Do you own a stack of books or even a library full of print books that you’d love to read, but prefer to read digital books?

Who wants to carry around a backpack full of books when you can carry one small device full of eBooks? You could just buy digital versions of these books on Kindle, Nook or in an eBook app or in your favorite Bible software, but that can get expensive. That’s why, in certain circumstances, scanning the book and saving them as a PDF gives readers the best option.

convert books to digital books
Instead of carrying around a stack of books, convert books to digital books with a scanner.

Here are the steps to convert books to digital books using a scanner.

  1. Cut the binding off the book at a copy shop or office supply store.
  2. Scan the book in a sheet fed scanner or multi-function printer.
  3. Save it as a PDF file or other format.
  4. Upload it to a cloud storage site, like Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive or in the case of an eInk Kindle book reader email it to your Kindle.
  5. Open it in your favorite tablet book reading app or on your eBook reader.
scanning with a Fujitsu Scansnap sheetlet scanner
Scan your books using a good sheet fed scanner.

Preparing to Convert Paper Books to Digital Books

To get started pick out the books you want to scan. Start with one book to see if this process works for you.

I don’t convert books to digital books with my hardback books or to books that are special to me. I have a few books with author signatures or that I know I’ll want to share with others by letting them read the paper book. Also, you want to display some books on the shelf. I usually pick books I will only use once like the study guides for big Bible studies that I teach at my church.

books with binding cut off
Cut the binding off our books at your local office supply store or copy shop.

The local Staples store in my town will cut the binding off a book for about $2 depending on the size of the book. Go ask the copy center of your favorite office supply store or a local print shop. Kinko’s will do this also. You could just saw them off yourself, but that’s not easy and it will probably end up with a mess that’s hard to send through the scanner.

After cutting off the binding, fan the pages to make sure they cut through the book. Sometimes a few pages will stick together. Usually the first page after the front and back cover will not come loose without your help.

Scan the Book Using a Sheet Fed Scanner

Fujitsu Scansnap iX500

I reviewed a Fujitsu ScanScan professional sheet fed scanner when I used to write for Notebooks.com. It’s a great scanner that does the job perfectly nearly ever time. However, it’s also costly.

You probably own a sheet fed scanner if you have a multi-function printer that scans, faxes, copies and prints. These have a feeder on top that sends multiple pages through. You need one that will scan both sides of the page at once. However, you can make do with using the kind that only scans one side at a time. Your scanning software will need to combine such books by collating the odd and even pages to put them in order. It will take a long time to manually collate the odd and even pages so they show up in order if you’re scanning a long book. It’s better to buy the digital book or just read it in paper form.

Scansnap software

Most sheet fed scanners will work best with a limited number of pages. I try to scan as many as I can at once, but seldom more than 100 pages (that’s a 200 page books with pages on both sides of each page). The ScanSnap software handles this job very well automatically saving it as a PDF file when it detects that it’s scanning text on a page instead of photos. It then asks me where I want to save the file, but it automatically saves it to a folder on my computer that I choose the first time I open the software on my computer.

I open the PDF file on the computer first to check it and Adobe Acrobat will automatically recognize the text, which we call optical character recognition or OCR. This makes the book searchable.

Sometimes I have to fix a page or two by rotating images. That seldom happens, but on occasion it will. For some reason the software sees the image and thinks the page was loaded sideways even when it wasn’t.

Send the Converted Digital Book to Your Device

Finally, I save the file in my Dropbox folder, which automatically loads it to the cloud storage site. Then, I go to my iPad or Kindle Fire and download it from Dropbox.

If you plan to open the file on a Kindle with eInk display instead of a Kindle Fire or tablet that runs apps like the Dropbox app, then you’ll need to email the file to your Kindle. You can find this email at Amazon’s site. Amazon has a help page to show how to do this. You can find the email address on your Amazon Manage Your Devices page.

A Kindle or Kindle Fire will manage PDF, Word Docs, Kindle’s .MOBI, .AZW files, image files or HTML files. If you plan to read your books on an iPad, then get a good PDF file app. I use Metamoji Note, a note taking app that lets me import PDF files and then mark them up using my Apple Pencil on an iPad Pro. This also syncs so that I can see the PDF in the app on my iPhone, Windows computer, or Android device. Other apps like it include Notability, Liquid Text or even the Kindle App. The previous links send you to the iOS App Store site. Metamoji Note is the only one that runs on Android too. See a demo in the video above. You can email books to the Amazon Kindle app on your iPad, iPhone or Android tablet/phone too using the same steps found in the Amazon site linked above.

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