Welcome back!« an older post

1dollarscan review

Blog

I've been converting all of my records to digital formats. I started with a first generation Fujitsu scanner, eventually buying-up to the ScanSnap 300M. It is an awesome scanner: does double sided scanning automatically, scans to PDF at the touch of a button, feeds nominally well, is small enough to carry when travelling, and can run off USB power. I scanned papers, Melissa scanned papers, and Kristi scanned papers. Papers were scanned and shredded, scanned and tossed, or scanned and archived until the seven years are up.

Wow, is it tiring work.

And so slow.

And nearly impossible for books.

So, when I saw the TechCrunch article on 1dollarscan, I pretty much had to try them out, digitize some of my books, in particular, the ones where I want the knowledge they contain, but I'm not attached to the actual book for any reason (other than they are paper, loves me the paper).

The price of the book scans was for $1 per 100 pages scanned (and I'm assuming a book page printed on both sides counts as two pages), with OCR included. For books not with exactly N x 100 pages, the count rounded up, so a 212 page book was 3 sets, or $3. Perfectly reasonable.

For my first order, I sent six books, chosen mostly because they were at the top of my pile of books I wanted the knowledge of, but didn't really want the book. I managed to select a good assortment of books for quality test cases: an organic chemistry textbook, a couple books about character modelling and animation, and one on algorithms. With this selection, I managed to cover illustrations, poorly designed text over dark backgrounds, code examples, mathematical symbols and chemistry formulae. All in all, a nicely diverse selection to see how good the scans would look and how well the OCR would work.

I placed my order on September 5th, Kristi dropped the books off a couple days later. I sorta forgot about the books, until I received an email two weeks later letting me know I COULD SAVE 30% OFF A NEW ORDER! I was waiting to see the quality of the scans before placing another order, so I was a little disappointed by not being able to use that discount.

A month after dropping off the books, I still hadn't received a notice about my scans, so I had no idea what my order status. I sent an email asking what was up, indicating I was sad I couldn't take advantage of offers they had been sending me. I was told, "According to our system, your books have been already scanned on Oct 4 but has been stuck on Quality Check," with a completely reasonable turn around time on the support email (I emailed at 6PM and had a response by 10:30PM that night, so either someone is working late, or support is worldwide - I'm inclined to believe the former).

I was, however, disappointed when I received an email that day announcing their new membership service where books are scanned for $1 for 100 pages, but OCR was an additional $1 per set (100 pages). For an additional $1 per set, the PDF would be named the title of the book. The membership subscription was $100 per month for 50 sets, but hey, that is a $150 value, right?

Well, no. Not really.

$1 per set to name a file is weird, just plain weird. I could understand $1 per book, since there's one book and one PDF file, but I'm not really sure that a 1000 page PDF created by a 1000 page book is 10 times more difficult to rename. So, that $150 value is actually more like around $110 or so.

But there's that $1 per set OCR charge that gets me.

For any reasonable use, the scan is $2 per 100 pages. The math doesn't add up. The website says:

"Free scanning up to 50 sets" means that you don't pay for them, which isn't accurate, because you've paid for the membership. So, maybe "scanning of 50 sets included in membership" is more accurate.

"Includes free OCR and book title" isn't accurate, again, because you've already paid for the sets with the $100 / month charge. So, yeah, it's rather a break even point (I don't think the 10 seconds to rename a PDF is worth the $1 / set, so I'm ignoring it completely in this deal).

What you DO get for that membership is expedited scanning, within 10 business days, unlimited cloud storage of the scanned PDFs, and the ability to send them books from Amazon instead of having to ship them. Since they're local to me, this isn't really a cost I consider.

So, yeah, the membership deal, not really a deal in my mind.

And the next day, on the 11th, I received an email letting me know my files were ready.

So, I completely missed the FANtastic price because I wanted to do a test run. I am disappointed in this result.

What I am NOT disappointed in, however, are the scans. They *are* fantastic. The pages don't bleed through (where you can see the printing from the back of the page). The images are clear. The OCR, even with text over a grey patterned background, has been great for all of the pages I've checked. I am WAY excited about the scans, and plan on sending (literally) 4 meters of books to them to digitize.

The downside of these fantastic scans?

The file sizes.

The six pages were 1.82 GB in a zip file. Unzipping it took so long, I discovered what the Archive Utility logo looks like:

The organic chemistry book? All 1537 pages of it? It was 718MB. At 3/4 of a G of memory, that's over 1% of my ipad's space.

Not so happy with that.

The upside to even THAT disappointment is that 1dollarscan has a fine tune section on their website (place your order after logging in to have access) that will "optimize your reading experience for each device" with supported devices currently being "iPad, iPhone3G, iPhone3GS, iPhone4, HTC Desire, Galaxy S, Kindle3, SONY Reader."

I plan on trying out the fine tuning for my next order, since the organic chemistry book isn't readable on my ipad when added via iTunes.

So, the final verdict on this service is "Hell yes." I'm still sending the 4 meters worth of books to them. Since it'll be over the 200 sets maximum per order, I'll be calling them tomorrow to see if I can get at least part of the discount I missed, maybe on the OCR cost, talk them down to one-and-a-half-dollar-scan or something.

I recognize the company is trying to figure out this service and building up their website feature set, but I keep thinking, take care of me, and I'll become your biggest fan.

Comments

Good to hear 1dollarscan was successful. I spent this past year trying to build a diy bookscanner, then caved to using an office scanner for my books which took several months to complete. I almost took my books to them during a road trip up the coast but they seemed "too new" at the time. Hope they expand nationwide.

At very first when I saw the TechCrunch article on 1dollarscan, I pretty much had to try them out, digitize some of my books, in particular, the ones where I want the knowledge they contain.

That's actually a very reasonable size for a PDF file of that many pages. The only way to avoid that size would be to reduce the quality. If they had reduced the file size by throwing quality out the window, I would file a very serious complaint. Quality can be reduced by the customer to reflect the balance between quality and file size they want, but changing the quality only goes one way - you can only reduce it, not increase it, so it's incredibly important that they give you as high of a quality as possible.

Charging a separate price for OCR is also understandable. Some people have no need for it, and it can take a long time to process a book this way.

It seems like the memberships are really only worth it for someone who will be periodically and consistently getting new books that they need scanned. That said, you are definitely right that they need to re-word the benefit list. I don't think they were intentionally being misleading there.

Also, naming a PDF file, or any file for that matter, takes seconds and requires no special equipment or knowledge. It shows extreme greed that they would charge AT ALL for that service, let alone PER SET! They need to offer this free if they want their customers to feel they are getting a valuable service that's worth the money they're giving. Hopefully customers have been un-checking that option...