Final update on converting my paper manuals to PDF. Here's how I did it and what I ended up with:
Buy your manuals.
Have your local document services store remove the spine of the book. I went to the FedEx Office (aka Kinko's). This will cost from $10 to $30.
Scan the documents into .pdf. Most modern office copy machines can do this automatically with the normal front/back scanning top loader. In my case, the machine I used was limited to 15 mb files, so I split the documents into their respective sections. I scanned them at 200 dpi, which seemed to have good enough quality to get 99.9% of the details with acceptable file size. This took me about three hours due to the limitations of the machine I used.
Once scanning is complete, take the manuals back to your document service company and have them "drilled" (3 hole punch) if you'd like to store them in binders on your bookshelf. This will cost from $5 to $20.
Download a program that has "OCR" (optical character recognition) functionality. I used this free one and was very pleased: PDF-Xchange Editor
Perform the OCR function and save the files. This process can take several hours of machine time, but only takes seconds of human time to start and let it run in the background.
Let my experience be a lesson. I drilled the documents before scanning and wished I hadn't. I started at 300 dpi on the scans, but the file sizes were pretty large and I found it wasn't necessary. It took longer to scan the documents than I thought it would...might be worth seeing if your document service provider can scan the documents to .pdf for a reasonable price if your time is valuable.
Obviously, this works for ANY paper documentation that might be valuable to have in more than just a pile of paperwork (ie. irreplaceable, frequently used, or fragile documents). I find it to be a huge time saver if I'm looking for something specific because I can search the entire document for a keyword and find where that item is in thousands of pages in a matter of seconds instead of hours. I can also take screen shots or copy/paste text if necessary. It's very handy, and well worth the extra $30 and few hours I invested into it. I sure wish GM/Helm would have provided it electronically from the start!
In the end, the files add up to about 140 mb. As mentioned above, it's about 3,500 pages for these manuals.