What's the easiest way to digitize magazines?
May 23, 2009 7:09 PM   Subscribe

What's the best/fastest/easiest way to digitize magazines?

I've got a slew of Family Handyman magazines (among others) that I'd love to digitize and just store on my computer instead of letting them pile up in a closet.

What's the fastest/easiest way to digitize them? A big necessity would also be text recognition so I could then search all the magazines.

My assumption is just a regular scanner, so if it is just that, I'd love recommendations on fast scanners and good software (I'm on a Mac).

If there's a better "system" for this or other ideas, then I'd love to hear it.
posted by JPigford to Technology (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on how many magazines we are talking about, it might be worth building one of these:
DIY Book Scanner
posted by meta87 at 7:17 PM on May 23, 2009

Chances are, someone already scanned and uploaded them somewhere. A quick search for "Family Handyman" and the name of a popular file hosting service tends to confirm this,

It all depends on how you feel about downloading a copy of something you already own.
posted by Memo at 7:44 PM on May 23, 2009

You may be able to purchase/subscribe to the PDF files from the magazine?
posted by glider at 8:18 PM on May 23, 2009

How do you feel about cutting the spines off? The fastest way, by far, would be to put them through a sheetfed scanner or a printer/scanner/copier with a document feeder, but it (obviously) requires converting your magazines into stacks of loose sheets.

As for OCR software, Acrobat Professional is the only package I know well enough to recommend, but it may be too pricy if this is your only use for it. You might be able to borrow someone else's copy (it can be de-authorized on one computer and installed/authorized on another) or sneak into your local community college's design lab.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 8:34 PM on May 23, 2009

Something from the Blue

For me? I'd cut the spines off and run them through our office copier/scanner on my lunch break.
posted by sanka at 9:05 PM on May 23, 2009

It just so happens that I'm currently doing some work with a Fujitsu S1500M document scanner, and I have to say, it's really quite something. I've found it online for as little as $410, and it includes not only Acrobat Pro, but also some rather excellent OCR software from Abbyy that creates a searchable PDF file. Scans 20 pages a minute, both sides simultaneously, automatically straightens out skewed pages, auto color/b&w detection, this thing just works and really exceeded my conservative expectations. It's exactly what you're looking for, IMO.
posted by dbiedny at 6:16 AM on May 24, 2009

As a guy who manages the scanning department for a document imaging service provider: cutting the spines and scanning is fastest and easiest, depending on your scanner; even cheap fax/scan machines with a sheet feeder are faster than laying the magazines on a flatbed by hand. The non-destructive scanner above may work OK, but the flimsiness of the materials and a lack of rigid cover may make that "v" a liability. A recent project was done with a homebrew planetary camera setup similar to fake's system, because the customer is not interested in cutting the books up (exampes here) - comparing in similar projects where we cut the spines and using a Canon 7580 (sheet-fed, both sides scanned at once), it would take slightly less time, be significantly better images, and require far fewer reshoots to use the scanner than the camera-on-a-stick. However, we can still do 1000+ pages an hour with a skilled camera operator, which is far faster than a cheap sheet-feeder scanner you can buy at OfficeMax. You may get a good mix of cheapness, speed, and ease by putting a digital camera on a tripod, drop a plumbline and prop up the tripod do you can get a nice, square view of a tabletop. Lay the magazine flat (the Family Handymans I have from the 70s and 80s are staple-bound, so it should go well; perfect/gluebound spines won't work so well) and photograph the two-page spread in a single shot. a 10+ MP camera, zoomed properly, should keep you in the 200-300DPI-comparable range of a flatbed scanner, which isn't reproduction-quality, but good enough for reading and reference, and will probably be OK for OCR. You can get low-glare or nonreflective plexiglass to lay over the magazine, to hold the pages flat, too. In summary: high-speed sheetfed scanner: fast, OCR-friendly, easy, expensive. Enlarging-stand/planetary-camera/camera-on-a-stick: Pretty fast, not as OCR-friendly, error-prone, cheap. Flatbed scanner: very slow, OCR-friendly depending on operator skill, not as error prone, moderately easy depending on material, cheap.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:27 AM on May 24, 2009

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