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Old 05-20-2009, 06:20 AM   #1
kurochka
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Any ideas on how to turn hobby into full time work?

[I don't know if there is a better place to post this post]

Here is the deal. I enjoy reading books, including dictionaries. For several years now, I have been digitizing (from scanning to OCR, to proofreading, layout, format conversions) old out-of-copyright books and dictionaries. My most recent is English Synonyms and Antonyms by James C. Fernald (1914). Amazing scholarship, captivating reading!

Is there a way to turn this hobby of mine (quality digitization of books, not the reading) into "gainful employment"?

My concern is that I am dealing with public domain books. You cannot (and should not) claim copyright in them. I do not believe that the contractual restrictions (i.e., before you read you agree to something similar that copyright provides) can stand up to legal scrutiny. Reproductions of public domain works in any shape or form are typically public domain as well. In addition, I think it is just plain wrong to try to bypass the public "domainness" with such shenanigans.

One way is to make compilations of public domain works (the selection, compilation, revisions themselves would be under the copyright). Another, I could start with public domain books as the source and then work on my own work, revising, updating, etc. While the proper attribution to the source will be made, the new work will be under the new copyright.
In this case, the finished product would not be the original work of the first author, and I do not know how interesting it would be to the audience. Third, I could start some non-profit and raise funds for such a good cause (yeah, in this economy ...). I do not want to become rich, I just need a salary to support my family.

Then, there is competition from the free digitization efforts on the Internet. I am not too happy with the quality of scans coming out of Google, Microsoft, etc. I think they do a disservice to everybody by churning out such poor scans. However, they are big, free and people are typically tolerant of low-quality stuff when it is free. Unlike the above scan-mills, I have respect for distributed OCR-proofreading groups. I read books done by them all the time.

I truly enjoy what I am doing and would prefer to let other people enjoy the results but then how do I get the "gainful employment" part? I have come to the point where I would like to undertake ambitious projects of digitizing multivolume dictionaries or other large works. Then I could convert them to TEI or other XML-based formats or just have them in a book form.

I am currently scanning this huge heavy dictionary that I fear would break the glass of my scanner or pull a muscle in my arm. A quality work on such huge projects would take years.

Last edited by kurochka; 05-20-2009 at 06:23 AM.
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Old 05-20-2009, 10:03 AM   #2
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Yes. Sell your resulting eBooks through Amazon, Scribd, and other on-line stores. Format as PDFs for printing and sell hard copy books through Lulu.com.

If you do well with the hard copy, consider buying a block of ISBNs and signing up as a publisher with Lightning Source. (since then you'd make more per copy sold, and be able to get the books listed at amazon world-wide.

All except the last require no setup fees.

The works are public domain. This doesn't mean you can't make a profit from selling them, it just means that you can't stop anyone else doing the same.

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Originally Posted by kurochka View Post
Is there a way to turn this hobby of mine (quality digitization of books, not the reading) into "gainful employment"?
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Old 05-20-2009, 10:33 AM   #3
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My concern is that once I sell one copy of a public domain book (for which I worked months if not years), there is no legal or moral restriction for somebody else distributing this same copy for a fee or free to millions. I have no problem with that when it's just a hobby for me but now I am considering doing it full time.

I have in mind extremely high quality proof-read multivolume dictionaries or other serious works, not a quick OCR job for an easy-reading novel.

Last edited by kurochka; 05-20-2009 at 10:38 AM.
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Old 05-20-2009, 10:49 AM   #4
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Yes, I understand your concern. Unfortunately, with a public domain text there's not much you can do.

You can add your own introduction, which would be your copyright, but there would be little to stop anyone just stripping off your introduction and using the text itself.

But I suspect that you won't find this a problem in practice. If you can establish yourself as a publisher of quality, then people will look for your imprint for future books, not some fly-by-night.

I don't know whether it would be possible to do this full-time to start with. You'd need to build up a catalogue of titles over time to bring in sufficient income, I'd expect.

