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Old 01-08-2017, 02:39 PM   #286
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First off, you grossly underestimate the time and effort to produce a professional quality ebook. It's not just a case of scan, it's also a case of editing the result to catch all the scan errors and formatting.
Got some numbers? I've only done one from scratch book for myself and suspect I spent more attention to detail than many (in that I went page by page through the original after also doing a spelling and editing pass) and it took about 17 hours. So I'd be curious about the time it takes a professional conversion service with a set workflow, and likely better equipment, when compared to someone doing it their first time on the fly.
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Old 01-08-2017, 07:29 PM   #287
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It also doesn't need to be perfect. Just run the scan through spellcheck to get most of the errors and a quick read of the output to catch most of the rest. Sell it fairly cheaply and without DRM and if there are any remaining problems the purchaser can fix it if they want. You can always release an updated version later for re-downloading if the sales warrant it. A not perfect version is better than nothing at least for me.
We have seen the responses here to poorly edited scanned ebooks. It has to be pretty close to perfect if you want to avoid the 1 star, piece of trash reviews on Amazon.

Now, of course, different people have different levels of toleration for errors. But, in general, if you are going to sell it, you have to play to the lowest toleration, not the highest.
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Old 01-08-2017, 07:57 PM   #288
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Got some numbers? I've only done one from scratch book for myself and suspect I spent more attention to detail than many (in that I went page by page through the original after also doing a spelling and editing pass) and it took about 17 hours. So I'd be curious about the time it takes a professional conversion service with a set workflow, and likely better equipment, when compared to someone doing it their first time on the fly.
It depends on the work being scanned (size, illustrations and quality of print), your toleration for error and how picky you are with regards to formatting. Do you expect just text, or all the special formatting from the original. Bare bones scanning that one might get from India, or via a pirate site is pretty quick.

Something that is a close approximation of the original printed book, with all the illustrations in the right place, etc. can take a lot longer. Some books use different fonts for different purposes (example, some authors like to use italics for things like telepathic communication verse normal speech). Many books will use a special font for the first letter of a chapter. Add in the correct spacing between paragraphs and chapters.

Plus, you have to consider what kind of shape the original is in. An old paperback that is 40 or 50 years old? Add in the issue with SF&F of having a lot of words that don't appear in a normal dictionary. I think you can see how the various complications can add up.

Heck, even a simple conversion from az3 to epub in Calibre can lose a lot of formatting in some ebooks that I have.
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Old 01-08-2017, 08:30 PM   #289
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To give an analogy, it's a bit like photography. My sister does commercial photography for real estate. She's lucky to get in 5 or 6 shoots a week. Yea, you and I could walk around with our cell phones and be done in 15 minutes. Yea, she could walk around and take a series of shots in the space of an hour or two. However, for commercial quality photos, she has to set up the lighting, use special lens and clean the photo up in order to make the photos attractive for potential buyers on the web. Most professional photographers are lucky to get 2 or 3 quality shots per 100 pictures, it can actually be a lot lower ratio than that depending on the subject.

A professional quality ebook isn't just scanning it and running it through the spell checker. That's certainly good enough for most PD books, but not if you expect to make money off of it.

To answer an earlier question, I would be quite surprised if more than half of Asimov's backlist would break the 1000 sales mark. Remember, he wrote more than 500 books and most of his most famous books/short stories are already out.
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Old 01-08-2017, 08:47 PM   #290
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It depends on the work being scanned (size, illustrations and quality of print), your toleration for error and how picky you are with regards to formatting. Do you expect just text, or all the special formatting from the original. Bare bones scanning that one might get from India, or via a pirate site is pretty quick.

Something that is a close approximation of the original printed book, with all the illustrations in the right place, etc. can take a lot longer. Some books use different fonts for different purposes (example, some authors like to use italics for things like telepathic communication verse normal speech). Many books will use a special font for the first letter of a chapter. Add in the correct spacing between paragraphs and chapters.

