Hands on with BitLit, a service to convert your print library to ebooks

Credit: Source: BitLit

Last October I wrote a post about Amazon's MatchBook program. MatchBook is a way to get cheap Kindle copies of print books you've purchased through Amazon. It's one of those services that is pretty interesting for the right people. I've purchased a LOT of books from Amazon through the years and only found 20 MatchBook offers. Some of my friends had even fewer results.

And of course there's the problem of all those print books we bought from other sources. How do we get ebook copies of those?

Well, thanks to TechCrunch for bringing BitLit to my attention. BitLit is trying to offer the same kind of service as MatchBook but without the condition of having purchased your print books from Amazon.

To use BitLit, you download an app for your iOS or Android device, and use it to take a photo of the cover of the book you want to 'convert.' Assuming the app finds your book in BitLit's system, you then have to write your name on the copyright page of the book, and take a second photo. That 'registers' the book to you (and prevents you from letting your friends get e-copies of your library of print books). Once you do that, you can purchase the ebook.

I decided to give BitLit a try and had mixed results. To be clear the apps are marked as beta and although TechCrunch points out the company has deals with 80 publishers, most of them are smaller presses that I, at least, am not familiar with.

My first problem was trying to use the app on my 2013 Nexus 7 tablet; whenever I tried to scan a book cover the app crashed. It ran much better on my aging Galaxy Nexus phone. Again, the app is tagged as being in beta and I'm sure that crash can be fixed in no time (I did report it), so I'm not too concerned with that issue.

A bigger issue was finding a book that was covered by BitLit's service. I tried half a dozen with no joy. Finally I grabbed an old copy of O'Reilly's Programming C# 2nd Edition and BitLit found it. Step 1 complete!

Step 2 is to write my name on the copyright page and take a photo of it. This turned out to be harder than it sounds. I put a hard crease in the page so that it would lay somewhat flat, and weighed down a corner to hold it open so I could take the shot (having a helper would've been handy) but it still took me 5 or 6 tries to get the app to acknowledge my 'registration.' Eventually it worked and I was offered the chance to buy the eBook for $4.99.

At that point I bailed on the test since I didn't really need an ebook copy of a C# book originally written in 2001. According to the site you'll get an ebook file that you can read on Kobo, Nook, Kindle, or iPad.

Now, in the name of full disclosure, I was a pretty early ebook adopter so none of the books I was trying to convert were particularly new. A copy of Stephen King's 2008 novel Just After Sunset that my brother gave me was probably the newest.

You might have better luck finding your books in BitLit. The good news is that it doesn't cost you anything to try it; the only cost is the actual purchase of the ebook editions. You can search the old fashioned way on the BitLit website; that's much easier than taking photos of all your book covers. Once you find one that is covered by the service, then you can pull out your smartphone and start taking pictures.

TechCrunch says the company just secured a round of funding. I'm hoping that lets them expand the program to more publishers and increase their library of titles. I still have a ton of books I'd love to somehow convert to electronic versions!

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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