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The DIY Book Scanner

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the lightening-the-load dept.

Books 177

azoblue writes "Daniel Reetz did not want to lug around heavy textbooks, so he built a book scanner to create digital copies. '... over three days, and for about $300, he lashed together two lights, two Canon Powershot A590 cameras, a few pieces of acrylic and some chunks of wood to create a book scanner that's fast enough to scan a 400-page book in about 20 minutes (PDF). To use it, he simply loads in a book and presses a button, then turns the page and presses the button again. Each press of the button captures two pages, and when he's done, software on Reetz's computer converts the book into a PDF file. The Reetz DIY book scanner isn't automated — you still need to stand by it to turn the pages. But it's fast and inexpensive.'"

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177 comments

Too bad slavery is illegal (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30424308)

This would be a good activity for the winter months when farming isn't possible.

Re:Too bad slavery is illegal (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30424476)

This would be a good activity for the winter months when farming isn't possible.

That's why God gave us illegal immigrants.

Sounds great (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30424310)

but no way it will work with linux. I can't even print with ubuntu.

Re:Sounds great (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 4 years ago | (#30426324)

You have a Kodak printer too, eh? :P

You can run it from a Windows VM.

Look out! (3, Insightful)

Chris Tucker (302549) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424328)

Here comes the Publisher's Copyright Enforcement Gundams to give you "What For!".

Imagine that, thinking you could actually DO Something like that with your very own property.

What cheek!

Re:Look out! (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424396)

I actually hope they try to sue someone for this. Once they publicly try to completely violate a paying customer's rights like that, they'll get so much backlash and such a sound legal thrashing that they won't mess with anyone for decades.

Re:Look out! (1)

oh_bugger (906574) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424460)

Or, what will really happen is that the government will make devices capable of creating images of pages illegal, with an over-the-top prison sentence for those who use them.

Re:Look out! (2, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424734)

Right. After all, scanners have only been around for about fifty years: the publishers just haven't noticed yet. This homebrew effort is sure to bring the matter to their attention.

Re:Look out! (0, Offtopic)

bytesex (112972) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425068)

Just like last time. Or just like next year is finally going to be the year of Linux on the desktop. Not trolling, just cynical. Sorry.

Re:Look out! (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#30426250)

they'll get so much backlash and such a sound legal thrashing that they won't mess with anyone for decades.

Yes, like the dozens of times they've pulled it before.

Oh noooo!!! There they coooome! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30424388)

...a horde of pirates willing to steal my Intellectual Property!!

A bargain (4, Informative)

thethibs (882667) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424390)

Except for the lack of an automatic page-turner, Daniel's device is the same as one you can buy commercially for about $20,000 (http://www.treventus.com/bookscanner_pageturner.html).

He was wise to decide on manual page-turning.

Re:A bargain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30424574)

The lack of an automatic page-turner is a real deal-breaker. At 20 minutes per book, it would take 35 straight days of supervised scanning to capture my 2500+ book library.
Otherwise, it seems like a really great hack.

Re:A bargain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30424704)

How does that make it less of a bargain? Do you earn the $19,700 every 35 days to offset the opportunity cost?

Re:A bargain (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425674)

That's 35 DAYS of actual scanning, people don't work solidly.

more realistically with a 50 hour working week (which is rather on the high side) it's 17 working weeks or about a third of a man-year.

If you use minimum wage labour (or value your own time that low) it's probablly still cheaper than buying the commercial scanner new and throwing it away/putting it in the loft and forgetting about it afterwards but I bet it's higher than the cost of buying the commercial scanner used, doing the scans and reselling it.

Re:A bargain (2, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424788)

The automatic page turner costs an additional 19700 / 833 hours = 23.64 per hour. Hire a high school student for 8.

Re:A bargain (1)

FlyMysticalDJ (1660959) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425032)

8 dollars an hour? I know a few high school students that would do it for that. Hell, I know a few full grown adults that would.

Re:A bargain (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425688)

Yeah, but then you have an automatic page turner you can sell on ebay.

Re:A bargain (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 4 years ago | (#30426136)

True ... how much does a used automatic page turner fetch on ebay?

Re:A bargain (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425910)

He could get automated page-turning for about $5 per book, or half a pizza.

Re:A bargain (3, Interesting)

Farhood (975274) | more than 4 years ago | (#30426002)

I have Kinko's/Staples/ Office Depot cut off the spine ($1-$5), clip it on all sides, and go home to my Fujitsu ScanSnap for ADF scanning, auto color/ b/w selection, and OCR. Oh, and you press the button once and walk away.

Heh (3, Insightful)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424414)

I do this for my law school textbooks (unless you're a book publisher, in which case I am joking and would never break the law).

I was excited when I read this because it is a pain in the ass to turn the pages in a 1000 page Constitutional Law textbook. Thus, you can imagine my disappointment when I read that his machine doesn't automate this.

