I often review books and games on the site, but this is the first time I reviewed a service. Specifically, the book scanning service offered by 1dollarscan.com. 1dollarscan will scan any text item (books, photos, business cards. etc) and then use optical character recognition to convert the images to searchable text. I have some reference books with no PDF version available for digital searching purposes and decided to convert one of them as a test of the service.
I decided to risk my well-thumbed copy of “The Encyclopedia of Occultism.” I chose it because it is far more useful as a searchable digital book and I did not want to lug it around. It weighs a ton! That and I could replace it easily for little money online if my little experiment failed and the book went down a black hole. 1dollarscan charges $1.00 per one-hundred pages scanned. The encyclopedia is just over 400 pages, so I rounded up and paid $5.00 to 1dollarscan, plus another $5.00 for packaging and shipping via media mail to California. Off my book flew…
Two weeks pass and I just received an email with a download link to a 480 Mb PDF file. I downloaded it and it was my book, digitized and OCR’d. Here are a couple of pages from the book.
Fear the Illuminati…
Scans are crisp and very readable. The downside is the file is 480 megabytes! I may compress it to make loading and browsing faster.
The OCR is adequate, but not amazing. All OCR requires human editing and for $1.00 per hundred pages, I doubt any of that went on with my file. Here is a sample. The first is an image of a paragraph and then the OCR’d text version is just below.
ftromrnoy : Divination by m9an9 of cheese.. .It is practised
in diveis ways the details of which are not known’
In defense of 1dollarscan, I did send an old book with a darker background and a tight font. I knew the OCR would suffer, but thought it a good test. This about as bad as the OCR got, many of the other entries are completely readable. Still, the book is more searchable and lighter than it was to begin with and at $10.00 I am not going to complain too loudly about the end result. Besides, the scans are clean enough that if the OCR search gets me close to what I am looking for I can just use the old-fashioned method.
Oh, the cover does not get scanned either. This is a bit odd, but it did not really bother me as the contents mattered more than the awful circa 1962 cover design. It was hideous!
As for the other issue hanging over this post, let me get it out of the way now. Here, I will say it for you because you are probably thinking it. “Pirate!” “You are stealing the hard work of the author, etc, etc, etc.” Not at all. I owned the book. I had the book converted to a new format for my personal, fair use. I will not distribute it beyond my own digital library. In addition, 1dollarscan DESTROYS the books it scans. Be very clear on this issue. Cards, papers and images can be returned if you ask (and pay for it). Do not send in first editions or that signed copy of the DMG. It is sacrificed to the automated book scanning god.
There is an old saying, “You can have something good, fast and cheap, but you can only choose two.” In this case I scored 2.5 of the three items. 1dollarscan is dirt cheap, very fast and the outcome was pretty good. If anyone else runs something through the service, drop me a comment. I would like to hear how it goes.
Trask, The Last Tyromancer