rational portion of my mind thinks), but this vast dumpster, containing more books than I would ever read, yawned before me like an open trench filled with the corpses of people's dreams: covers sprawled open, pages wrinkled, their most vulnerable inks slowly melting in the rain.

If you must be rid of your books, run them by a used book store, instead. They will at least try to find a home for the books. They have entire, complicated systems of making sure books find homes, sometimes for money, sometimes not.
posted by adipocere at 9:57 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Using your logic for destroying the books is the moral equivalent to saying all librarians should go to jail for copyright infringement. You aren't going to sell either the electronic version or the paper ones. Illogical.
posted by nogero at 10:10 AM on August 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why not sell the books (either to a local used bookstore or online at Half.com or similar), and then use the resulting money to offset the cost of buying e-book versions?

I got an average of less than ten cents per book, when all was said and done...any book available as legit ebook is available for free somewhere, and used pricing reflects this, at least in a town with tech capable college students. I had high hopes of trading in books and giving authors a digital boost until I saw how often a used physical copy of a book that sold for only a penny in like new condition, was still $10.00 in eform.

As mentioned above, libraries will usually just resell the donated books. Half price books will take any books you sell them, that they can't resell, and give them to charities that need books (old folks homes, other countries, etc). This seems like a net good to me, YMMV.
posted by No1UKnow at 11:08 AM on August 11, 2010


As another option for book downsizing, you could join Paperbackswap or Bookmooch (I use the former) and mail them out. It'll cost you around $3/book, but they're guaranteed to go to someone who wants them, and you get credits you can use to request other books (or you can donate them to libraries or to other worthy causes.)
posted by Zed at 11:20 AM on August 11, 2010


I got an average of less than ten cents per book, when all was said and done...any book available as legit ebook is available for free somewhere, and used pricing reflects this, at least in a town with tech capable college students.

Maybe it's different in a college town, but here in Brooklyn, NY, I just recently made about a dollar a book selling a couple hundred books to my neighborhood used book store. It wouldn't be enough to buy every single book at full price in ebook format, but if you deduct the ones I sold because I had absolutely no interest in ever reading them again, and assumed that some were probably in the public domain, I could've made a good start on the rest.
posted by Sara C. at 11:24 AM on August 11, 2010


I'm having a Shawshank Redemption moment.....Prison libraries? Andy would have loved to have them!!
posted by pearlybob at 11:25 AM on August 11, 2010


Thank you for all the responses, and for all the outrage. I understand the sentiment. I consider that format-shifting and copying are two different things, but I can see why others disagree, and I also have a visceral reaction to the idea of destroying books. I do wonder whether I'd have had the same set of responses if I'd talked instead about ripping CDs and then destroying/long-term storing the physical CDs - I suspect not.

DIY Book Scanner looks great. I'll certainly be taking a look at everything there.

Getting rid of excess books should of course be the first thing I do. I think my books fall into three categories: books I don't much care about or ever intend to reread, books that I treasure, and books that I want to keep around for occasional reference or re-reading. The first category are books that I will give away, the second that I want to keep physical, but the third are candidates for scanning. Thank you adipocere and ROU_Xenophobe for the eloquent explanations of why giving to a library isn't necessarily the best thing to do - I'll be donating to Oxfam instead. They do pulp a lot of their donated books, but at least they want as many donated books as they can get, and they can make money from some of them.

BitTorrenting e-books that I already own is an interesting idea - I'll have to think some more about that.

The problem with buying e-books is the DRM - from most publishers, the rights that you get over a bought e-book are significantly less than the rights that you have with a physical book.

For another perspective on book scanning/destruction, I recommend Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End.
posted by siskin at 11:28 AM on August 11, 2010 [3 favorites]


Late to the thread but I would note that you might also rethink the book shelf equation. Many Parisians have a book shelf high along the perimeter of a hallway/room — space that does not generally interfere with the floor plan. Theses shelves will even run past door and window openings. Alternatively, if you can give up wall space that is 9" deep x the length of the wall, then do that, but treat the wall of books as a wall. I live the physical presence if books as well and I think you should revisit that idea first, in lieu of scanning and chucking. If not, I'd skip the scanning. It's little different that putting them in storage.
posted by Dick Paris at 12:47 PM on August 11, 2010


ScanSnap works well but uses a PC (or Mac) to create the PDF, the faster Canon ScanFront 220 can live on your network and email/ftp/smb deliver the PDF to a location of your preference for double the price. Both scan both sides of the paper in one pass, and can handle a decent stack of pages that you have liberated from the book via a paper trimmer or (my preference) a bandsaw.

If you use a bandsaw to trim your paperbacks be careful to avoid the glue because that'll gum up the blade and the wheels of the saw. (Ask me how I know this.)

My paperbacks are/were yellowing and disintegrating anyway, I view the scanning as immortalizing a book that would otherwise die. Providing I keep good backups.

I am in the camp that would feel guilty scanning a book for my own collection and then giving the book away.
posted by Captain Shenanigan at 1:34 PM on August 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's different in a college town, but here in Brooklyn, NY, I just recently made about a dollar a book selling a couple hundred books to my neighborhood used book store.

I've done this before, and I can say that, unless they are really good books (ie, not SF or Fantasy paperbacks or canon), a used bookstore will not want them, and will avoid paying cash for them.

A better idea is to trade the books in for credit. I've done this over the past 5-6 years just to get rid of my books (I'm sick of lugging them around every time I move), and I channel my credit towards rare books that I like to collect (local history, local ethnobotany, out of print books, etc).

This vastly reduces my book collection to several hundred books that I actually care about.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:39 PM on August 11, 2010


Maybe I just have unusually good taste in books - but I'm not making up the amount I made.

On the other hand, some used bookstores just don't buy books, or aren't interested in buying very many. I went to one of the local shops with a good reputation for buying a lot and giving fair prices.
posted by Sara C. at 1:58 PM on August 11, 2010


I'll also add that, if your book isn't worth selling to a used bookstore, your book probably isn't worth scanning.
posted by Sara C. at 1:58 PM on August 11, 2010


I had to move in a hurry in a similar situation as you. Saved about 20-30 books that I keep with me in the smaller house. Noted down all titles, scrutinized and stored them in librarything.com

Placed the rest of the them in totes that were real cheap from lowes at the time and stored them in a small storage. Would recommend that, that way they are still accessible. Did I mention I haven't had the need to go get them as yet? Life's busy and all :-)

For scanners, if you want to do one page at a time without book shadow while preserving the integrity of the book, go with plustek opticbook 3600 (full disclosure i have one and may be interested in selling). Do a search and you'll see what I mean by the bookshadow idea.

I like the idea of the diyscanner but I just wanted something that worked for a semester when I was using a tablet.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 4:19 PM on August 12, 2010


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