The second biggest reason I haven’t bought an Amazon Kindle yet is that I don’t like paying for books (the first being that it’s an expensive gadget). I don’t like paying for anything really, but books are something that’s particularly easy to get for free thanks to your local library. That doesn’t mean libraries don’t hurt authors any more or less than pirating music reportedly hurts artists, but libraries are currently 100% legal (more, earlier thoughts on this here). There are thriving e-book piracy communities on-line. One needs only to remove the DRM of a commercially purcahsed e-book (easier for some formats than others) or digitally scan the book manually and spend hours pouring through the OCR output for typos. Then people like me can easily reap the rewards of their efforts.
So the third biggest reason I haven’t bought a Kindle yet is that whether you pay for e-books or pirate them for free, many titles simply aren’t available anywhere in electronic form. It would be incredibly frustrating to have just spent over $300 on a device to read books on only to have to obtain a physical copy of a book that isn’t availible electronically.
And that’s where Daniel Reetz’s $300 high-speed book scanner is a great step in the right direction. Sure, at $300 you’d need to have a lot of non-electronic books you really wanted to read on your e-book device(s) or have a desire to serve the greater e-book community with your efforts. And you can’t just queue up a book and walk away; you have to turn the page after each 2-page snapshot it takes. But even then you’ll only be standing there a good 20 minutes for a normal length book.
I could really see myself taking the time and money required to build this if it meant I’d be releasing books from the shackles of the physical world and letting them loose in electronic form to the world. But sharing copyrighted materials like that is considered illegal. Building this machine solely for personal use seems like too much work for too little reward. It’s tempting to join the e-book piracy movement and become a major “content provider”, but I’m just not sure that that’s the best way to deal with publishers (and libraries) dragging their feet as demand for e-books grows.
Anyway, my hat goes off to Daniel Reetz and others like him who are making it an especially exciting time to be a bibliophile.