Pen scanners experiences & suggestions?
September 1, 2004 7:15 AM   Subscribe

Pen Scanners: Just started grad school and am considering a pen scanner (like this one from C Pen) to store highlighted text from the many, many, articles I have to read. Does anyone have experience with these tools? Are they useful, or just another distracting gadget? OS X Compatibility? Any recommendations or experiences would be appreciated.
posted by aladfar to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
I never had one, but a friend does. Yep, they're real.
posted by xammerboy at 7:22 AM on September 1, 2004

I vote for "distracting gadget," but then, I'm also against highlighters. The value in noting significant text, for me, lies not so much in marking it for easier retrieval later, but in having it pass through my brain as I transcribe it from the page. I think you'd be better served either handwriting notes from your books, or typing from them. It takes longer, but I think the staying power is far greater.

The main reason I'm against highlighters is that I see people--and not a few--color huge swaths of text. There's no efficient reduction happening, which would take place if you were to hand-write or type. You'd find ways of restating or resaying, and those are directly tied to learning. The other value of reduction is that it makes it much easier to review later, may mean that you can avoid taking the book everywhere, replacing the text instead with a few sheets of paper that can be carried anywhere and reviewed in lines, on transportation, in the john, wherever.

In fact, what I often find (and this is true for my professional work, too), is that I reduce a text, speech, or other materials in my notes, then re-expand them later for a report, essay, review, etc. In the expansion process, questions come up which require reading or research--another place good learning takes place as I review areas that I may have treated too lightly in my note-taking.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:53 AM on September 1, 2004

I own the C-Pen. I think its usefulness depends upon what you use it for. If you need exact quotes quickly so you can reference them later, and enjoy a pretty slow and outdated technology, it'll be perfect. However, when I read, I take notes to help me remember and understand the text, and the C-Pen just got in the way. Also, it's usability is weak. The text detector is inconsistent and you spend a lot of time playing with the results later, which IMHO is just wasted time.

It would probably work well with PhD students who need to reference passages, but I think a scanner/copy machine would do the trick and hell, most of the time you're in the library and they (the copy machines) are readily available.

It works...but the practicality isn't there yet. It's just an expensive toy for now.

And what Mo Nickels said. I completely agree.
posted by BlueTrain at 8:12 AM on September 1, 2004

Thanks much for the candid review BlueTrain - that's exactly what I was looking for. If I'm going to spend more time wrestling with the thing than I am getting notes taken, there's not much point.

And I agree completely with the notion of note taking as learning device. I take copious handwritten notes in class, and find that it helps me retain information. The same is sort of true for digesting articles, but I find that I skim more than I read every word. I was thinking it might be helpful to scan in the bullet points (I despise those people who highlight entire passages) and then expand on them later via word processor.

Part of my interest lies in a wiki that my classmates and I have created. Sharing notes and ideas on an article might be made easier with the C Pen as I'm going to be entering it into a web browser anyway.

So here's where I'm at: If I can get a deal on a C Pen (eBay, etc) I'll give it a try. Otherwise I'll stick to the old pen and notebook.
posted by aladfar at 8:44 AM on September 1, 2004

Hell, e-mail me and I'll sell you mine for a really cheap price. It only collects dust now anyway.
posted by BlueTrain at 8:53 AM on September 1, 2004

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