Reinventing the wheel — DIY bookscanners
by Dan O'Connor
A couple of years ago we spotted a do-it-yourself book scannerÂ at Wired.com,Â the handiwork of Daniel Reetz, then a graduate student in visual neuroscience. Reetz cited â€śoutrageous textbook pricesâ€ť as the impetus to his original design, a $300 collection of scavenged lumber and twoÂ Canon Powershot A590Â cameras.Â After appearing on the collaborative do-it-yourself site instructables.com, the scanner spawned an apparently flourishing subculture of DIY book-scanner building and a website of its own, diybookscanner.org. Their motto: â€śLetâ€™s put a book scanner in every hackerspace.â€ť Catchy, right?
The book scanner is essentially a digital camera fixed above a frame that holds down the pages while you photograph them. It has two advantages over an ordinary flatbed scanner: itâ€™s faster — diybookscanner.org claims you can shoot up to 1,200 pages an hour — and it cradles the book so its spine is protected. But it still wonâ€™t turn the pages for you.
The book scanner may make taking pictures of your bookâ€™s pages easier, but it doesnâ€™t reconstitute those pictures as a readable file — that is, a homemade ebook.Â As they say on diybookscanner.org,
â€śAll those page-pictures need post-processing. We have two excellent Free software packages — one called Book Scan Wizard and one called Scan Tailor to clean the pages up in just a few clicks. After that, they can be converted into the format of your choice, and read on the device of your choice.â€ť
Earlier this week GizmodoÂ reported that Google books engineer Dany Qumsiyeh â€śhas designed a $1,500 automated scanner from sheet metal, dissected electronics, and a household vacuum.â€ťÂ As described on the GoogleÂ page, â€śLinear Book Scanner is a prototype automatic book scanning device. The device moves a book face-down over linear sensors to capture page images, and uses vacuum pressure to turn pages automatically as the book moves.â€ť
According to Wired, commercial automated book scanners cost from $5,000 to $50,000. â€śThe $50,000 Kirtas book scanner, for instance, can capture 3,000 pages an hour.â€ťÂ The Qumsiyeh prototype, on the other hand, costs about $1,500 and scans approximately 700 pages an hour. As youâ€™ll see from the video below, the Linear Book Scanner isnâ€™t quite ready to scan your signed firsts. Google is disseminating it as open source as a means of attracting improvements.
Dan O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Melville House.