Plus, you have to consider what kind of shape the original is in. An old paperback that is 40 or 50 years old? Add in the issue with SF&F of having a lot of words that don't appear in a normal dictionary. I think you can see how the various complications can add up.

Heck, even a simple conversion from az3 to epub in Calibre can lose a lot of formatting in some ebooks that I have.
You're taking special cases and treating them as if they are true for the vast majority of books. For example, are Asimov's Black Widowers books chock full of illustrations? Are the use of drop caps going to make or break sales of the book? Italics and special words can be handled by a proof-reading of the text.

The proof of this is in the indie/self-published back list books from yesteryear. They usually sell for under five bucks and they aren't littered with one star reviews.

And, again, my friend that works on novelizations relies on mass market paperbacks that are thirty to forty years old. He picks them up at used bookshops, so these aren't pristine collectables he's scanning. He still manages to put out books that could be sold as retail if it weren't for the complicated licensing issues.

Putting out an e-book shouldn't be a shoddy thing. But it isn't the minefield you are describing either.
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Old 01-08-2017, 09:26 PM   #291
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It depends on the work being scanned (size, illustrations and quality of print), your toleration for error and how picky you are with regards to formatting. Do you expect just text, or all the special formatting from the original. Bare bones scanning that one might get from India, or via a pirate site is pretty quick.

Something that is a close approximation of the original printed book, with all the illustrations in the right place, etc. can take a lot longer. Some books use different fonts for different purposes (example, some authors like to use italics for things like telepathic communication verse normal speech). Many books will use a special font for the first letter of a chapter. Add in the correct spacing between paragraphs and chapters.

Plus, you have to consider what kind of shape the original is in. An old paperback that is 40 or 50 years old? Add in the issue with SF&F of having a lot of words that don't appear in a normal dictionary. I think you can see how the various complications can add up.

Heck, even a simple conversion from az3 to epub in Calibre can lose a lot of formatting in some ebooks that I have.
So in other words you're saying you don't know. Since you told nabsltd that they grossly underestimated the time it takes to produce a professional quality eBook I thought maybe you had some actual numbers and/or experience.

The time example I gave was for a book scanned from a crappy 1950's mass market paperback which as I said got a lot more editing care than I'm sure most do (as I said, going page by page and proofing against the original). Novels aren't something that generally require tons of illustrations or special formatting, although I'm well aware of what kind of formatting can be involved as I've been producing print books. magazines, etc. for over 20 years.
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Old 01-09-2017, 07:09 AM   #292
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I have a friend that works in digital publishing and as a hobby scans old movie novelizations that would otherwise never be released.

Because of the nature of those books, all he has to work with is an old mass market paperback and ABBYY FineReader. Yet he turns out very fine, professional grade scans.

Plus there's all the small-press and self-published reissues of books from the sixties, seventies and eighties, where there definitely weren't electronic manuscripts, possibly no manuscript at all.

Creating a good, quality e-book isn't the Herculean effort you make it out to be.
How long does it take him, say for a 300 page paperback?

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Old 01-09-2017, 09:20 AM   #293
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So in other words you're saying you don't know. Since you told nabsltd that they grossly underestimated the time it takes to produce a professional quality eBook I thought maybe you had some actual numbers and/or experience.

The time example I gave was for a book scanned from a crappy 1950's mass market paperback which as I said got a lot more editing care than I'm sure most do (as I said, going page by page and proofing against the original). Novels aren't something that generally require tons of illustrations or special formatting, although I'm well aware of what kind of formatting can be involved as I've been producing print books. magazines, etc. for over 20 years.
No, I'm saying that the cost depends. How much should it cost to paint my house? Unless you know a fair bit about my house and what I was looking for, you can't answer that with any accuracy and if you tried to give me a set figure without that information, I sure as heck am not going to hire you.

Great, you have a scan where you are happy with the results. Would I be happy with the results? I wouldn't know unless I actually look at them. Would some of the super picky types here be happy with the results? Same answer.

