Easy Book Scanning
December 9, 2004 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Book scanning. I don't like carrying around several pounds of college textbooks with me when I have a perfectly good laptop. I want to create really nice scans of my books, preferably in PDF so I can search through them and bookmark them. I don't want to rip open the bindings. Google looks like they have the ability to make nice scans. There are countless articles on robotic book scanning, and places to send in your books for PDF conversion. I need to be able to do this at home. Buying a scanner and using that is too laborious (scan, preview, adjust, save, flip page, start over, convert to PDF).

I don't need anything fancy that flips pages for me or anything. I'd like to be able to just flip the pages and press a button to get a good scan that I won't have to fool with. There must be a system that does this for <$1000. I have a PC, but can obtain a Mac if need be.
posted by geoff. to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
I've often thought you could do this with a high-end digital camera and a proper indirect lighting kit. Flip page-shutter. You could even automate the shutter pressing from a computer, if the camera allowed, and just do a page every 5 seconds or so. Probably the biggest obstacle you're going to face is the OCR problem... I've heard OCR isn't so good with anything other than black and white scans.

the rig we have at NDSU for photographing tiny artifacts looks something like this but it's a digital camera on top and not a video camera.
posted by fake at 12:23 PM on December 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

our stand
posted by fake at 12:43 PM on December 9, 2004

Yes I figure OCR is a problem, but I'm not that concerned about it -- it'd be nice if it worked.

Did you find that the pictures warped near the binding? When I've tried using my digital camera the text was warped near the binding because of the curvature of the page. The fancy stand solves this problem somehow?
posted by geoff. at 12:56 PM on December 9, 2004

Not to be a prude, but copyright law anyone?
posted by Pressed Rat at 1:02 PM on December 9, 2004

To avoid the warping near the binding, you need to get a planetary scanner (also has some good pictures to show you the difference). I think they're rather pricey. More than the $1000 you mentioned.
posted by skynxnex at 1:07 PM on December 9, 2004

As I said above, geoff, I haven't actually done it. We photograph archaeological artifacts with our stand.

I'd imagine if you wanted to flatten the book out, you'd just use a piece of glare-free framing glass, or a piece of glass lit in such a way that it minimized glare.

I always wanted to do this because i thought, "I'm spending 400$ on books anyway, why not spend it on a camera and take pics of the books, and then return them later"...

Which, I guess, answers your question, Pressed Rat. I regularly use my camera as a quick scanner, so I don't have to check out a book.

My camera is a Canon a80, and text comes out pretty nice, but you might look at a higher-end camera, like an a95.
posted by fake at 1:27 PM on December 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

Pressed Rat copyright in both the US and Canada allows you to time and format shift copyrighted materials. That's why you can rip a CD to mp3 or tape a TV show for later watching.
posted by Mitheral at 1:29 PM on December 9, 2004

Aw shucks, around $4,700 for the cheapest planetary camera I can find.

Sorry fake, I didn't read your response closely enough.

$400 for books? Try double that for me the last couple semesters (~$140 a class, 5 classes).

I was hoping there'd be an adequate homebrew solution in the works. I'm not seeing any hope.
posted by geoff. at 1:42 PM on December 9, 2004

Before spending all that money, you should find out if e-books of some of your texts are available. Considering the increase in online courses, that seems like a possibility.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:54 PM on December 9, 2004

Pressed Rat: This is clearly fair use if he is not sending the copies to his friends or putting them all over the internets.
posted by grouse at 2:39 PM on December 9, 2004

There's this scanner, but it would involve a lot of book flipping, since it only scans one of 2 facing pages at a time.

On the plus side, it's under $300.
posted by O9scar at 8:21 PM on December 9, 2004

I read recently that some of the more expensive textbooks are showing up on various p2p networks. Textbooks are the mach3 razors of books. Way overpriced, and so a black market emerges to spank the naughty capitalists.
posted by mecran01 at 10:15 PM on December 9, 2004

Oh, imagemagick can be used to batch convert the scans to greyscale for later ocr-ing.
posted by mecran01 at 10:16 PM on December 9, 2004

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