Books made from trees are pretty cool. They can last for hundreds of years if properly prepared, they look great on a shelf, and some people love the smell. Personally I love spending an hour in a book shop scanning titles, reading the back covers, and scanning through the pages of books I might like to read.
But digital books have a few key advantages. They take up virtually no physical space — you can fit thousands of books on a memory card. You can search for text, save as many virtual bookmarks as you like, and in some cases you can highlight passages or make notes in the margins without affecting the original.
I’ve grown rather fond of digital books over the past few years, since I can load a few titles on my iPod touch and carry them in my pocket at times when I wouldn’t want to carry a physical book. And while some people think I’m crazy, I actually prefer reading text on a small screen because my eyes have less distance to wander and I find I read more quickly.
I also happen to have hundreds of books taking up space on a couple of bookshelves, and every time I think about buying a new book I feel a bit of angst as I wonder whether it will even fit on the shelf.
So what do you do if you’ve decided you’d rather have a library of digital books than physical books — but your shelves are already filled with your favorite dead tree books?
You could try to find eBook sellers offering the same titles and re-purchase the books. Or you could use a new service called 1DollarScan which will scan your books and convert them into digital files for just a buck… assuming your book is 100 pages or less. The price will go up if you want to scan War & Peace — but fortunately you can find plenty of free copies of that title online, since Tolstoy’s masterpiece is already in the public domain.
You’ll also need to pay for shipping to 1DollarScan, but the US Postal service does offer book rates. Still, in some cases it might actually be cheaper to just buy an eBook.
Overall, the service still sounds like a promising idea — it reminds me of the months I spent trying to manually digitize my audio cassette collection so that I could save my music as MP3 files. If someone had offered a service that did the same thing for a buck a tape (and if I wasn’t a student at the time) I might have taken them up on the offer.
Unfortunately there’s a catch — 1DollarScan will destroy any book you send in and the scanner material will be recycled. If that’s exactly what you want to happen, that’s great. But if you were hoping to keep a physical copy of your book after it was scanned, this might not be the best way to go, since 1DollarScan cuts the spine of a book before scanning.
The company can also scan photographs, business cards, greeting cards, and documents. You can request to have your items returned, but I’m not sure why you’d want a book with a cut spine back.