Need 20 books scanned, OCRed and proofed. Robots need not apply.
September 30, 2010 4:54 PM   Subscribe

I need to have about 20 novels scanned, OCRed and professionally proofed for conversion to ebooks. Destructive scanning is acceptable. Have you had recent experiences with a company that provides such a service? What did it cost, and how was their proofing?

This is for an author who has regained the rights to her earlier works, so copyright-wise it's completely kosher.

Google finds me several places in India that offer scanning, OCRing, and proofing as a service, but they all seem a bit sketch. Given that their own sites' copy could use serious correction, it doesn't instill confidence in the fruit of outsourced proofing. Since it's the proofing that matters most, I'm reluctant to take the risk.

There are plenty of domestic companies that advertise book scanning services, but that's the easiest part — I can buy a sheet-fed scanner and do that myself, at a rate of about 3 books/hour. I can also pipe all of those files through ABBYY FineReader for OCRing. What I can't do (economically) is spend what I figure to be ~12 hrs per book proofing the OCRed version and cleaning up the documents.

So, hope me, MeFi. Tell me about the company you have used to convert printed books into well-punctuated and spell-checked digital files. Because really, if I don't have to saw off spines, sheet-feed, collate and whatnot myself, I'm cool with not doing that.

Alternatively, if I do do all the digital conversion myself, what's the going rate — and your recommendation — for someone to proof about 7,000 pages of OCRed mystery novels?
posted by mumkin to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have exactly your answer. However, you might look into legal scanning services -- companies that take reams of documents and scan and ocr them for review by attorneys and paralegals.

My last experience, in Denver, a couple years ago, was a couple thousand dollars for about five thousand pages.
posted by freshwater at 5:09 PM on September 30, 2010

Actually, this sounds like a good posting for MeFi Jobs!

I have done this type of work through a freelance site, but not on the scale that you are attempting. I read a lot of wanted ads for this type of work and one comment that is in many ads is for native English speakers. Specifically US, UK, Australian or other English.

I also worked with a company once that hired writers for web content. The guy used some of these offshore proofing companies and it was clear that there were some people with a good command of English and others were not - all within the same company. The trick for that guy was trying to get the proofing house to steer the work to their better workers. That, however, did not always work.
posted by lampshade at 6:19 PM on September 30, 2010

Try the Mechanical Turk.
posted by novalis_dt at 9:18 PM on September 30, 2010

Am I allowed to say I could do it, or is that not permitted? If you can message me with the word count of a standard book, I can give you an idea of costs. Oh - and I'll look at MeFi Jobs, which I'd never heard of before!
posted by LyzzyBee at 9:51 PM on September 30, 2010

Have you approached this company?
posted by imjustsaying at 1:48 AM on October 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody. After running some trial OCR passes myself, soliciting bids and getting some sample work done, it seems like India is going to be the best solution after all. Assuming, that is, that the quality of proofing matches the couple of sample chapters they did for us. It helps, I'm sure, that these books are clean and uncomplicated, without weird formatting or anything. ABBYY FineReader was hitting 100% accuracy on the pages that I fed it, so they'll be starting with a very good source and hopefully won't have to interpret intent anywhere.

The global economy wins this round. For the record, the cost breakdown is: $.20/page to scan, OCR and proof a book, and email back as an RTF. An additional $.25/page to format it for ePub and Mobi... About $150 to convert a 300 page novel into something that's iBook and Kindle ready. Not a great deal if it were for personal use (for that see the excellent, but this is commercial, so some up-front costs are acceptable. At those rates, about 30 sales in the iTunes bookstore will cover the cost of format-shifting one book. Hopefully there's at least that much interest.

We're going to have them do a 4-book series first, to better assess the quality of work. I'll try to remember to come back and update this post in a few months, since I see some folks are following it.
posted by mumkin at 3:59 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

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