Could you break Harry Potter’s spine?

15 May

Wizard of Oz - Dorothy and Apple Tree

Would you destroy your physical book to get an ebook in return?

The other day, I was going on about the triumph of the digital form and how we should all give up or paper.  And then I got an e-mail about 1dollarscanAnd it seemed like the universe going, “Yeah, how do you like them apples?”

1dollarscan is a tech company out of Japan that does just what its name implies – scans and digitizes text, at a rate of $1 per 100 pages.  You send them your books and they scan them and turn them into ebooks, optimized for viewing on the device of your choice.  Sounds pretty great, right? 

Lassie and Timmy

But there’s a catch.  They cut the spines and destroy the books in the digitization process.  So, all your books, all those friends that you’ve carried with you for so long, go off to some great book graveyard.  Sure, you get their essence back, but your beloved books have been sacrificed in the digitization process.  Your books have ascended to a new level, but they come back to you without so many of the things that make them… them.  They don’t have a smell or a texture, they don’t have their crooked spines, broken after so many hours of reading.  And there’s no plausible deniability about the fact that they’ve been destroyed – you can’t tell yourself that they’ve gone off to live with some nice family on a farm.

I want to love 1dollarscan.  Their service is great.  Their price point is amazing.  But there are externalities that I just can’t rationalize.  Sending them my books… I’d feel like I was one of the fireman in Fahrenheit 451.  Like I was the one throwing the match on the bonfire of the vanities.

Destroying books, even if their text is preserved – it seems wrong.  Books are more than just the sum of their pages – but their pages matter, too.

Rainbow Books China CabinetIf I could convince myself that my books were going to that malt shop in the sky or the restaurant at the end of the universe, I’d send them to 1dollarscan in an instant.  And, then I’d have a china cabinet with room to store actual dishes, rather than one full of the books that don’t fit on my bookshelves.  But as it is, since I know that all books don’t go to heaven, I’ll be keeping them with me, schlepping with me wherever I roam.

Questions of the day: Would you send you books to 1dollarscan?  Does the idea of the spines being cut horrify you, as it does me?  Or do you think that I may personifying my books just a little too much?

MaggieCakes is a blog about social media, marketing, culture, and what’s new on the internet written by me, Maggie O’Toole.  It’s been on a bit of a hiatus while I’ve been working on my MBA, but school’s out for the summer and the blog’s back on. Find anything interesting in the worlds of tech, culture, or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at

One Response to “Could you break Harry Potter’s spine?”

  1. georgettesullins May 16, 2012 at 8:27 am #

    It sounds attractive to me as we downsize. But how could I remember what books I had? I would want a thumbnail icon to at least remember what I had. And I would make many overlapping categories so as I peruse…I could stumble upon the book that may have answers. Sometimes, you don’t know exactly which book you are looking for, but you know it when you grab it, open it up, check the Table of Contents, publishing date, or index. I don’t think just an alpha list would suffice.
    Love your photograph.

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