The art of book scanning - propelled no doubt by the sudden flood of e-book readers like the Kindle, iPad and others - is hotting up significantly. Where before you would have to spend upwards of $3000 for a ‘cheap’ book scanner, you can now get away with shelling out just a few hundred dollars, or in some cases almost nothing if you can scrounge up the bits. Here’s a quick roundup of some of the most interesting offerings out there.
Book Liberator. Nice looking and elegantly constructed V-cage style scanner which is targeted at a price of $350 or so including twin cameras. This type of manual scanner typically copes with 3–400 pages an hour, which makes them ideal for personal or small business use.
Reetz DIY Scanner. The first serious open source movement to create a family of working cheap DIY book scanners. Now a wildly successful community of scanner hackers, with free plans, a forum and loads of divergent products. Priced from around free.
Cardboard Box Scanner. The ultimate sticking tape and string scanner, grabbing whatever is around the house. Just throw in a lamp or two and a cheap digital camera and you’re good to go. Perfectly inventive.
Plustek OptiBook 3600. Low cost, ‘zero edge’ scanner which is specially designed to cope with book spines and avoid gutter shadow when scanning. Other than that it’s a standard 1200dpi, 48bit flatbed scanner with OCR software and cataloging software for an impressively low $209.99.
Portable Digital Copier. Another impressive home-brew design, coming in at less than $20 for materials excluding camera. You’ll need some tubing, wood scrap and lots of little screws to build the frame and cam holder. And of course some free software to convert from a JPEG image to PDF.
Scan2PDF Mobile. With the arrival of 5 to 8 megapixel cameras on mobile phones, there’s no reason why you can’t use your humble handset as a text scanner and converter. If you’re using Android, then you’ll need something like the Burrotech Scan2PDF Mobile software ($14.99) and you’ll be set. Obviously if you need to scan large books you should think about using some sort of frame to hold the camera.
ScanDock for iPhone. This innovative little structure is specially designed to hold your mobile phone (it’s specified for an iPhone, but will probably adapt nicely to any other smartphone with a decent camera) in the right position to scan documents on the fly. And on the cheap. Available as a full set of assembly plans and corrugated card material for $14.99.
Epson DC-10 Document Camera. Portable lamp and SXGA camera combo which lets you capture up to two pages at a time onto the internal memory or SD memory card. Also features 40x zoom for intricate scans. Priced at $533.43.
HoverCam X500 Pro. Five megapixel, 600 DPI scanner, can capture pages up to A3 in size. It comes with TWAIN support which means it will interface easily with most computer OCR software, but you’ll need to supply your own lights to get the most out of this product. $399.99.
Auto Page Turning DIY Scanner. It had to happen. A cheap, homemade automatic page turning book scanner to save your fingers from the tedium of flicking through the book as you scan. Definitely still a work in progress (the latest version uses suction rather than friction to move the page), but smooth, fast and efficient is definitely on the horizon with this tech.
Finally, here’s a great collection of videos from Photo400 relating to all manner of book scanners, high and low end, cheap to mega expensive. There’s a bunch of interesting techs on show if you’re interested in the subject. Enjoy!