If you can scan a book, edit the results and produce an ebook that matches the formatting of the original in 17 hours, all I can say is good for you. No idea how many pages that is, but even for something like Zelazny's Jack of Shadows (142 pages) that's roughly 10 pages an hour.

It takes me a lot longer, but then again, I don't destroy the book to scan it (a lot of people will cut the pages out of the binding to be able to feed it into a fast scanner, I use a camera rig that doesn't damage the book) and I'm not a professional editor.

I find that odd formatting is the rule rather than the exception in books that I'm interested in scanning. The last book I scanned used a two column format. That took a long time to get right. Old paperbacks where the ink has blurred a bit and the paper has turned brown due to the paper used and age tend to have more scan errors that hardback books. I also find that the books I'm interested in scanning tend to be rather longer than the old 200 page pulp novels.

Do you scan 500+ ebooks a year? That's what we are actually talking about. A commercial ebook scanner that scans and edits ebooks day in and day out, not someone who does it on an occasional basis for fun. There are a number of people on this board who scan and edit books for fun. Perhaps some will chime in and say how long it takes them. I'm probably one of the slower workers here. I might be able to scan 10 pages in a hour and generate decent text, but it won't be formatted or proofed.

One of the reasons that I used the photography comparison is that it also is one of those hobbies where there are a lot of amateurs who enjoy doing it, and where some don't understand the time difference between doing it as a profession verses doing it as a hobby.
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Old 01-09-2017, 10:43 AM   #294
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How long does it take him, say for a 300 page paperback?
I'll email him and ask him how much time he puts into the average book. From what I remember, what takes the longest is just the actual scanning of the pages.
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Old 01-09-2017, 11:46 PM   #295
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No, I'm saying that the cost depends. How much should it cost to paint my house? Unless you know a fair bit about my house and what I was looking for, you can't answer that with any accuracy and if you tried to give me a set figure without that information, I sure as heck am not going to hire you.
We were talking about some Azimov books which are pretty standard linear fiction and aren't overly long, not every possible type of book under the sun.

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Great, you have a scan where you are happy with the results. Would I be happy with the results? I wouldn't know unless I actually look at them. Would some of the super picky types here be happy with the results? Same answer.
And I could care less if it's up to you or anyone else's standards since I'm not selling it, but I'm picky enough to be someone who's complained to publishers and hounded them to fix things in the past and as someone who formats print media for a living if I'm not picky then there's trouble. I only mentioned my project to bring some actual numbers into the discussion (of a project I though of as similar in size & type to some Azimov pulp) and ask where you got your knowledge that nabsltd was so grossly wrong.

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I also find that the books I'm interested in scanning tend to be rather longer than the old 200 page pulp novels.
Which is fine, but isn't the old pulp the type of book were were specifically talking about here?

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Do you scan 500+ ebooks a year? That's what we are actually talking about. A commercial ebook scanner that scans and edits ebooks day in and day out, not someone who does it on an occasional basis for fun.
No, because I work on the print side of things. Doesn't mean I don't know basic workflows and techniques for the other side of things. A commercial ebook scanner should be better and have a workflow developed over time that makes them more efficient than a hobbiest. Kind of like when I build a website. I know what to do, but don't do it every day so I'll have issues someone currently in the field wouldn't that will cause it to take me longer and be less efficient at it.



When you said that he had grossly underestimated the time and effort to produce a professional quality ebook it just sound authoritative to me so I thought you had more info that I could learn from. I'm somewhat interested in the industry and only asked because I thought I might learn something more.
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Old 01-10-2017, 10:33 PM   #296
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First off, you grossly underestimate the time and effort to produce a professional quality ebook. It's not just a case of scan, it's also a case of editing the result to catch all the scan errors and formatting.
Did you miss the part where I said I've already done this for crappy scans found on the Internet, and really doesn't take very long? If I get to start with a good scan that I have created, and train the OCR, you end up with very few errors, and it's quite fast, because the OCR only stops to ask you the first time it hits a letter (or letter grouping) it doesn't understand.

