E-book: Scan a manuscript the Smart way

By: R.G. Johnston

Families are replete with writers. If you inherit a paper manuscript, you should think about digitizing it and formatting it as an e-book. The manuscript is doing no one any good sitting in a binder, or in a box.

Typewritten and dot matrix manuscripts can also be digitized. With a little extra work, you can publish them as e-books. Even a handwritten manuscript can be transcribed into a computer file and e-published.

All-in-one printers and software can scan your pages and convert it to an editable Microsoft Word® document.

I like Epson’s line of products. My current Epson® printer is the WorkForce 3640. It has a top feeder and it duplexes. Whichever printer brand, you use make sure that it’s user-friendly. Current printers on the market should scan at a high enough resolution that software will be able to convert it.

I scan the pages with Abbyy FineReader® 9.0 Sprint; it came bundled with my printer purchase. Optical Character Recognition software (OCR) allows you to scan a document and convert it to a Microsoft Word® version, so that it can be reviewed and typeset. Remember that scanners scan text as an image. In order to edit it in Microsoft Word, you need to process it through OCR software.

The software prompts and guides you through scanning each sheet of paper, recognizing it and saving it as a Microsoft Word document. Depending on the original’s quality, you might have to play around with the brightness and contrast on your printer.

Once you format the document in Microsoft Word, you’ll need to check the manuscript; OCR software will sometimes mistake a character, for another one that looks similar (i.e.: “VV” for a “W”). Paper quality, font sharpness and the ink impression will affect how much time you’ll need to spend reviewing the document file.

For longer manuscripts, I recommend that you break up the work by chapters.

I showed you how to quickly convert your paragraphs into a digital format, using e-book paragraph styles.

When you compile the scanned pages in a digital file, use the normal paragraph style. You can easily modify the normal paragraph style to be compatible with viewing on an e-book reader.

The manuscript should be professionally edited. A romance—written in the 60’s—will most likely have to be updated to contemporary values; even if the setting of the book remains in the sixties. If a mystery’s language and style is reminiscent of the time that it was written (the 1950s or sixties), it could be marketed as a period piece with the phraseology intact.

If the manuscript was professionally edited, decide whether the writing style translates to a contemporary audience. A great question to ask yourself,  does dialogue and narration hold the same appeal, as Casablanca and Some like it Hot holds today?

Converting a print manuscript into an e-book is an act of preservation. Not only are you preserving the thoughts and expression of the writer, but you’re contributing to the written record.

Make a deceased relative’s publishing dream come true in an age where technology makes it possible.


More DIY e-book Reading

Optimizing Microsoft Word 2013® to E-publish: Create E-book Paragraph Styles

Insert an E-book Table of Contents with Bookmarks

Get an ISBN for your books and E-books (in Canada)

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