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If you’re an author previously published in print, especially a novelist predating the e-book era, one of the biggest hurdles (after getting back your publishing rights!) may well be figuring out how to get your prior books into e-book format. Unless you have your original manuscripts readily at hand and they are primed for conversion, or you really enjoy typing, it’s far more practical to have your print books OCR-scanned.

OCR stands for “optical character recognition” and it will save you hassle if you have your pre-printed books professionally scanned. Yes, it costs money. Yes, I know most scanners nowadays boast some OCR capability. If you don’t mind flipping and scanning pages one by one, and slapping/smooshing your poor books down on a platen a thousand times, be my guest.

Darby and I decided to pass on the do-it-yourself option, and hire out that kind of tedium.

Blue Leaf Book Scanning was the company Darby and I used after reading some other author reviews. We decided to give them a test run by sending one novel each and evaluating the results.

I’m pleased to report Blue Leaf exceeded my expectations. I didn’t pay extra to have the machine cleaned before scanning my book, or for any other frills they offer. I just got the basic destructive scan, which gave me a formatted Word doc, a plain Word doc, and a pdf. They offer additional services now like direct Kindle formatting, but I like to have hands-on at every stage. I knew I would be doing more editing before e-publishing anyway.

To be fair and to have a valid comparison, I have a scanner that claims it does OCR, so I did my novella that way. Blue Leaf will not scan partial books anyway. Well, let me tell you, I might as well retype the novella for all the errors from the home-job OCR. Personal scanners/software just aren’t anywhere near the accuracy level of commercial products.

After seeing the OCR results from our first books with Blue Leaf, and then my dismal home OCR attempt on the novella, Darby and I felt comfortable enough to send Blue Leaf the rest of our books. All our results were good. Two thumbs up.

Of course, even commercial scans aren’t 100 percent perfect. Certain characters or words seem more problematic than others.  The hiccups tend to vary by book, but that is not unexpected, since even the same publishers use slightly larger/smaller or lighter/darker fonts in different books.

The results were satisfactory enough that I recommended Blue Leaf to several other author friends, who then also used them. (Hmm, surely I’m owed some kind of kickback for that!)

There was only one “hurdle,” which no longer seems to exist. Blue Leaf’s FAQ used to say they would not scan “trashy romance novels.” I puzzled and fretted over that one for a bit before I sent them anything. What was their definition of “trashy?” Were they labeling all romances as “trash,” or were they just judging books by their covers? Didn’t they know most authors had no say in covers with traditional publishers?

I decided to minimize risk by removing all my covers and just sending the guts of the books. They were processed without a hitch, so I guess that worked, or maybe there was never a real issue to begin with.

Interestingly enough, their FAQ no longer says anything about romance novels. I suspect they’ve noticed by now who is buttering the lion’s share of their bread.

If you decide to try Blue Leaf, take time to read through their FAQ, though, as there is important info there and also a code for a discount on their services.