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ScanCafe to raise prices, improve Web interface

The photo digitization service will cost more as of May 10. But using it should be getting easier.

The good news: ScanCafe, a photo digitization service that relies on relatively inexpensive workers in India for the labor-intensive task, said it will soon start beta-testing a process that makes it easier for customers to review scans online.

The bad news: ScanCafe is raising some of its prices on May 10.

CEO Sam Allen announced the move in a message to customers Thursday. "We wanted to get the news to you as soon as we could, in case you had a large scanning project you wanted to get started on," he said. Allen didn't detail which prices will increase, but he did say, "In our continuous review of customer feedback and the market environment, we've come to the realization that a price adjustment is appropriate."

ScanCafe has raised prices before; at present it costs 29 cents to convert each negative, slide, or paper photo into a JPEG. Black-and-white, medium-format, and APS negatives cost more, as do photo album pages and other options. These prices are somewhat misleading, though, because customers may reject up to half of the images scanned without paying for them, so sending ScanCafe 1,000 negatives to scan won't necessarily cost $290.

However, in order to pick which shots you want to keep or reject, you have to use ScanCafe's image review system. I've spent some hours doing so myself, and it's the worst part of the service. It's awkward, outdated by modern Web standards, excruciating slow, and not necessarily that reliable if you're really checking your shots carefully.

Evidently I'm not alone.

"You've told us that it's hard to review images on our site," Allen said in the e-mail. "Well, we listened. Capping months of all-hands development effort, we are nearly ready to beta-test a complete overhaul of the review interface and technology. We believe it will be easier and faster to review images."

The company is looking for testers to comment on the new system.