Help Me Capture Text From Books!
July 16, 2008 3:43 PM   Subscribe

What kind of options do I have for a gadget of some kind that can capture bits of text from a book or magazine? I read a lot and always take notes, highlight, underline, note page numbers to refer back to, all these things to use for reference later on. But actually copying paragraphs into a notebook takes time, highlighting and underlining doesn't really help as I have to go back to the book - but rarely do. Since I keep so much information on my computer, I have wondered if there are small devices (mini-scanners?) that can somehow capture a few lines of text and store it as a .jpg or something. It seems as if I have seen or heard of these but I really don't know what to look for. By the way, I have used Jott to read a paragraph and have it in my email as transcribed text. That's nice, but I don't want to make a phone call every time I want to capture some text. As always, thanks in advance!
posted by Gerard Sorme to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Something like this?
posted by doctor_negative at 3:48 PM on July 16, 2008

Pen Scanner seems to be the optimal description. Here's an NYT article on them.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:50 PM on July 16, 2008

I remember these coming out in the late '90s. Here is what I found at a cursory glance - I can't recommend any particular one, though - sorry.

IRISPen Express
C Pen 800C

or just google for "pen scanner" or "hand scanner."
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:51 PM on July 16, 2008

Response by poster: Hi Doc, I picture it looking something like that, but that particular device you linked to is a bar code scanner that will scan directly into invoices, etc. I have come across it, and others like it, while looking for what I want. Thanks for trying.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 3:53 PM on July 16, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks to all of you. Now that I have a name to associate with the device - I can google away from here. If anyone has experience and can recommend a specific model - feel free to chime in. Thanks again!
posted by Gerard Sorme at 3:55 PM on July 16, 2008

Best answer: If you already have a digital camera or cameraphone, you can use something like Evernote if you don't mind having to send the captured images to Evernote. It's meant for helping you organize random thoughts, notes, todos, etc. and has desktop and web versions of the application.
posted by kathryn at 3:58 PM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have the IRISPen Express, but I haven't used since the novelty of it wore off. It did a pretty good job of converting what was on the page in front of me into text in a word processor, but it did make enough mistakes--especially with library books that had been underlined or highlighted by someone before me--that I had to correct each line. Scanning in lines of text and then correcting them wasn't much faster than typing the lines in myself.
posted by capsizing at 4:00 PM on July 16, 2008

The Docupen is probably what you want. Theres plenty of reviews on it do decide if its for you or not.
posted by wongcorgi at 4:03 PM on July 16, 2008

Response by poster: Reading many reviews on Amazon it sounds like these are less than reliable. It seemed most of the "Works Great!" reviews were from single-review members (read - the marketing department).

The idea of using my small digital camera had never occurred to me as I have always thought about needing to convert to text. However, as kathryn noted above, Evernote can identify text from a picture file with their search - as can my OneNote! I have no clue why this had never crossed my mind. OneNote (about the only Microsoft product I've ever been excited about) has changed the way I work with information since I bought it a year or so ago. I had just never thought about putting a photo of text from a book in as a way of note-taking. The search function for that is incredibly accurate - and fast. I think I found my solution. Thank you, Kathryn!

I appreciate all the helpful advice. Much appreciated!
posted by Gerard Sorme at 4:21 PM on July 16, 2008

IRISPen Express

I once bought one of these for the same purpose you describe ... and returned it two weeks later, due to inaccuracy, malfunctioning software and poor recognition. Needless to say, not recommended.
posted by outlier at 10:42 PM on July 16, 2008

Best answer: Gerard - all you need is a digital camera or a mobile phone and some free software. Check this tutorial on capturing newspaper clippings.
posted by labnol at 11:13 PM on July 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, labnol. That's a great tool. I've already signed-up at Qipit and tried it out. Perfect.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 5:14 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

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