Basic formatting is then pretty easy, with a little programming that understands about dialog (quote at the end of a line usually ends a paragraph) and understand that the text is justified. This allows you to catch many paragraphs, and if you add the HTML wrapping (<p>) and temporarily format so that there is extra space between paragraphs, you get a good visual separator to help find the rest of the paragraphs.

You solve italics by cheating on the OCR training, and adding having it identify something like " Q" as " <em>Q".

I have done complete re-formats on enough eBooks (both professional source and the results of OCR) that I know I can do it in about 2 hours per book. If I have the original hardcover as a reference, when I do this kind of reformat, the final product is identical (with the exception of headers and footers, which I of course omit for the eBook), with the correct fonts, correct ratios of white space to page size for chapter start, scene breaks, etc. Ornaments on scene breaks are as original, unless they were only used for breaks that are widows/orphans. Chapter numbers/names and ornaments are correct. And yeah, this really only takes me about two hours per book.

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Second, what ever makes you think that publishers keep an electric copy of every book they have published since 1995?
I said "have access to", in that they can ask the author, who very likely has an electronic copy. In addition, an electronic copy is created by the publisher to feed to the computerized typesetter that prints the book. Until the publisher loses rights, they (or the typesetting provider, if a different company) will have that electronic version.

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In the U.S. at least, all of his major books have been released. The missing Asimov books are typically ones that are long OOP even in the paper world.
Again, that works out to 26 out of 49 of his fiction books, for 42%. Compare that to Harry Harrison with 42 out of 59 (71%), or Jack Higgins at 79% (61 of 77). Both of those are in about the same "out of print" state as Asimov.

For Asimov, I'm not counting the "hundreds" of books he "wrote" (even though I've read most of them). Remember that many of that count were just anthologies where he wrote glue for other authors, and the largest group was his collections of science essays. I don't expect to see any of those anytime soon, but the fiction novels and story collections should almost all be available.

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It takes me a lot longer, but then again, I don't destroy the book to scan it (a lot of people will cut the pages out of the binding to be able to feed it into a fast scanner, I use a camera rig that doesn't damage the book) and I'm not a professional editor.
Buy a cheap paperback and destroy it. It will give you a far better scan because the pages will be perfectly flat and aligned. Even using a flatbed scanner (which would take about the same amount of time per page as your rig), you'd still save the time in less OCR fixes. In particular, you'd be able to trivially crop the scan to get only the text and not headers/footers.

If you collect each chapter together, you don't even care about scanning the chapter name/number...just add that manually. But, I'd wait till later, and with each chapter saved as something like "01.html", and then run a script to add chapter numbers just after the "<body>" tag.
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Old 01-11-2017, 08:38 AM   #297
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Hum. Let me give an example. Back before there were all the ebook stores around, there were only a couple of publishers who did ebooks. Thus, if you wanted to read books on your computer, the only real choice was the fan scanned copies that were passed around on the various usenet mailing list. I still have a couple of hundred sitting around from that time period. Naturally, most of the books were either big name authors or authors who were popular at the time. Most fan scanned books had multiple revisions. Basically, several people would scan the book and put it up. Then someone else would take the scan and make corrections. Someone else would take that and make corrections and so on. Over time, some of the books were pretty well edited, at least as far as scanning errors and the such go.

Most of Roger Zelazny's books were available that way and I still have them. I also have all the Zelazny books that are currently available through the various ebook stores. One of those books is Jack of Shadows, one of my favorites. I also have an old paper version of the book.

When I compare the fan generated Jack of Shadows with the professionally done version that I got via Amazon, there is a big difference. As I said, the fan version doesn't have any noticeable typos and the words are all there, but the formatting is off. It's just not as aesthetically pleasing as the Amazon version. Looking at the paper version, it's not all that aesthetically pleasing either. There isn't nearly enough white space. I assume they were trying to save paper. So certainly, one could say that the fan scanned ebook is as good as the original paper, but it doesn't really hold up to the aesthetics of the professionally produced version.