Most universities have at least one library which has a Ricoh scanner that does exactly what his does, i.e. it writes out a PDF onto your USB stick. I don't know where he's a graduate student, but I bet if he looked in his library he could have saved himself $300.

Re:Heh (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424676)


Most universities have at least one library which has a Ricoh scanner that does exactly what his does, i.e. it writes out a PDF onto your USB stick. I don't know where he's a graduate student, but I bet if he looked in his library he could have saved himself $300.

Except most scanners take on the order of tens of seconds to scan a page, and force you to pick up the book, turn the page, and put it flat again. This arrangement takes a picture and the book is in its normal orientation, so page turning is easy. With that kind of arrangement I don't doubt you can scan a 400 page book in 20 minutes.

Re:Heh (1)

emj (15659) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425154)

1 second per page that makes 6 minutes per book, if you only want the images then you can do it faster. Flipping by hand, and not using glas to straigthen the pages, I've got as low as 0.4s per page and 0.9s/p on average for two books. (that's 6 minutes for 400 pages, though you don't want to do more than 200-270 pages without one of these scanners)

Cut the spine off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30425652)

On a recent visit to a copier manufacturer's show room, the account manager indicated it's pretty common for people to buy a textbook, cut off the spine, and load all the pages from said book into the copier's autoloader. Some copiers will scan both sides of the page at once when using the autoloader, so you get VERY fast double sided scanning to PDF. On top of the extra speed, you don't get the shadow effect from scanning the book with spine intact.

Re:Heh (4, Informative)

atarkri (1092827) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424774)

The school is NDSU. Yes we (he) looked. No our library does not have one.

He has details of the reasons on his blog danreetz.com/blog [danreetz.com]

Re:Heh (0, Offtopic)

Weezul (52464) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425102)

I think most medical, science, engineering, etc. texts are all available on the russian book text pirate sites like giggle and gigapedia. I doubt people outside the U.S. bother scanning U.S. law text books, but maybe you'll find some particularly common ones uploaded by American students.

Re:Heh (2, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425222)

I do this for my law school textbooks (unless you're a book publisher, in which case I am joking and would never break the law).

What law are you breaking?
Whether you scan it and convert the OCRed text into an audio book, rip all the pages out and turn it into an art exhibit, or use the book for toilet paper, the publisher has no legal right (AFAIK) to stop you.

Re:Heh (3, Insightful)

rdnetto (955205) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425240)

Not sure where you live, but in most areas format shifting is usually recognized as fair use. Whether or not torrenting the PDF counts as format shifting isn't a question that the courts have answered yet, but it's currently the most convenient method.

Inevitable DMCA smackdown coming? (2, Insightful)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424430)

How soon before the manufacturer of the $20,000 commercial version files a lawsuit against him? That would be extraordinarily sad because the American system of patent/copyright only serves to stifle independent innovation like this.

Re:Inevitable DMCA smackdown coming? (2, Insightful)

Dj_fishlover (1149779) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425370)

I was also thinking about this. Lawfully copying your lawfully bought copyright work to electronic form. It's a clear opportunity for a DMCA to smack them down.

Graduate student in what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30424472)

I wonder what he studies. it seems like the majority of the work was done by others (hacked firmware, post-processing, pdf conversion). is he a mechanical engineer? (I suspect an amateur couldn't design such a thing structure.)

Re:Graduate student in what? (1)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424648)

I think I found his website [danreetz.com] .

Cameras usually stink for this.... (3, Insightful)

Slugster (635830) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424490)

It may work well enough for basic textbooks, but the problem is that (for high-quality scans) you can't ever get the same image quality from a $800 camera that you can from a $80 scanner. At 1200 DPI, a scanner is equivalent to a ~384 MP camera. Even scanning at "only" 300 DPI is ~90 MP, a far bigger image than any consumer-grade camera can provide.

The cameras he used were only five megapixels.

Might work for looking at the pages on your iPhone. Not gonna look very readable on your laptop screen, and forget about reading the book's footnotes.....
~

Re:Cameras usually stink for this.... (2, Informative)

bloobloo (957543) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424554)

There's no problem with the resolution.

9" x 6" page, scanned at 300 dpi = 2700 x 1800 pixels = 4.86 MP.

Re:Cameras usually stink for this.... (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424560)

Lots of book scanners use ccds. They are good enough. No one really wants a 'portable' scanned document that weighs in at 3 gigabytes anyway, current laptop IO makes that a pain in the ass.