If you are thinking of doing this full-time, you should definitely look into producing paper books too - Print-on-Demand ones. Check out this web site for useful information on doing this through lightning source.

http://www.newselfpublishing.com/

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Originally Posted by kurochka View Post
My concern is that once I sell one copy of a public domain book (for which I worked months if not years), there is no legal or moral restriction for somebody else distributing this same copy for a fee or free to millions. I have no problem with that when it's just a hobby for me but now I am considering doing it full time.

I have in mind extremely high quality proof-read multivolume dictionaries or other serious works, not a quick OCR job for an easy-reading novel.
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Old 05-20-2009, 10:56 AM   #5
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What and how many other titles have you scanned? Anything prior to 1900?

I am in the early stages of undertaking similar efforts for at least 2 titles, with the ultimate aim of publishing the results as dead-tree books and also as free eBooks.

Upon rereading your post, one more question:

What sort of books do you hope to scan in the future? How do you acquire them? From libraries or through personal purchases?

Last edited by ahi; 05-20-2009 at 11:29 AM.
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Old 05-20-2009, 11:38 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ahi View Post
What and how many other titles have you scanned? Anything prior to 1900?

I am in the early stages of undertaking similar efforts for at least 2 titles, with the ultimate aim of publishing the results as dead-tree books and also as free eBooks.
Actually, scanning is but a first step. I have achieved extremely good output scans for old books with the help of a free program called Kromsator. My scans are typically bw 600 dpi with the complete removal of page texture, background, and any artifacts. The letters even if enlarged to fill the screen look great.

However, I am more interested in formatted proofread text. My goal is to digitize in this fashion the Century Dictionary (there is a scan already available but as I said I am interested in actual text). I have started with the first volume. I have also found a more recent large dictionary, whose copyright my research shows has not been renewed and lapsed. I am keeping the name of the dictionary to myself for now. It is scanned, OCRed, and now in the process of being proofed.

Possibly, to avoid the whole issue, I may take my results and start working on a derivative work without releasing the public domain version.

I cannot have a huge catalog of works. It's going to be a couple of serious large scale projects. Alternatively, I can branch out into a scan-to-order business. Say, you have a book or materials (grand mother's diary) that is not covered by copyright or copyright belongs to you and you retain me to make a perfect digital copy.

Or again starting a non-profit for old works that have societal value (think the Century Dictionary for the United States).

It is hard to compete when quantity, and not quality, is important. For example, there is a whole industry of litigation scanning companies (typically off-shore). All they need is legible copies on screen for low level associates to stare at all day, they don't worry about niceties.
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Old 05-20-2009, 11:48 AM   #7
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I think it might be difficult to make money the way you are proposing.

My own focus is on books of greater antiquity (generally stuff published and printed before 1900)--books that are either actual rarities or simply lack (good quality) modern reprints.

The fact that my books are not especially large means that I anticipate being able to publish at least 2 books per year. Not a large quantity, but income from multiple books is, I feel, the only way to make any serious money from this sort of endeavour.

The scanning for hire might not work too well because people are likely to be satisfied with lower quality (and therefore cheaper) results than you would painstakingly (and thus presumably more expensively) strive for.
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Old 05-20-2009, 12:06 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ahi View Post
The scanning for hire might not work too well because people are likely to be satisfied with lower quality (and therefore cheaper) results than you would painstakingly (and thus presumably more expensively) strive for.
I could scale the effort/quality to the need and price expectations. Right now without any additional investment, I can make a near perfect scan + nonproofread OCR layer of a 1,000 pages book in about two-three days if I have sufficient motivation. And the original book is kept unharmed in any way. Typically, my Fine Reader 8 gives pretty good OCR results from my scans even without human proofreading.

The time issue comes in in the manual proofreading, which is so important in dictionaries. Plus the dictionaries can have multiple languages and sometimes Ancient Greek! And finally, I read the dictionaries when I proofread them. That's where the fun is for me.

