I have read with interest Dick Eastman’s newsletters. One of the issues that he has addressed several times is his attempts to convert his library from paper to digital. With all the books we acquire for our personal research and interests, it is not difficult to imagine running out of bookshelf space and end up with piles of books on the floor surrounding the desk. Dick had apparently reached that point when he began taking books apart so that he could more easily convert them to a digital format.
I face a similar problem. Perhaps you do too. Books are expensive and the paper versions require space if they are to be available when needed. While I was attending a Civil War symposium in Virginia last month, I learned that Kent State University had published a number of books on the participation of Germans in the American Civil War. It was easy enough to go online and find three books that would be useful in one of my ongoing projects. I bought them at a not so cheap price and then had to find space for them on my bookshelves when they arrived. August Willich’s Gallant Dutchmen by Joseph R. Reinhart, A German Hurrah!, also by Reinhart, and Long Road to Liberty, the Odyssey of a German Regiment in the Yankee Army, by Donald Allendorf, all sit on my shelves now, and I am happy to have them there. However, I had to remove several books to find them space.
What is the answer to the problem of homeless books? There are several possible solutions. First, there are many books available in digital format that can be read on your Kindle, Nook or other reader. They usually cost about one half what a paper copy would cost. Some, if they are older books might be available at no cost through Google Books (books.google.com). Rather than buy another book that required shelve space, I purchased my copy of William Burton’s Melting Pot Soldiers from Google Books for a saving in space and money.
Of course there are companies that scan older books and make them available on CD or DVDs. I recently purchased a DVD from www.adigitalhistory.com that contained 48 German history books, many dealing with Pennsylvania Germans. The most recent had been published in 1917. The first on the DVD was A Collection of Upwards of Thirty Thousand Names of German, Swiss… Immigrant to Pennsylvania. All 48 books take up the space of a thin DVD, and cost me $8.99.
One final possibility might be considered. Even though I cringe at the thought of cutting the spine off a book on my shelves in order to make a digital copy, there is a company that will do it for me. Dick Eastman suggested this possibility. The company, www.1dollarscan.com will make a high quality digital copy of a book you send them and provide you with the digital copy for your use. The book you sent is then cut up and recycled. You are left with space on your shelve. They charge $1 per 100 pages. I still am not entirely comfortable with cutting apart books, but I may soon reach that point.
Perhaps you haven’t run out of space on your bookshelves, but when the time comes, owning digital copies of books may appeal to you more.