Yep. Hire a neighborhood teenage kid to sit there and load the discs. He could use the dough and for a couple hundred bucks, you'll not have to endure the drudgery that awaits you...
There are plenty of ripping service companies out there that will take your entire collection and rip them to hard drive storage. You should start by Googling "CD ripping service." The tricky part is getting the data about each CD to match up with the music files so you can do easy searching, create play lists, etc. This can get quite complicated, particularly with respect to classical music (e.g., the many variations of spelling "Tchaikowsky"), CDs that are compilations, or CDs that are not identified in the ripping process.
Ripping services vary in how good they are at doing manual corrections and searching for associated data for CDs that are not in certain databases.
When doing a search for a company, look for ones that specialize in the kind of music that is the bulk of your collection. For example, the company Ready To Play specializes in ripping classical CDs.
Other factors to study up on include the kind of server you are buying/building and the type of file you plan to rip the CDs to (e.g., FLAC, WAV, MP3). Most companies will only rip to certain kinds of files.
A few turnkey server manufacturers offer (for a price), a service for ripping your collection (Olive, for example).
Even using an outside service is a bit of a hassle. Typically, they will send you all the packing material and detailed instructions on how to package your CDs for sending out to the ripping service. Typically, this involves removing all your CDs from jewel cases and putting them on a spindle or in some other kind of compact means of packing up your collection. When returned, you will still have the task of putting all your CDs back in their original packaging. I don't know of ripping services that would take CDs in their original packaging.
If you want to get an idea about how flexible, and elaborate the use of data about your collection can be, look at the manuals that are available on line for servers such as the Sooloos.
Anyway, start by looking at what is described on the internet. That is what I did, and I've come to the sad conclusion that I have to do the ripping myself. The server I am getting rips to WAV files (optimal quality) and most companies do not support WAV. Much of my collection is classical, so I am expecting to have to do a lot of manual data entry and correction.
I hear this same question all the time and have trouble seeing the hangup. I dont have a server so maybe theres more to it than I know. But my plan would be to setup the server; and then when I want to listen to a CD, fetch it from the rack (just as I have for years) but instead of putting it in a CDP, I would be putting it in the server - for the last time. I dont know, maybe we dont want to be reminded of how many CDs weve purchased but dont listen to.
I have used Terra-San http://www.terra-san.com to rip many batches of CDs, totalling a few thousand . . . and have always been satisfied. They have no problem with you simply sending all the CDs in their jewel cases, and can even send you the packaging ahead of time, so you can have perfectly-sized boxes for shipping and storage. They send the data back on a USB hard-drive, in your choice of format(s), and compile a nice bound book of a listing of your collection for reference.
For classical titles, I still do my own collection myself, simply because I'm very picky about having consistency between the naming conventions in title, composer, and track names (especially tough for post-1900 works). I spoke with Terra-San a couple of years ago regarding this and they do offer a hand-editing service whereby they'll do all of this to my specifications . . . but the price was a bit too steep for my wallet.
Thanks to you Kirkus, I am interested in the terra-san ripping service, though I have to ask them a number of questions. Because they do not list my server (Naim NDS) on their request form, I don't know if their metadata is compatible with my machine. They do rip to WAV (something I want and few services support) and they do allow one to send CDs in their jewel cases, though they do say that one must expect some damage to the cases if sent that way (that is probably inevitable, no matter how one packs the CDs); not all ripping services provide either options. Their price seems high if one goes for premium ripping, but, if they can do all that I want, I would gladly pay their rates.
Larryi, you might give them a call to discuss the specifics of what you're after . . . I know that they've tailored some of the specific tagging conventions to work with particular servers, but WAVs present some unique metadata challanges with any system.
Oh and yes, they do send them back when they're done!