What Pen scanner should I buy?
August 27, 2007 3:44 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of purchasing a pen scanner to use for my research. The Irispen, C Pen, and Quicklink lines seem to be the most commonly used. Can anyone advise me on which one to buy?

I know that this question has been asked before (and more than once), but each of these companies has released new models in the mean time, so I thought I'd ask again. My first consideration is ease of use--right now I underline my books like crazy, so anything approximating that would be great. And second, the quality of the OCR--this doesn't help me a huge amount if I have to spend *too* much time retyping what I've just scanned.

I'm buying this out of my research budget at work, so relative cost isn't an issue. And whether the scanner needs to be tethered to my computer or is a standalone is much less important than the factors I mentioned above.

Any suggestions?
posted by historybuff to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When I hear "pen scanner", I picture something like the Planon Docupen.

I'm used to the page-at-a-time concept and I'm having trouble wrapping my head around the line-at-a-time concept. I guess it works a little like a barcode scanner, where you roll it across the page and the characters just appear in your current document as if they were typed from the keyboard?

I wonder if, if you own a physical copy of the book in question, it might be quasi-legal to have a bookwarez electronic copy that you could search, mark up, and so on.
posted by Myself at 10:30 PM on August 27, 2007

Oh honey, I have been there. I have one of the IrisPen Executives, and it drove me nuts. The OCR was not good, and since I use a Mac, the software that actually operates the scanner and pen was imperfectly designed and insanely buggy. I'd have to restart the computer once or twice per session, and there were so many corrections I might has well have typed it, except that I was doing all this to avoid exacerbating my RSI. I know Iris has released a new version of the OCR but I'd be wary. The scanner itself is very finicky.

The solution I finally settled upon with great satisfaction is not a scanner at all, but voice recognition. I used a Mac-native application (iListen) for a while, but it's only moderately better than the IrisPen. When I got an Intel Mac and could run Windows, I bought Dragon Naturally Speaking. Hallelujah! It's like magic, as a colleague of mine observed. I dictate the passages I want to transcribe into the mike, and the error rate is astonishingly low. Remember, scanners are dumb and they make lots of mistakes that an app that has some grasp of the language doesn't. DNS is really fast. Really, really fast.

The one drawback: you have to use it at home. Obviously, you can't be dictating into your computer at the library. But since you're writing in the books to begin with, I'm guessing that's feasible. I often read the book off-site (a cafe or in the park), underlining as I go, then dictate the selected passages later when I'm at home. It's changed my life.
posted by Lauram at 5:35 AM on August 28, 2007

I've considered voice recognition, too. And yeah, part of my problem is that I am getting RSI in both wrists, right as the deadline for finishing my manuscript approaches. My interest in pen-scanners stemmed simply from the fact that I wanted to approximate what I do already (underline and highlight) without adding any extra typing work for myself.

I've avoided the voice recognition route thus far because it doesn't work for me when I'm writing--I (like most authors) have a slightly different style when I write then when I converse. But for note-taking that might not be a problem, in that I'm just repeating someone else's words.

I've had friends who've recommended DNS as good voice-recog software, so if I will look into that. Thanks.
posted by historybuff at 3:37 PM on August 28, 2007

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