Has anyone tried a book scanning service for Kondoization or pre-move preparation?

We have a lot of books that aren’t quite important enough to pack and move from Maskachusetts to the Florida Free State, but that don’t seem ready for the dumpster. For example, some rarely used dessert cookbooks (they were great when I was a 16-year-old and could eat 6,000 calories per day! Note that Maida Heatter lived to 102, dying shortly before coronapanic.) Also, the textbooks that I was using at the same time as these dessert cookbooks. What if one day I want to look at an intro calculus text that doesn’t approach integration from a social justice point of view nor remind the reader that Taylor series were developed by a woman (if Brook Taylor identified as a “man”, why did he/she/ze/they call him/her/zir/them-self “Brook”?)?

Paging through these tomes with Adobe Scan on one’s phone would be tedious indeed. There are, however, some companies that specialize in inexpensive scanning of books. In a process that should delight Marie Kondo, the physical book is destroyed in the process (Kondo doesn’t have anything to say on the subject of digital clutter). The binding is cut so that the freed pages can be automatically fed into a scanner. 1dollarscan.com seems impossibly cheap. At 300 DPI, they say that they charge $1 for every 100 pages and the price triplesfor 600 DPI. OCR is an extra $1/100 pages. As is changing the PDF file name(!). So a 400-page cookbook at 300 DPI could be only $4 (OCR it yourself if you’re an Acrobat Pro subscriber; open it up and then change the filename).

USPS has pretty low rates for shipping books (“Media Mail”). I’m wondering if it would make sense to send 50 percent of our library to the dumpster, 30 percent to a destructive book scanning service, and 20 percent to the Florida Free State where the books can serve as a background to people staring at phones.

Readers: Has anyone tried 1DollarScan or a competitor?


17 thoughts on “Has anyone tried a book scanning service for Kondoization or pre-move preparation?

  1. When I moved in with my future ex, I dumped 3 bookcases full of old books + textbooks + magazines figuring I’d never need them again (and at the behest of aforementioned ex). Its a decade later now … and I really miss them. Especially the collection of “Popular Electronics” magazines (Altair 8800 anyone?). If I could do it over, I’d have dumped the ex and kept the books.

  2. 1dollarscan generally performs as advertised. Note that file sizes are relatively large, possibly because they are watermarking scans with customer-identifiable data, in case of future legal challenges against scans distributed for non-personal use.

    McGraw-Hill is not on board with the idea of destructive scanning, so any McGraw-Hill books will not be scanned (see FAQ). Over time, I’ve come to regret destructive scanning of a handful of titles that grew on me, but otherwise this service saved many boxes of books from a trip to the local dump.


  3. Opening up an image as a Google Doc will OCR it. Hope that helps.
    There’s probably some limit though.

  4. I recently unpacked the 99% of my library I had put in storage and found that (i) perhaps a third of it was terrible buys and had to go, but (ii) it was really nice to find numerous old favorites again.

    I also found (iii) there is still a real positive difference in reading a conventional book compared to a pdf or kindle thing. Though perhaps STEM textbooks would be better expressed with an embedded Mathematica.

    Speaking of which, here is how Stephen Wolfram organizes his life, including somewhat unique eye glasses and seldom throwing anything away.

    At the top of my personal homepage is a search box. Type in something like “rhinoceros elephant” and I’ll immediately find every email I’ve sent or received in the past 30 years in which that’s appeared, as well as every file on my machine, and every paper document in my archives

    Of course, a critical piece of making my metasearcher work is that I’ve stored so much stuff. For example, I actually have all the 815,000 or so emails that I’ve written in the past 30 years, and all the 2.3 million (mostly non-spam) ones I’ve received. And, yes, it helps tremendously that I’ve had a company with organized IT infrastructure etc. for the past 32 years.

    But email, of course, has the nice feature that it’s “born digital”. What about things that were, for example, originally on paper? Well, I have been something of an “informational packrat” for most of my life. And in fact I’ve been pretty consistently keeping documents back to when I started elementary school in 1968. They’ve been re-boxed three times since then, and now the main ones are stored like this: …


  5. Vacationing now in Florida free-state. Air travel has become an even more impossibly degrading experience. Dreading return to lockdown lunacy.

  6. I think 1dollarscan is sketchy. It looks like what they do works, but their website reads like a bad translation and although they talk about a Japanese guy who scanned his 2500 books into an iPad, they are run out of a “Suite X” industrial park address in San Diego, next to an outfit called Lazy Duck Brewing. Every “Americanized” Japanese website I’ve ever seen features perfect translation or was written by native English speakers. I think these guys are Chinese.

