But wait, there’s more! If you order today, we’ll throw in a versatile six-in-one kitchen tool!

No, not really. Still, this simple life hack is pretty exciting for book nerds like me. I recently learned that Google Docs contains its own OCR capability. OCR stands for optical character recognition, which is a form of computer vision that can translate images of text into actual text documents that are editable. This saves a tremendous amount of data entry time, since you don’t have to retype a document if you have an image of it. 

This means there’s a very simple way to digitize your own books, particularly those that are out-of-print or don’t offer an eBook version for sale. You can simply scan them with your phone, upload that .pdf to Google Docs, convert it, clean up the file a bit, and export an .epub that’s readable on your device. I made a video showing exactly how to do this, check it out.

Why is this cool

Well, it’s not, really. It’s pretty nerdy. But commercial applications out there, like ABBYY Finereader, cost $200 for a license. Adobe used to sell a standalone Acrobat Professional with OCR that was also hundreds of dollars, but now they’re strictly cloud-based and cost an ongoing $25/month. Book scanning services are an option, I’ve used one before in fact for a rare out-of-print book, but the cheaper options destroy the original and you’re still paying upwards of $20/book to get a file that has errors in it. 

It is usually both difficult and/or expensive to get OCR working properly on a home setup. Google owns Tesseract, one of the best OCR engines around, but it’s command-line only with no user interface and would baffle most people.

This method saves hundreds of dollars and lets any user easily convert as many books as they want at their own pace. 

How-to as a series?

I enjoy mixing things up and posting different types of content, so let me know if this kind of article is something you enjoy and I’ll post more in the future. I’ve done a fair bit of eBook editing in particular. Please let me know what you think and thanks for reading/watching!

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