iPad, Kindle, Nook. These devices have revolutionaized how we interact with books. To take scores of books with you anywhere at anytime is quite an alluring notion for avid readers, students, instructors, researchers, really anyone. Not to mention, easier on the back muscles.
Well, let's back up a bit. These devices have not been around that long, and this means that the mass of your personal library isn't digital.
If you are one of those who have the floor to ceiling libraries lined with wall-to-wall books, the kind that require sliding ladders to allow you to get to the books on the very top shelves, chances are your books are older, some much older than you are, and are not available in digital form (no matter how hard you've looked). And, even if your library is not all that massive, you still may be in the same non-digital boat.
Google is trying to digitize every book ever written, but for many reasons, probably won't get around to your particular books in your lifetime. And, unlike in iTunes, where pretty much every song you have in your personal music library is available, or could just be loaded from your media (CDs, cassette tape and vinyl, wow, remember vinyl?) into iTunes, this isn't the case for books. So, if you want to have a completely or predominately digital library, you may have to create yours yourself.
While that may seem like a daunting task, it isn't. Though it, undoubtedly, does take time. With the right tools and plan of attack, it can get to a systematic routine that will make the task a little less massive and more manageable.
You might first decide what books won't make the transition. These are the books you don't need, want, and have no more purpose for you, but may be useful to others. These can be donated to your local charity, public library or school library.
The big question is how to scan your books to create your digital library.
The other big question is "Can you do this legally, is this copyright infringement?"
Let's tackle the first question, it's easier.
There are book scanning companies that can scan your bound books and would love your business, but if you don't have a massive budget, this may become a DIY type of project. Albeit, with a few hard realities. You may have to purchase a personal-use scanner and you may have to cut up your books.
Using a flatbed scanner, even one with a document feeder, for a project like this, is totally out of the question if you plan to avoid the local psych ward. You need a good fast scanner. One that I've recommended and written about over the years is the Fujitsu ScanSnap. This little powerhouse can scan a double-sided page in as little as 4 seconds. I've been able to scan and clear out file cabinets full of documents. And its footprint is roughly 11"x 7", the size of a single sheet of paper. Great personal scanner. As with pretty much every scanner, you can set parameters like scan quality and compresssion, color/black and white, and file format. It is a must for a DIY project like this.
Is this legal?
This could be listed amongst the same conversations regarding fair use of your owned material. Much like your CDs/DVDs when loading them into iTunes to transfer to your iPod/iPhone/iPad or other device. You are not trying to copy and resell the material, you are just changing the delivery method.
Cutting up your books
This very thought can send some into a tailspin.
There are those who love the physical touch and/or smell of their books as they read them, and the thought of parting with this experience is a deal breaker. There are those who need to have their books available to them at all times and digital media suits them perfectly.
For some, books take up a lot of physical space in their home or office that they'd like to reclaim. For people who move their residences frequently, their personal library can be a loved but heavy and cumbersome burden. There can be any number of reasons to digitize. There's no denying that devices like iPad and Kindle have changed the landcape for how you may now want to now interact with your books. Digitizing your library may be less traumatic than you think.
Look to a local office supply store. Some have hydraulic cutters and for a minimal charge, usually less than a dollar, they will cut the binding from the pages (hard covers will have to be cut away first and separately). This will give you a neat cut and also gives you the option to have some of the books spiral re-bound if you plan to keep them in what remains of your physical library. Otherwise, after scanning, the pages can be shredded or go straight to the local recycling center.
For sentimental, size, or value reasons, some books will not make this digital transition initially or at all, but the choice is always there.
Saving to PDF when scanning is the best choice. It allows greater flexibility for the user. There are various software that will open your PDF and allow you to: add metadata, add keywords, OCR (Optical Character Recognition) the PDF for searching text, add notations and comments, add highlights and more.
From your computer, your PDF can be loaded into, say, your iPad, and viewed with a slew of apps that support PDF and allow you to be flexible with it still.
Having your books available at any time, anywhere, to read on the iPad or any other device is nothing short of magical.