Help me get an old book online!
October 25, 2006 1:13 PM   Subscribe

How can I scan a book that is precious to me? The book is a couple hundred pages and I just want to produce high-quality pdfs.

Its a hard-to-find book from 1906 which is in the public domain. Various people have asked me for access to the contents and I'd like to oblige.

What are my options? Do I need to buy a scanner?

I'm also lazy. Do I need to sit there and scan 200-300 times? Can I pay someone to do this? Sort of a Kinkos+?

Thanks for any help.
posted by vacapinta to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
what's the name of the book? It might already be available.
posted by empath at 1:23 PM on October 25, 2006

Response by poster: Chapters 1,4 and 5 are already online here. People have been asking me for the whole book including the appendix which I haven't seen online.
posted by vacapinta at 1:36 PM on October 25, 2006

Check a copy shop near a university. When I was in grad school one of the small mom&pop shops would scan texts for me for a small (really small) additional fee.
posted by substrate at 2:16 PM on October 25, 2006

Response by poster: To be clear, the book is Charles H. Hinton's The Fourth Dimension from 1904 (I have a 1906 edition)

I've only seen excerpts online. The reason people are interested in this is that an old blog entry of mine is the top google hit for "hinton's cubes" which are these cubes that hinton built to allow people to visualize the fourth dimension. None of the excerpts or recent reprints of this book, curiously, reproduce the instructions for building and using the cubes - but my edition does.

I'd like to make this information available in a manner that is as painless for me as possible.
posted by vacapinta at 2:31 PM on October 25, 2006

I helped a person working for a university library scan a few pages from a very old book for reasons similar to yours. For a book as rare and in demand as yours, you may be able to ask at a university library in your area for help with this. They may even be willing to do it for you.

One of the options mentioned was having the book taken apart for scanning and then having it rebound to keep the pages flat and to save the wear from being "smooshed" onto the scanner bed. That would, of course, depend on your willingness to have that done. We only had to scan a very few pages, so it wasn't necessary.

Also, how many pages is the section that is unavailable elsewhere? Could you do only that part for the time being with little time and trouble?
posted by lilywing13 at 2:45 PM on October 25, 2006

Taking pictures of the pages and then assembling that into the pdf? You could free transform the photos to get rid of the perspective, but if that's too much trouble, at least the information will be out there.

Fourth dimensional cubes, eh?
posted by Brainy at 2:53 PM on October 25, 2006

Best answer: Well, since you are in SF, email me and we can scan this on a high-quality book scanner that is designed to scan old, fragile books without hurting them. Email is temporarily in my profile.
posted by rajbot at 3:41 PM on October 25, 2006

Octavo, IIRC, is the company responsible for doing just that with John Warnock's collection of old books. They're in Oakland - maybe they can help you out?
posted by plinth at 5:33 PM on October 25, 2006

Best answer: The book is now available at
posted by rajbot at 5:29 PM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

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