It's a bit like producing a really well done web page. Anyone can put together a competent web page in a few hours, but a real quality web page that draws attention takes days of work with a lot of fiddling around. There very much is an art to it.

That is what I'm talking about. Yes, you can generate a reasonable ebook in short period of time these days (the OCR software is much, much better than even 5 years ago), but generating what I consider a professional quality ebook takes a bit more work. Certainly having something available in ebook is better than hot having it, but I can tell a big difference between the ebooks that were generated as quickly and cheaply as possible, with the ones were the time was taken to make them as aesthetically pleasing as possible. It's a bit like the difference between a pulp paperback and a really well done hardback.

Some people don't care about that sort of thing. All I can say is that the reason I have a lot of hard back books isn't just because of the ability to get it early, it's also that for me, a well done hardback is more enjoyable to read, and not just because the font size of the text is bigger.
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Old 01-11-2017, 09:13 AM   #298
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Hum. Let me give an example. Back before there were all the ebook stores around, there were only a couple of publishers who did ebooks. Thus, if you wanted to read books on your computer, the only real choice was the fan scanned copies that were passed around on the various usenet mailing list. I still have a couple of hundred sitting around from that time period. Naturally, most of the books were either big name authors or authors who were popular at the time. Most fan scanned books had multiple revisions. Basically, several people would scan the book and put it up. Then someone else would take the scan and make corrections. Someone else would take that and make corrections and so on. Over time, some of the books were pretty well edited, at least as far as scanning errors and the such go.

Most of Roger Zelazny's books were available that way and I still have them. I also have all the Zelazny books that are currently available through the various ebook stores. One of those books is Jack of Shadows, one of my favorites. I also have an old paper version of the book.

When I compare the fan generated Jack of Shadows with the professionally done version that I got via Amazon, there is a big difference. As I said, the fan version doesn't have any noticeable typos and the words are all there, but the formatting is off. It's just not as aesthetically pleasing as the Amazon version. Looking at the paper version, it's not all that aesthetically pleasing either. There isn't nearly enough white space. I assume they were trying to save paper. So certainly, one could say that the fan scanned ebook is as good as the original paper, but it doesn't really hold up to the aesthetics of the professionally produced version.

It's a bit like producing a really well done web page. Anyone can put together a competent web page in a few hours, but a real quality web page that draws attention takes days of work with a lot of fiddling around. There very much is an art to it.

That is what I'm talking about. Yes, you can generate a reasonable ebook in short period of time these days (the OCR software is much, much better than even 5 years ago), but generating what I consider a professional quality ebook takes a bit more work. Certainly having something available in ebook is better than hot having it, but I can tell a big difference between the ebooks that were generated as quickly and cheaply as possible, with the ones were the time was taken to make them as aesthetically pleasing as possible. It's a bit like the difference between a pulp paperback and a really well done hardback.

Some people don't care about that sort of thing. All I can say is that the reason I have a lot of hard back books isn't just because of the ability to get it early, it's also that for me, a well done hardback is more enjoyable to read, and not just because the font size of the text is bigger.
Ok, so that's your rationale. For me, all I really care about is the words. Then again, I'm one who always would have rather read the paperback than the hard cover...mostly because I could fit it into my purse or my pocket. Portability has *always* been more important than how pretty it looks, to me. Of course, these days it actually causes *pain* to hold a hardcover book for too long, but that wasn't as much of a consideration back in the day.

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Old 01-11-2017, 10:28 AM   #299
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It also doesn't need to be perfect. Just run the scan through spellcheck to get most of the errors and a quick read of the output to catch most of the rest. Sell it fairly cheaply and without DRM and if there are any remaining problems the purchaser can fix it if they want. You can always release an updated version later for re-downloading if the sales warrant it. A not perfect version is better than nothing at least for me.
LOL, no.

Release it as close to perfect as possible, or don't release it at all.
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Old 01-11-2017, 10:56 AM   #300
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LOL, no.

Release it as close to perfect as possible, or don't release it at all.
+1....
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