April 12, 2010

The geniuses behind DIY bookscanning


The DIY bookscanner and the enabler who invented it

The DIY bookscanner and the enabler who invented it

As if publishers —  especially small-time, independent publishers — didn’t have enough to worry about, what with the New York Times’ “Ethicist” Randy Cohen telling everybody that it’s OK to steal books (thieves DO have ethics, too, you know — they’re just in conflict with the ethics ordinarily recommended by booksellers), via a Wired online report comes the latest Do-It-Yourself book-scanner from the DIY website, Instructables, complete with a step-by-step construction guide.

Essentially, it’s a digital camera fixed above a frame that holds down the pages so that you can photograph them. The idea is that you then assemble all the photos of your book’s pages into one digital file and, voila, homemade ebook.

One commenter does note that “using this on copyrighted books would be copyright infringement.”

Apart from the camera (Wired suggests using a “spare old digicam” — must be nice), Instructables says materials should cost $20 or less.

Instructables also repeats what is becoming Moby’s favorite canard: “And think of the trees you will save by going paperless!”

At Money Central at msn.com, Liz Pulliam Weston takes “paperless” another self-defeating step further in her essay, “10 things you shouldn’t buy new.”

First up? Books, of course.  ”The reality is that most books don’t get read more than once, if that,” Liz writes, “and they’re astonishingly easy to find used at steep discounts — if not absolutely free.” Especially once you’ve built your own scanner!

Now, it gets tricky because, wouldn’t you know it, Liz is a writer herself, and dang if she hasn’t gone and written a book. Turns out, she’s written several, but she plugs her most recent, called, Your Credit Score: How to Fix, Improve and Protect the 3-Digit Number that Shapes Your Financial Future, saying, “of course, I’d love for you to go out and purchase a new copy.”

Liz does allow other exceptions, however: “Reference books you’ll use again and again. For example, I bought a deeply-discounted copy of Cheryl Mendelson‘s excellent ‘Home Comforts.’ That was after checking out the book at the library and running up a small fortune in fines.” (Better make that scanner, Liz.)

Home Comforts is described as:

A comprehensive housekeeping reference covers everything from cleaners and laundry to cooking and furniture repair, in an illustrated edition complemented by seasonal tips, philosophical essays about the value of domestic arts, and anecdotal writings about the author’s experiences as a lawyer and a dedicated housekeeper.

Liz says, “I couldn’t bear to part with it.” She’s a real book lover.

Dan O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Melville House.