If your college textbook is available online, it’s probably a lot cheaper than the printed version. In fact, scanning books to put them online for sale sounds like a good business. Unfortunately, an advanced scanner costs $20,000, and of course there are copyright problems.
A new, cheaper scanner is sure to tempt some people to skirt the edge of the law. The Chinese “Czur,” for example, is slated to sell for $189 but isn’t available yet; the crowd-funding campaign is still going on at Indiegogo.com. It blew past $150,000 in funding in 11 days. NOTE: We’ve issued warnings about projects at crowd-funding sites because in our experience, the product you pre-order in this way may be delayed for a year, or sometimes never appear. This one is good to go though, since a version of this scanner has been available in China for a year. It photographs a page in 8/10ths of a second. Theoretically it could scan more than 4,000 pages an hour, if we don’t count the time it takes to lay out a new book. A 500-page book could be scanned in seven minutes. It will be difficult to keep students from doing favors for their friends.
It’s legal to scan books you own so you can read them on your own iPad or Kindle. Google went to court over this issue two years ago and won. They’ve catalogued nearly as many books as the Library of Congress, but they can’t make every one available for free. You can use their vast library to search for a key phrase in almost any book and read a snippet of it at Books.Google.com. If it’s an older book, such as “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” the whole thing is free. The Authors Guild is appealing the Google Books issue to the Supreme Court.