Last edited by kurochka; 05-20-2009 at 12:10 PM.
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Old 05-20-2009, 12:28 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by kurochka View Post
I could scale the effort/quality to the need and price expectations. Right now without any additional investment, I can make a near perfect scan + nonproofread OCR layer of a 1,000 pages book in about two-three days if I have sufficient motivation. And the original book is kept unharmed in any way. Typically, my Fine Reader 8 gives pretty good OCR results from my scans even without human proofreading.

The time issue comes in in the manual proofreading, which is so important in dictionaries. Plus the dictionaries can have multiple languages and sometimes Ancient Greek! And finally, I read the dictionaries when I proofread them. That's where the fun is for me.
I can take that 1,000 page book and create a good-to-high quality facsimile reprint of it (with a single copy printed) for less than $350 dollars in about 2 weeks. Subsequent copies would cost less than $20 even if printed one at a time. (All through a third-party company--none of the work being done by myself.)

With competition like that (even if they do not provide the extra mile services) I think you might be hard pressed to charge enough for your work to really make it worth your while.

You have nothing to lose by trying though. Maybe make a website, put some ads on Google Adwords, market yourself on these forums a bit, and see if any fish bite.
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Old 05-20-2009, 12:46 PM   #10
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You know, we have over 10,000 books like that, right here at MobileRead, for FREE download. Beautiful handcrafted works of art. (Blue bar up top, "ebooks" link)

If you were to make books to sell, it would have to be something that is not already available FREE here. Or less quality but also free at Project Gutenberg, Google, etc.

If you need income to live, this is probably not the way to go. If you want the occasional extra $10 or so, go ahead and offer them for sale. Meanwhile, just keep on enjoying your hobby, but don't quit your day job.
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Old 05-20-2009, 12:49 PM   #11
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To be fair, I should note that the price I quoted is from a company that deals with publishers not individuals with just a single manuscript to scan... but I think it is still relevant, in terms of giving a hint of what sort of prices might be competitive.
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Old 05-22-2009, 04:38 AM   #12
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If you're working on dictionaries, you might consider approaching hardware manufacturers about licensing your books. Jetbook, I've been reading, has not the best dictionaries (weird, considering it's Ectaco.)

If you offer an awesome product, and offer to customize, you might get some bites -- I'm sure there are better things to do for manufacturers than massage dictionaries into shape.

You'd have to undercut the proprietary boys (Random House, Webster, etc.)

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Old 05-24-2009, 11:57 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by kurochka View Post
My concern is that I am dealing with public domain books. You cannot (and should not) claim copyright in them. I do not believe that the contractual restrictions (i.e., before you read you agree to something similar that copyright provides) can stand up to legal scrutiny. Reproductions of public domain works in any shape or form are typically public domain as well.
Not necessarily.

If you put work into "laying out" a public domain work in a non-trivial manner then, at least in the UK, you can claim what's called a "typographical copyright" on that book, even if the text is in the public domain. This lasts for a fixed term of 25 years, from the date of the initial publication of your version.
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Old 06-05-2009, 09:55 AM   #14
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Not necessarily.

If you put work into "laying out" a public domain work in a non-trivial manner then, at least in the UK, you can claim what's called a "typographical copyright" on that book, even if the text is in the public domain. This lasts for a fixed term of 25 years, from the date of the initial publication of your version.
It does not protect our fiend from a "copy, paste, change font and page size" action...

typographical copyright is good for printed work, but electronic?

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Old 06-05-2009, 10:06 AM   #15
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[I don't know if there is a better place to post this post]

My concern is that I am dealing with public domain books. You cannot (and should not) claim copyright in them. I do not believe that the contractual restrictions (i.e., before you read you agree to something similar that copyright provides) can stand up to legal scrutiny. Reproductions of public domain works in any shape or form are typically public domain as well. In addition, I think it is just plain wrong to try to bypass the public "domainness" with such shenanigans.
You could try protecting your public domain books by a license (at least in the US).

See more here: http://books.google.com/books?id=fRY...esult&resnum=4. ("Public Domain" by Stephen Fishman)
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