Company Scans Your Books For a Dollar – Ship ‘Em In, Get a PDF via Email

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Dollar scans

Someday my grandchildren will ask me what a printed book looks like. Hell, at the rate we’re going, my children will probably ask the same question. The physical to digital conversion of books just got a lot cheaper with the launch of 1DollarScan.com, based in San Jose, California. An offshoot of the immensely successful BookScan in Japan, 1DollarScan does exactly what its name implies: it scans your documents for a dollar. 100 pages of a book, 10 pages of a business document, 10 business card, etc – you just mail the text in and 1DollarScan will email you back a PDF. While the transition away from print media has been proceeding a pace for a while now, a cheap book scanning service in the US means that thousands of personal libraries will be converted to ones and zeroes, pushing us ever closer to a world where all printed books (Gutenberg to Gladwell) belong in a museum.

Yusuke Ohki started BookScan after he laboriously converted his personal library of 2000+ volumes into digital documents. Now the company has 200+ employees who do nothing but that, and reportedly the service is so popular in Japan there’s an extensive waiting list. 1DollarScan promises to bring the same dependable, quick, and hopefully popular service to the US with its freshly debuted Silicon Valley headquarters. The following video was made for BookScan, not 1DollarScan, so it’s only available in Japanese, but you can see the basic components of the technology in action. Send, slice, scan, and email. From book to PDF in about two weeks. We’ve seen better machines, but 1DollarScan makes scanning books simple, and simple sells.

1DollarScan seems pretty cheap, but there are some hidden costs. First, shipping. You pay for it all yourself. Also, did I mention you never get your printed materials back unless you pay a return fee? 1DollarScan defaults to recycling your paper unless you expressively request otherwise (talk about the death of print). You should also keep in mind that while a single book will probably only cost you 2-3 dollars to convert, an entire library can get relatively expensive. My modest collection (some 300+ volumes averaging 300-400 pages each) would cost me something like $1200 not including shipping. Of course, legally buying digital copies for each would probably cost around $3000, so there’s still a savings there.

…If book owners were actually going to use this service. I’m not sure they will. If you have a personal library there are three different scenarios that may apply to you. 1) You own rare/expensive books you would never have shipped away out of your hands, let alone sliced up. 2) You own books you’d like to have scanned, but you’re not against pirating their digital equivalents. 3) You don’t care to digitize your books because you like print. In each of those situations, I don’t see why you would trouble yourself to use 1DollarScan.com.

That being said, I still think the new company will do well. There are certainly going to be those early adopters and digital enthusiasts who want to convert their collections. More importantly, however, there are small businesses. At 10 pages per dollar for business documents, 1DollarScan isn’t an amazing deal, but it is fairly cheap – probably much cheaper than having an office admin scan documents on company time. The speed and efficiency of 1DollarScan may make it the preferred service for archivists everywhere, especially considering that their PDF printouts come with an optical character recognition (read: searchable) layer that make it ideal for organized collections in a business environment.

And, while I’m sure they will try to avoid it, 1DollarScan is going to be heaven for pirates. According to their website, when it comes to Digital Millennium Copyright Act Compliance: “1DollarScan respects the intellectual property rights of others and expects its users to do the same.” They even say, in their terms, that they won’t hesitate to report your personal information if they are requested by law enforcement agencies. But c’mon…they are openly claiming that the scans provided to customers are legal under fair use clauses, and it’s not like 1DollarScan is going to knock on your door and make sure you weren’t sharing the scans they sent you. Trust me, once word gets out how cheap and quick 1DollarScan can be, I’m sure we’ll start seeing professional quality scans for tons of books that don’t have retail digital equivalents suddenly appearing on torrents everywhere. Call it thievery, but it’s a reality of our modern age.

Whether 1DollarScan’s success (or failure) comes from legal uses or not, however, their entry into the US market shows how far along into the death of print we are. Honestly, we might as well be shopping for a tombstone. Not only have major periodical publications announced they are making the switch, not only have digital sales continued to climb unchallenged, not only have libraries started to launch massive digital lending projects, but now we have companies looking to fill niche market applications. Wherever print media tries to hide, some new business is hunting it down to deal it a deathblow. In a generation (or less) the only printed materials we’ll buy are those whose value is intrinsically linked to their physical form. If it’s not ancient, gilded, or unique there’s no reason why the digital copy won’t do as nicely. I wish 1DollarScan the best of luck, but their service is sort of like a fireplace in an igloo  – even if it succeeds, in the long run, it’s going to put itself out of business.

[image credits: 1dollarscan.com]

[source: 1dollarscan.com]

Discussion — 7 Responses

  • Neurosys August 18, 2011 on 12:32 pm

    Just remember, Pirates did it first, and they did it for free.
    Todays criminals are tomorrows innovators.

    I’m glad to see it becoming more mainstream, in fact I could say that about a billion things in this industry, and that makes me happy. The world is finally coming around to so many exciting things right now. I do kind of have a fetish for my hard copy books, but not every single one of them. There are certainly many I would prefer to only have digital copies of like reference manuals etc. Likewise there are a few I would never want to deal with in digital form.

  • 1dollarscan August 18, 2011 on 1:26 pm

    We are 1dollarscan.com

    Thank you for this great coverage.

    We scan and digitize all printed materials from books, business cards, greeting cards, photos, to business documents from as low as $1.

    Feel free to ask any questions and discover more by visiting our website.

    http://1dollarscan.com/

    • Aaron Saenz 1dollarscan August 18, 2011 on 4:57 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, 1dollarscan.com!

      I love the introduction, by the way.

      “We are 1dollarscan.com”

      Maybe you should add: “…and all your books are belong to us.”

  • cmadler August 18, 2011 on 5:00 pm

    “At 10 pages per dollar for business documents, 1DollarScan isn’t an amazing deal, but it is fairly cheap – probably much cheaper than having an office admin scan documents on company time.”

    I can’t imagine this is true. With the modern “business hub” style networked copy/scan/print/fax machines, scanning documents — especially when pages are a uniform size — is as trivial as tossing a stack of pages on the machine feeder and pressing “Start”. A minute later you’ve got your PDF.

    • Aaron Saenz cmadler August 18, 2011 on 5:51 pm

      Do those hub systems have reliable OCR?
      Even so, I think you’d have to crunch the numbers…Admins, and even interns, can make a good deal of money in offices these days. It may not be worth the company dime to have them scan stuff in.

      Any archivists in the audience know what the relative cost per page is for OCR enabled scanning in-house?

      • cmadler Aaron Saenz August 18, 2011 on 6:03 pm

        Sorry, I missed the mention of OCR, I thought it was just scanning. If you need OCR, $1/10 pages is probably a good price.

        • 1dollarscan cmadler August 18, 2011 on 6:46 pm

          At 1dollarscan, OCR is included in the price.
          Again, we will free up the work of your admins.