Here's something that could have publishers quaking in their books: gadget makers continue to look for ways to do for books what the CD ripper did for music.
Ion Audio, a company known for helping vinyl-record owners digitize their music, says it will trot out sometime this summer a device called the Book Saver, according to a story on Engadget. Ion said the Book Saver is capable of digitizing a 200-page book in 15 minutes. An owner of a Book Saver, which will likely sell for $150, places a book into the scanning cradle and the device makes color copies in seconds, thanks to two cameras hanging above the book.
"Once converted, the books can quickly be transferred to a computer or e-reader," Ion said on its Web site. "Book Saver is the only device needed to quickly make all your books, comics, magazines, or other documents e-reader compatible."
What the company doesn't mention is that devices such as Book Saver will make it even easier for people to share books online. Ask anyone at the major labels about the rise of file sharing and they typically blame the Internet as well as the inclusion of CD rippers in computers. Ripping music and loading it on to digital music players was a cinch after that.
And like CD rippers, Ion says Book Saver is perfectly legal. The courts have ruled that it's legal for people to make copies of their media for personal use.
Book publishing has wrestled with piracy for years, but one of the reasons the sector hasn't been hit as hard by illegal file sharing as much as the music or film industries is that there isn't an easy way to digitize books. Scanning them is typically labor intensive.
And Book Saver suffers from the same problem. The scanning process on the device, while not as time consuming as the old way, is still nowhere as easy to use as a CD ripper. According to Engadget, there's no automated way to turn pages and an owner needs to lift the device to turn every page.
Book publishers should know that eventually someone or some company, maybe even Ion, will streamline the process.
Correction at 2 p.m. PT: This story incorrectly stated the kind of technology used to extract data from CDs and transfer them onto hard drives. The correct term is ripper.