I have finished university already some years ago, and am now working in the field of my previous studies. I was always very careful, diligent and organized when it came to collecting and archiving my course notes and course text books.

Well, in the current situation, I have all these notes and books stored at my parents' attic. However, quite often at work, I remember some of the content I studied and think "well, that would be quite useful now to know" or "I did a case study at school that was very similar to my current project - what did we do back in the days?". I can even point to the specific book or course, where the topic was covered. However, I cannot look up anything because they are physically stored somewhere in a geographically remote place.

So I have been asking myself repeatedly: "why don't you digitize your course notes, text books, hand-outs, etc.?"

  1. Has anyone of you similar issues? How did you handle it?
  2. Is it even legal to scan full text books for private use? I would store them in my Dropbox and do not intend to share with anyone. Of course, there is always the risk that my account gets hacked and files leaked, but I definitely do not have the intention to share any of these files (also, I do not know how probable this threat scenario is, given that I use two-factor-authentication). It is only and exclusively intended for my private use.
  3. Is it even feasible to scan dozens of books and folders full of notes and print-outs?

I am really curious to hear your opinions!

  • 2
    Is it even legal to scan full text books for private use This is entirely dependent on jurisdiction. Realistically, no one is going to sue you for scanning an out of print textbook for personal use.
    – MJeffryes
    Jan 26 '18 at 9:53
  • 1
    Possible duplicate: academia.stackexchange.com/q/88303/9482
    – Roland
    Jan 26 '18 at 10:01
  • As for 3, how long do you think it will take to do all the books etc? You have not had the time or maybe inclination to go and get them yet..
    – Solar Mike
    Jan 26 '18 at 10:53
  • 1
    A quick web search for "book scanning service" found several firms that will scan and digitise books. I suspect that you will find the cost to be worth the time savings.
    – mhwombat
    Jan 26 '18 at 11:57
  • @CapeCode so you posted the same question as Roland.
    – Solar Mike
    Jan 26 '18 at 12:37
  1. How did you handle it?

With an unstapler, a xerox/scanner with paper feed (and a few after-hours spent listening to my mp3 player and hoping the xerox machine wouldn't clog).

  1. Is it even legal to scan full text books for private use?

This depends on your jurisdiction, but generally speaking it's probably considered fair use. Also, "no plaintiff - no judge". (Lest anyone asks: No, I'm not advocating anything illegal here.)

  1. Is it even feasible to scan dozens of books and folders full of notes and print-outs?

Books will give you a hard time, because they don't fit into the automatic feed. Notes and print-outs do. Have you considered paying someone for doing the manual copying for you (the neighbor's kid, a poor student etc.)? After you have the files, however, only part of the work is done. OCR'ing the files and saving them under intelligible file-names is still something that can be delegated. Digging up the references and ordering the files in some reference management software is the harder part that requires more or your own work or at least oversight.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.