How to Reprint Antique Books

Whether you simply want to share a great, older book with people, or you’re looking for material to sell or give away in order to promote your business, antique books are a treasure trove. U.S. law generally protects an author’s work for the life of the author, plus 70 years. Once that amount of time has passed, the work becomes “public domain,” meaning any person can use it, free of charge. There are a number of ways to reprint antique books, but the simplest and most common is by reprinting it as an ebook.

Step 1

Research the book to make sure it’s in the public domain. Any titles that can truly be called “antique” (books printed before 1925) are public domain and may be reprinted without any special permission or fees. There is no need to ask permission of or pay the author (or her family) or the original publisher.

Step 2

Conduct an internet search to see if the title is already widely available, and at what cost. If the book is already available all over the internet for free, or if other publishers offer it at a small cost, it’s probably not worth reprinting. However, if it can’t be had for free, or other publishers sell it at traditional book prices, there may be a market for an inexpensive ebook version.

Step 3

Scan every page of the book. There is no fast way to do this. Each page must be carefully scanned using OCR (optical character recognition) software, which nearly every modern scanner is equipped with.

Step 4

Import every page into a word processing program, following the directions that come with your OCR program.

Step 5

Edit the OCR text. Although OCR is generally a better solution than re-typing the entire book, the software will make mistakes, especially where the print of the original book has faded, or where typefaces are elaborate.

Step 6

Design the book, creating attractive chapter headings, a title page, and other front and back matter, using the word processing software.

Step 7

Scan the original book cover, or design a new one, and make it the first page of your electronic document.

Step 8

Add a copyright page, which prevents others from reprinting the book exactly as you’ve designed it and laid it out.

Step 9

Convert the word processing document to a .PDF file, using one of the many popular software applications for this purpose, such as Adobe or .PDF 995.


Books published after 1925 may sometimes be in public domain. To determine whether or not they are, you’ll need to contact the U.S. Copyright Office and pay to have them search the background of the work.

Things You'll Need

  • Antique book
  • Scanner
  • Computer with word processing software
  • PDF file creation software
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