This was a good year in terms of getting my home office less cluttered, but I’m still fighting a major battle when it comes to my books. Paperback, hardback, non-fiction, and fiction… I finally exceeded my bookshelf space this year. It got bad enough with the stacks that I finally took a weekend and went through everything, dividing it all up into KEEP or DONATE. Six boxes of books made their way to Goodwill and I’ve still got a few more boxes that are going to a local high school’s library. Even with the culling, however, I still identified a number of KEEP books that I really wished I had purchased in digital format. Many of these books weren’t in digital format when I originally purchased them, and others were available as ebooks but only after reading the print version did I realize a digital version would have been a better investment. It’s a rare book that I purchase both in print and digital, and since 99.9% of publishers won’t provide a digital copy when you purchase a print copy, I now have a large number of print books that I can only reference from home (or by lugging them wherever I might wish to access them).
Another large stack that exists in my home can be found in my workshop — about five years’ worth of The Family Handyman (TFH) magazine. I can now get TFH in digital format on my iPad, but here’s the rub — I hate digital magazines! Yes, I read the occasional digital issues of Wired, Popular Mechanics, and Men’s Health on my iPad, and I love the multimedia features they offer such as animations, interactive elements, and other special effects… but each issue takes up a lot of space. You can delete an issue and reload it at any time, but that’s a hassle when I’d just like to reference a single article I read (not to mention the hassle in trying to remember the correct issue to reload). Until digital magazines offer me the ability to rip out an article and save it to my iPad so I can ditch the rest of the issue, I’m sticking with print magazines. Every month, I sit down with my personal scanner and scan in a small stack of articles that I’ve ripped from my print subscriptions — I convert them with OCR so I can search using keywords. It works great!
But the problem with The Family Handyman is that often 75% or more of the magazine I wish to keep. The magazine has tool reviews, How-To articles, special hands-on projects, and much more. That’s why I don’t rip up my TFH magazines! I just can’t predict when I might need that How-To article on repairing a toilet or adding additional wiring to a closet or finding the Editor’s Best circular saw. I still end up having to hunt through the issues occasionally, trying to find some special article that I remember reading but uncertain of which issue. TFH doesn’t have a year-end Index in the December issue, so I frequently find myself wishing I had the digital versions so I could do keyword searches.
So, to summarize, I’ve got hardback and paperback books I wish I had in digital format, but I don’t want to spend more money buying the digital version. I’ve also got TFH magazines taking up space because I don’t have the storage space on my iPad to store years’ worth of issues. Add to this the fact that I can’t search the TFH magazines quickly for a particular review or article.
As a self-described efficiency ninja, these issues have been driving me crazy for some time. I’ve investigated building myself a book scanner — there are plenty of plans out there for building your own, but none that have impressed me in terms of easy-to-build or easy-to-use… or both. So I started looking for alternatives.
I can’t remember where I read about 1DollarScan.com, but I owe someone out there a big thanks for the recommendation. 1DollarScan is a service that will take your books (hardback and paperback), magazines, and other business documents and convert them for you at very reasonable prices. I decided to put 1DollarScan to the test a few weeks ago, and I’m now going to share with you my experiences.
1DollarScan.com requires you to create an account before you start using their service. All the services they offer must be paid for up-front; 1DollarScan makes it pretty easy to figure out the total cost by charging $1 for every 100 pages of a book (rounded up). Want to scan a 325 page book? $4 will get you a basic scan of that book (cover included for paperbacks, not for hardbacks). This is the basic, no-frills scan. You won’t get OCR, high-resolution scan (600DPI versus the basic 300DPI), or insurance (a rescan if you’re unhappy with the results). But if you’ve got a $10, $15, or $30 book that you’d like converted to digital, $1 per 100 pages will get it done. 1DollarScan calls that 100 pages a set, so start thinking in terms of sets. A 380 page book = 4 sets. A 135 page magazine = 2 sets. And so on.
It’s the frills where 1DollarScan really makes its money. You select from various options such as OCR (so you can search the PDF scans using keywords), high-resolution scan (600DPI versus 300DPI), document compression, and more. Magazines are charged just like books, but you pay $1 extra per set, so a 120 page magazine will cost you $4 ($2 for the pages and $2 for 2 sets). You can pay $2 per set for Express Service (faster scanning and delivery) and $2 per set for high resolution scanning. If you’re not careful, you’ll quickly find a 400 page book costing $10 or more for the scan and frills, fast approaching the potential price of the actual digital version you can purchase from Amazon or elsewhere.
After picking your options, you pay, get a special Scan ID number, and print out a couple of forms to go with your box of books (one being a signed document that you are the legal owner of the books — 1DollarScan covering themselves legally). You then ship your books and magazines to 1DollarScan, they scan them, and then they recycle the books. You get an email that provides you with links to download your PDF files.
Pretty simple, but there’s one more factor you need to consider — shipping costs. Unless you go with the basic no-frills scan, by the time you’ve added in a few frills per set and divided the cost of shipping by the number of books you’re sending, you may find that the average cost of each scan is $15 or higher… much higher than the cost to just buy a digital version online. Use the USPS for slow-shipping to save some money and only initiate the service when you have a large number of books to scan so you keep the average shipping cost per book as low as possible.
My test of the 1DollarScan process began by picking out three different items. First, I picked an 84 page copy of The Family Handyman magazine. The second item was a large paperback book titled How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive. (An excellent book for any kid – great drawings, great explanations of mechanical concepts, and just a classic book to own!) The third book was a hardback titled The Next Decade. Here’s how the basic no-frills scan breaks down:
The three PDFs did not have the names of the books/magazine as the filenames. 1DollarScan charges extra for this ($1 per set!!), but honestly… just open the document, see what it is, and then rename the file yourself. After opening them and renaming the files, here are the file sizes:
If you look very carefully, you might notice a slight angle on the image. I didn’t pay for the Angle Correction, so not every scanned page is perfectly vertical. Looking through the book, I’d estimate about 1 out of every 20 pages or so has a slight angle to the page. I can live with that, but if you cannot you’ll want to pay the $2 per set for the High Quality Touch Up that includes OCR, Angle Correction, and Compression.
Speaking of Compression, there’s another really cool feature that 1DollarScan offers at no additional cost. It’s called Fine-Tuning, and it’s a service that you can use to apply some additional work to the PDF if you know you’ll be displaying it on a specific digital device. Included in this Fine-Tuning is a bit of compression, reducing the file size. How much? I ran all three of my PDFs through the Fine-Tune process (you can only submit one PDF at a time, and it seems to take 30 minutes to an hour for the process to be completed… you get another email when the document is done). Here are the results:
Now, here’s the deal… the PDFs were greatly reduced in size, but the quality of the scan is also degraded a little bit… or a lot. I think it depends on the digital reader you select to use for the Fine-Tune (you choose from iPad, iPhone, iPod, Kindle 4, Kindle 3, Nook, Android Tablet, and many more options). I’ve taken a screenshot of the Basic versus Enhanced (Fine-Tuned) versions side by side that I’m sharing here. It might be a bit difficult for you to see, but the text on the right with the Fine-Tuned version is a little fuzzy around the edges if you look closely. The original, hi-resolution version is on the left. On some pages, it’s not very noticeable… on others, it’s quite obvious. On my iPad, however, the Fine-Tuned version is acceptable. And since it’s about 1/10th the filesize, if I wanted to keep these files on my iPad, I could store hundreds of issues without worrying about running out of space.
Article source: http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2012/12/stacks-with-1dollarscan/