Re:Cameras usually stink for this.... (4, Informative)

smallfries (601545) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424590)

You haven't actually tried this have you? I've had various flatbed A4 scanners over the years, all at much higher resolution than a camera, and hence all got down-sampled afterwards for my display that is only 1.5MP anyway. Then I switched to using a phone camera with only a 2MP CCD, but a really good lens and decent macro mode (Sony-Ericcson Cybershot for those that are interested). As long as the focus was good it produced perfectly readable shots, and so it became my portable scanner. These days I mostly shot stuff at home so I have a 12MP DSLR to hand. It's huge overkill, and I massively down-sample stuff afterwards, but entirely readable. So your basic claim that this can't be done with a camera based on the resolution compared to a scanner is a complete load of bollocks. The focus of the lens tends to be the important issue.

Re:Cameras usually stink for this.... (2, Informative)

Chris Tucker (302549) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424600)

FYI, the color camera on the Mars Rovers.

One Megapixel. Really spiffy and detailed images of the Martian landscape for only one megapixel, don't you think?

Also, TFA states he's using OCR to create a PDF.

If the image from the camera is sharp enough, the OCR software should have no trouble "reading" it.

Re:Cameras usually stink for this.... (1)

atarkri (1092827) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424870)

The use of 5 MP cameras is more than sufficient for reading the scanned books at any resolution, if you'd bother to check out any of the sample scans he's released on instructables or the diybookscanner website. Dan chewed on this "problem" of insufficient resolution for a month or so before he did some tests and concluded that digital cameras just plain take better pictures than scanners do, since the technology used in scanners is old and stagnant; while the computing power in these smaller, cheaper digital cameras continues to improve.

I've (3, Funny)

Kamineko (851857) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424498)

What a coincidece! I too have a book scanner that scans books, and requires a human operator to attend to turning the pages.

It's called a scanner.

Re:I've (2, Interesting)

iammani (1392285) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424528)

We would love to see you scan 400 pages in 20 minutes with your 'book scanner'.

Re:I've (1)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424584)

I can do it in 20 minutes. Each scan takes 5 or 6 seconds, but you do two pages at a time. Thus:

(200 scans) * (6 seconds / scan) = 1200 seconds

Otherwise known as 20 minutes.

Re:I've (2, Insightful)

fbjon (692006) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424688)

Really? Scanning takes a fair number of seconds, then you need to lift the book in order to turn the page, set it down correctly, and start the next scan. Compare with: push button, turn page, push button. Limited pretty much by how fast you turn the page.

Re:I've (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30424846)

Belive me, when I was a student I had to photocopy a lot of books. 4 seconds per page with a fast photocopier are more than enough.

Then just put the photocopies in a autofeeding scanner. Voila'.

Re:I've (1)

iammani (1392285) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424962)

Ahh yet another I can do it faster. My point is that, if you could do a page every four seconds in your setup, with this guys setup you could do it much faster, with lesser effort. Which in my opinion is worth it.

Re:I've (1)

iammani (1392285) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424696)

Hmmm i wonder if turning the page and pressing a button takes the same time as lifting the book and turning the page, placing the book back and pressing a button.

And if you can do 400 pages on a flat bed scanner in 20 min, i bet you could do it much much faster on this guys setup.

Re:I've (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30425476)

Well, I can do the ENTIRE book in 5 or 6 seconds... - Johnny 5

Re:I've (1)

Patik (584959) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424550)

Let us know how long it takes you to scan a 400-page book using that method. I bet it's a tad over 20 minutes.

Re:I've (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30425280)

1) Neatly cut the pages out of the book: 5 minutes.
2) Set up scanner with duplexer document feeder: 5 minutes
3) Run pages through scanner and OCR: 8 minutes
4) Profit!

Re:I've (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30425700)

Except that the library or the person you borrowed the book from would want the book back exactly the same condition as they gave it.

Re:I've (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30426188)

Why? Just give them the digital file, and they'll regain some much needed shelf space.

Re:I've (2, Funny)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425882)

Has anyone tried shotgun scanning yet? Irregularly shred the books, feed the shreds into a bulk scanner, and use a computer to reassemble.

repost (4, Informative)

AnonGCB (1398517) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424500)

http://bkrpr.org/doku.php [bkrpr.org]

Same thing, much cheaper (I built mine for ~150 USD.)

Re:repost (5, Informative)

idji (984038) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424636)

yeah, but you have to press 2 buttons and then lift your two cameras with your 4 sided PMMA/perspex/plexiglass box every time - he has a hinged L-shaped piece of perspex and one button - a more elegant solution - half the button presses, the cameras don't move and less weight.

Re:repost (1)

fwarren (579763) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425144)

Besides being half the price of the other setup, there is a larger consideration. It is the size. I have no place to store the scanner they use in this article. I am hard pressed to find a place I could set it up other than in the middle of my living room. The smaller scanner for half the price I could find a place to store it when I am not using it.

Re:repost (1)

moonbender (547943) | more than 4 years ago | (#30426124)

I don't get it. Can't you simply leave out the "front" side of the box, that is the side where you'd sit if you were reading the book? The cameras don't need a piece of glass there, and the whole contraption could still be stable. That way you could reach in and turn the page without lifiting the glass box. Seems much more convenient. I must be missing something.

