Digitize Your Books—Give Them A New Lease of Life!

Digitize books

Digitize books—now, what’s that? Is it some new fad of our crazy times? Aren’t we all happy just enjoying our books stored in our cozy little home libraries? Well, surely we are. But don’t we need to ensure they are not at risk of being destroyed or suffering some accidental damage? What if even their publishers do not have back-up soft copies? Or the libraries that also have copies are not able to archive them?

There are several reasons why it is absolutely necessary to digitize books. We all need to remember that print books are vulnerable in many ways. There is one more reason why such wonderful sources of knowledge and inspiration may not survive for long. Many books in collections today were created through pre-digital printing processes. This means there were no soft copies in the first place! All these should make it compelling for any book lover to try and preserve their books by all means possible.

Here we will cover some major initiatives to digitize large collections of books and other publishing products. We will then discuss how you can preserve books in your collection. You can thus make a unique contribution to the world of knowledge! In the end, we will also briefly touch upon how this connects you to the world of digital products and digital transformation.

Archives and Libraries

We need to preserve older books that give us an understanding of communities, cultures and ways of life from our recent past. This is of great importance in today’s troubled times. Many of us wonder how to achieve racial and social equality while preserving what is good in the traditional way of life. Books published nowadays typically have a different focus and do not cover such issues as a priority. So, books that provide such unique social knowledge and perspective are of increasing value. We also need to preserve books on science, technology and management that are currently not the flavour of the season. This is equally important, as these could help us in the future to solve newer problems.

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is a step in just this direction: to digitize classic books in English and other languages. Classic here imply books published mostly before 1924 and of great value and popularity. This is a digitizing project that began before the Internet and scanning technology existed. So, the team had to at first type in print content into a mainframe computer for making soft copies! You can easily understand the value of such a project— without digitization, such treasure troves could be lost forever! The ebooks can be read in any ebook reader as well as your computer or smartphone.

Everything from Project Gutenberg is completely free to readers. Project Gutenberg plans to shift to a new website, currently at the beta stage. This will help make its digitizing processes, programmes and offerings more efficient and easy to access. At last count, over 60,000 books are available through this wonderful library to readers across the world.

The Internet Archive

A number of other archives or libraries work with the mission to make older books or other documents available in ebook form. A prominent example is The Internet Archive. This is a non-profit committed to building a digital library of websites and other cultural documents in digital form. The Archive provides free access to researchers, academicians as well as the general public, as part of its mission to ensure Universal Access to All Knowledge. The Archive has 330 billion web pages, 20 million books and texts, and 4.5 million audio recordings, among other resources. The best part is, anyone with a free Archive account can upload media to the Internet Archive. The Archive undertakes to save copies of such works into special collections.

Springer Book Archives

For commercial publishers, the risk of their products getting obsolete is much higher. Books merely 20 years old become unusable as they cover older forms of knowledge, technology and processes. However, due to their authorship and their undeniable utility, it becomes essential to preserve them. One such initiative, the Springer Book Archives, comprise more than 110,000 high-quality digital versions of books. These were published from the 1840s right up to 2005 on SpringerLink, Springer’s online platform.

Where You Come in as Reader and Customer

Assume you have a collection of books stacked away in bookcases, shelves or wall cabinets in your home. Just like a typical reader, you bought only the print copy and not the bundle of print and soft copies and the dynamic access (only institutions do that!). So, you now need to find some way to create their digitized versions, right? Well, help is at hand—in multiple ways. Read on!

Do It Yourself (DIY)

This is especially relevant in developing countries like India, where digitizing privately-owned books is yet to take off. You have two main options here. These involve either scanning them as-is or what is called chop-and-scan. The scans can be done using handheld scanners such as Adobe Scan and made available for free download to smartphones. You can also use a complete book scanner built up with tips from sites such as DIY Book Scanner. Further, you may wish to convert a PDF scan into another format such as ePub. This you can do so using a solution such as Calibre.

Once the scans are ready, you can organize or combine them into full ebooks using suites such as Adobe Acrobat and Smallpdf. With little or no spending, and some patience and diligence, you can create and enjoy your very own collection of ebooks in no time! Also, if you don’t have the time to read e-books, don’t worry! You can always convert them to audiobooks on a Windows PC using any free audiobook maker software!

Paid Services

In case you can spend a little more, things can get even easier. There are multiple firms that will scan and digitize your book collections for a fee. The books are shipped to their facilities, which means this sort of service is currently out of scope for readers in places such as India. However, if you are in the USA, 1dollarscan.com promises to digitize your books and other documents for as little as $1 per set, which means 100 pages. digitisemybooks.co.uk offers a similar service in the UK. You get professional-level scanning and digitization, which may be worthwhile if you are planning to preserve important books for the long term.

The Takeaway

In all, digitization of books is here to stay and steadily expand. While books on Kindle are often available for free, many Kindle ebooks are still quite expensive. Static ebooks often cost almost as much as print versions. So, adopt the DIY route or use independent services to scan your print copies to ebooks—without burning a hole in your pocket!

There are few things more damaging than cutting down trees and making paper using their pulp for print products. Being an organic material, paper is also vulnerable in many ways. So, digitizing is good for both the environment and your personal resources. Increased use of digital products also helps us contribute to the necessary digital transformation of our homes and workplaces. This in turn helps us become even more efficient and preserve the environment further. It also saves resources spent on acquiring print books, and their storage and upkeep, for other uses.

As a book lover, I find the scope to digitize my books absolutely fascinating! There aren’t too many pieces on this written in recent times. So I thought sharing it with our wider tribe will be a great idea. Why don’t you too give it a shot? Please share what you think in the Comments box below.

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