    I’m wondering if their commitment to copyright isn’t quite as nice as their website makes it sound? Sure, they cut the spine off your books and scan them, then pledge to pulp them after two weeks, but do they really do that? Or do they take your copyrighted materials and ship ’em back to the mainland? How would you know? Has anyone ever audited them?

  7. Finally, I know they say they OCR your materials but what format do they convert them to? I hope their scanning is very good and their OCR and file format transliteration software is very good, because I was not impressed with the quality of the OCR —> Export to Word functionality in the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Professional, for instance. Unless your scan is perfectly clear and contrast adjusted, it identifies “greyish” areas of the paper as images and stuffs them into the document. And the Word translation it does with any kind of complex formatting including multiple indents is a joke.

    It’s 2021 and I was amazed that the software isn’t better than this, but it looks like good OCR with relatively complex formatting into formats like Word is still a challenging problem. Google can predict the way some proteins will fold but Adobe still cannot reliably OCR my town warrant.

  8. Keep the books. We moved into a new house about 4 months before the Covid lockdown started. After several years of sitting books we were able to unpack then all and get them on shelves. There were a few that we decided could go to the 2nd hand store, but the rest are like old friends. It’s good to have them back. And I do enjoy it when people ask me whether the book cases in the background of my video conferences are real or digital.

  9. > ….What if one day I want to look at an intro calculus text that doesn’t approach integration from a social justice point of view…

    They will be happy you dumpstered the old, racist calculus textbooks. And if you live in Fairfax County, Virginia and want to keep reading them, you can DIE, and so can your kids.

    ‘Let Them Die,’ Intolerant PTA, NAACP Official Says of Critical Race Theory Foes

    “Here’s what Michelle Leete, vice president of communications for the Virginia state PTA and first vice president of the Fairfax County NAACP, yelled out to a crowd of critical race theory supporters:…”Let them die. Don’t let these uncomfortable people deter us from our bold march forward.”


  10. Acrobat Pro does have a bulk OCR capability (multi file), although in my experience it is prone to crashing (sort of like many of its other features).

  11. Thirty years ago, when I moved from what was then still known as Massachusetts, I packed everything I owned into my 1987 Ford EXP. Cramped for space, I discarded not only my sports trophies and baseball cards, but also my Calculus textbook (got me through Calc I, II, III and diffi-Qs).

    Recently, I was trying to set up my soon-to-be post-retirement part-time work life and had to turn down an offer to teach Calculus I to undergrads at a nearby community college. My excuse was that the $3000/semester pay was just too low, but really I didn’t want to relearn Calculus from any other textbook other than my old one with my excellent notes and solved problem sets.

    • ^ Re 1987 Ford EXP: this was the first and only brand new car I ever bought. In candy-apple red it looked real sharp and bought it off the dealer’s showroom floor for $12,700. Although, it got me to FL and lasted a few more years, I only got 87,000 miles out of it before it started burning through alternators every 500 miles. One day I went to the junkyard and pulled five old alternators of old Ford Escorts and used them as needed over the next 2500 miles. Explaining the problem, I eventually sold it to a guy for $500, who advised that he needed cheap one-way transportation to Wisconsin. I felt bad, and threw in a brand new Die Hard, and he drove it away tag-less.

  12. I have used 1dollarscan/zlibro multiple times over the years. Based on the last message exchange with customer service due to a question I had, I can confirm that at least one of them has a Japanese name :). My strong recommendation is to use the option they call “High Quality Touch Up” (see https://system.1dollarscan.com/newscan.php) : “Compression + Angle Correction + Highest Quality OCR. We can also put OCR for more than 40 languages by this option.” I have run into situations with them when just OCR wasn’t good enough (for me, some of the critical functions are the ability to highlight + copy into a few file). I have previously requested scans in such languages as Arabic, Hebrew and Japanese and it was all good. Let me know if you have more questions!

  13. Send 95 percent to the dumpster, and ship the rest to Florida. In Florida seems the remaining 5 percent to the dumpster.

    Also, read Kondo again.

  14. Haha. Only keep it if it ‘sparks joy in your heart’.

    Sage advice that… having moved around the world, I would have kept more, not less. It is a hassle to re-buy something you already owned.

    Scanning seems a good compromise.

    Good thing Mary Kondo hasn’t gone digital… what would she say after looking into Stephen Wolfram’s machine!

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