Book ripping: no violence done to actual books
Project Gutenberg started it. Google does it on a large scale. Maybe your department library should do it on a small scale? What is it? Book ripping.
Fear not, librarians—it’s not what it sounds like! `Ripping’ here means digitizing, in the same sense that one can `rip’ music from audio CDs into MP3s.
Preparing for a recent trip, I found myself in the library photocopying chapters of books that I already own so that I could carry a lightweight version to read on the train. Let’s face it: textbooks are heavy.
With the Amazon Kindle (and to some extent the Eee), e-Books have became an interesting prospect once again. (Simon also recommends the iLiad for academics; for now both are out of my price range.) We already carry around e-prints on our computers, why not books?
The knee jerk answer, of course, is that most people prefer having an actual book hold in their hands. One can jot notes in the margins, highlight, flip easily back and forth between pages, and so forth. However, when you just want to look up a handy calculation or reference a memorable argument, it might be very nice to have a digital copy of one’s books for easy access. This would be an answer to the burden of slogging one’s favourite mathematical methods book when doing a detailed calculation at a cafe… or shuttling copies of Weinberg to and from one’s office when you want to do some bedtime reading at night. 
To this extent, a company called Atiz has developed a `consumer’ book scanner that uses digital cameras to output pdfs (news via Engadget). The company suggests this could be the first step to digitizing books and then processing them with OCR (`optical character recognition’: image to text). From here, one could imagine applying budding text-to-speech technology to convert the text into an mp3 that one can listen to while jogging. 
There are issues, of course, with copyright and distribution. All the same, the Atiz ripper would be a welcome tool at my university [physics] library. (By the way, the heavy-duty industrial book scanners are also quite a spectacle to see in action.)
 Random note: I have a copy of Weinberg’s three volumes for bathroom reading. Is that too `too much information’ for a public blog?
 By the way, try playing with the accents on at&t’s text-to-speech demo.
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