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Harry Lewis has a terrific post about a $300 do-it-yourself book scanner he saw at the D is for Digitize conference on the Google Book settlement. The plans are available at, from Daniel Reetz, the inventor.

There are lots of personal uses for home-digitized books, so — I am definitely not a lawyer — I assume it’s legal to scan in your own books. But doesn’t that just seem silly if your friend or classmate has gone to the trouble of scanning in a book that you already own? Shouldn’t there be a site where we can note which books we’ve scanned in? Then, if we can prove that we’ve bought a book, why shouldn’t we be able to scarf up a copy another legitimate book owner has scanned in, instead of wasting all the time and pixels scanning in our own copy?

Isn’t Amazon among the places that: (a) knows for sure that we’ve bought a book, (b) has the facility to let users upload material such as scans, and (c) could let users get an as-is scan from a DIY-er if there is one available for the books they just bought?

4 Responses to “Do-it-yourself Google Books — a million dollar idea for Amazon?”

  1. on 11 Oct 2009 at 1:24 pmrichard james

    Unfortunately I think that even scanning books that you own is an infringement of copyright (one of sections 107, 108, or 110)- in the same way as copying your own VHS movies to DVD is not permitted as fair use. Turning this into a commercial service would be difficult if this is the case. Although like many librarians, my knowledge of copyright law is pretty shaky.

  2. on 11 Oct 2009 at 5:13 pmDavid Weinberger

    I’ll ask a copyright lawyer. What a bummer! Thanks.

  3. on 12 Oct 2009 at 10:32 pmEmlyn

    Very hazy recollection, but I remember this business model in music back in the end-of-napster days (2000?). Was it, something like that? Their idea was that you can share your CDs with yourself, so it should be ok to listen to rips of your own CDs anywhere. And of course there is overlap, so they ripped vast amounts of CDs, and shared that to you anywhere, after you verified you owned the CD once by inserting it in your CD drive.

    iirc that model went down in serious flames. Really stupid idea there by the music industry; that would have worked out excellently for them, I think.

    In books its even worse; at least with CDs the data was digital. With books, if you own the same book as someone else, that doesn’t mean the scan of their book is also your book; it’s irretrievably of their book, replete with their coffee stains and dog ears and so on; it’d be hard to say that this is your book.

    I think Amazon would get nowhere fast on a model like this. And, in the realm of digital books, they’re not exactly all about freedom and sensible access to your data.

  4. on 13 Oct 2009 at 6:29 amLeo Borj

    But the idea of personalized printing could be used to publish or print the “selected” by the user contents of a digital media like a magazine or increase the depth coverage of present paper media, this is, broad and general on the digital world but depth and customized on the physical one. No issue with IPR in this case. I suggest that possibility few days ago on twitter: