A couple of months ago, I blogged about a home-method to cut and scan a book into a PDF file. The method was, I noted, a laborious time-sink best suited for folks like myself who were absolutely fanatical about converting their library into electronic form. It was also best for "image" books -- even with an OCR software like FineReader it was very likely that a home scanner's results for a mass market paperback book would be just dark enough or skewed enough to seriously lower your OCR accuracy rate.
Well, 1DollarScan is here to save the day. You take the number of pages in a book, round up, and then divide by 100 and that's your cost for the cutting, scanning, and PDF emailing goodness for that book. So if your book is 236 pages long, that's rounded to 300, so it's $3. If another book is 367 pages long, it's rounded to 400, so $4 for that book. Both books mailed together would be $7 total.
I've used this service for a "test" book and the results are above. They supposedly don't scan front and back covers, but in this case they did. (I think they just say they don't in case your cover is a hardcover that won't fit through their scanner's feed. And yes, they do accept hardcover books.) The scans are super crisp and very clear and bright, although as you can see there is some bleed-through from the previous page.
The service also claims to layer the PDF with text conversion (so that it's searchable), but in my sample the conversion was iffy -- searches found some instances of a word, but not all. One thing that is very good about this service is that if you are OCRing your PDFs into text for epub or mobi or Word or whatever conversion, the bright scans and perfectly-aligned pages are very easy for FineReader to handle and there are a lot fewer errors to be corrected after a scan-and-convert.
The downside to the service, of course, is that you don't get your book back. Since I've been cutting, scanning, and recycling anyway, that's fine with me, but it won't be fine with everyone. Something to keep in mind.
One dollar per 100 pages (rounded up) does add up, especially when the burden of shipping is on the buyer. I will say, though, that I've been able to send the following groups in USPS flat rate post boxes (the largest one is $15):
$73 for 23 books at $15 shipping = $3.82 per book
$66 for 28 books at $15 shipping (with 30% discount coupon) = $2.18 per book
$64 for 26 books at $15 shipping (with 10% discount coupon) = $2.79 per book
It's not a magic bullet for cheaply converting the books you've already bought once into electronic format, but it is significantly cheaper than re-buying everything in a new format for your e-Reader. What's more, it's an attractive option for books stuck in "orphan" status, such as when the author is dead but the owner of the rights is in question and the public domain cutoff is increasingly further away.