One of the barriers to wide spread file sharing of books is the slow and labored adoption of ebooks by the industry and the cost, both in terms of labor and material, for digitizing print editions. As publishers experiment with committing the same mistakes that the music industry made before them with disproportionately high pricing of digital editions and crippling DRM, do-it-yourselfers are expressing their frustration by just routing around the problem.
Wired details one such case, a student who has cobbled together a workable book scanner for about $300. It still involves some manual effort, it doesn’t include any means to automatically turn pages. But it overcomes the limitations of the other commodity option, using consumer grade flatbed scanners. According to the article, there already seems to be a growing community around Reetz’s design so solutions for automating page turning may yet be suggested along with countless other improvements.
Appropriately enough, the Wired piece also has a bit of legal analysis. UCB professor Pamela Samuelson contends that the project should fall largely under personal fair use. She also considers how this may affect competitive electronic book offerings from publishers, hopefully for the better.