Should I Scan My Printed Book for Electronic Distribution? No.

Hi Angela,

I’ve got a question that I hope you can help me with. I’m the editor for a not-for-profit organization. About 15 years ago a member gave us exclusive rights to sell her book as a fundraiser. We sold out of the books after a couple of years, but recently our office staff found one last copy. We’ve decided we’d like to make it digital and sell it again. The author has given us exclusive rights to do this.

I’ve scanned the entire 350-page book, and now have PDF files. I had thought to use OCR software to convert the PDF files to Word files and then, using InDesign, create the book. Well the OCR software can’t handle the job. I have Greek, Turkish and Serbocroatian characters (along with Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and English). The PDF files are clear and clean and include some delightful hand drawings – none of which the author has in digital format.

Is there a way to make these PDF files directly into an ebook?

There are some POD companies that will scan a print book and make it work but I can tell you the resulting files are enormous (often a much larger file than ebook customers will want to download) and some pages may appear crooked, have marks on them, etc. Needless to say, the quality is not always great and, in fact, can be downright horrible.

Scanning those pages and then using software to pull the text from those files can create problems as well. There will undoubtedly be errors where the software didn’t recognize specific things, and the entire book must be read and edited to find them. After it’s all said and done, many are not happy with the result.

In my opinion, it’s far easier to simply hire a college student to type the manuscript into a word processing program. The images in the book can be scanned and cleaned up in a graphics program, too. You can then format the book any way you want, and at any size, and you can also very easily make any editorial changes, add a new copyright page, add “Second Edition”, etc. Best of all, you’ll always have an electronic copy that can be altered/edited/reformatted in any way you want.