Are there scanners that accept a stack of sheets? (1, Insightful)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424524)

If so, wouldn't it be easier to just rip out the binding and put in the pages? The $15 cost of buying another copy is less than all that boring, repetitive manual labor.

Re:Are there scanners that accept a stack of sheet (5, Informative)

hansonc (127888) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424544)

You must not have ever gone to college. A textbook for $15? Get real.

Re:Are there scanners that accept a stack of sheet (3, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424730)

One semester's worth of books in college today runs around $1000. With this device you can return the books after you've scanned them. If you rip out the binding, most bookstores are going to frown on returns.

So this device saves about $700 the first semester, and $1000/semester after that.

Re:Are there scanners that accept a stack of sheet (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30424742)

Yes. The photocopier in the maths department where I work scans a stack of sheets and emails the pdfs to you. Others can save it to a usb flash drive. It is great for things like theses we have lost source for but have unbound. But the point of the machine described here is to scan whole books non destructively.

Other stuff from this guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30424532)

Reetz also writes really awesome electronic music as Fake [fakeproject.com]

He's just pretending (2, Insightful)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424558)

He keeps talking about how expensive the books are. Clearly he is just using this to scan other people's books to avoid paying.

Still a pretty cool build though :P

Re:He's just pretending (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30424638)

1 semester can be 600+ in books depending on your major. So for the cost of 1/2 of a semester in books he can save himself a bunch of money (about 4k). Illegal as hell but ingenious.

Re:He's just pretending (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424738)

Quite I hope for his sake his college doesn’t have an honour code

Re:He's just pretending (3, Informative)

atarkri (1092827) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424944)

Actually, the motivation behind the project stem's from Dan's stay in Russia before his graduate studies. He realized that their are tons of old posters, pictures, and other soviet propoganda floating around the country's libraries that many people in the western world would like to view, but are unwilling to go to Russia to see. He wanted to digitize some of these posters (works of art, in his view) in order to circulate them on the web. He soon became very frustrated with using a flatbed scanner, and stopped. Zoom ahead a few years later, Instrucatables is having a contest to win an epilog laser cutter, so he decided to build a book scanner out of recycled (read: trash) materials and submits the project, and wins. He says he's surprised at how well the project has resonated with the web community.

Re:He's just pretending (4, Insightful)

fwarren (579763) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425282)

He may be scanning books to pirate them. However, I am a college student as well but trying to save money by pirating the books is not my objective.

I am in my 40's and my eyesight is not what it used to be. Here is why I would buy the books and scan them.

1. To be legal and comply with the law. I may very well by the books used, to get them as cheaply as possible. But I will buy them.
2. It is much lighter for me to carry one laptop around on campus, perhaps with copies of all the books I have used for all terms up to the current term.
3. I can zoom the pages to a comfortable size to read the text.
4. I now have the ability to search through the text.
5. I can use a text-to-speech reader to listen to the book, I can even make an mp3 of the book if I so desired.

To me it sounds like a bargain

Re:He's just pretending (1)

callinyouin (1138469) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425460)

I find this perfectly acceptable. The prices of college books are absolutely insane, and forcing college students to pay such ridiculus prices is perhaps just short of extortion.

Re:He's just pretending (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425734)

"Clearly he is just using this to scan other people's books to avoid paying."

Textbook makers and colleges exploit a captive student population, so that attitude is understandable.

Use a tripod (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30424562)

And how is this better than using a tripod with a horizontal swinging arm and a digicam?

Archive.org has something like this (1)

0-9a-zA-Z_.+!*'()123 (266827) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424566)

built by one of their ex-employees.

Its in a case in their front office.

Massively Meh. (-1, Troll)

SoupIsGood Food (1179) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424606)

Go to ebay, and pick up a copy stand for $80, or re-purpose a yardsale enlarger with a couple'a goose-neck lamps for fifteen bux or so. This strikes me as being a waste of time and effort - if your hobby is to tinker in the garage making stuff, either put more pride into your craft to make something worth showing off, or spend your time working on something you can't pick up on craigslist for next to free.

high quality digital cameras doom textbooks (4, Interesting)

Surt (22457) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424608)

This is a market that relies on outrageous reproduction prices just like cd's used to. They are equally doomed. I know a LOT of college students who no longer buy books ... they rent them for free by buying them, shooting them, and returning them. It may take a couple of hours to do manually without a device like this, but $80 per hour is pretty good wages for a college student.

Re:high quality digital cameras doom textbooks (1)

Weezul (52464) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425158)

Or just download them from other students?

I recently taught an upper level computer science course in a second world country. I was worried about whether the students would have access to books. No problem, students have already digitized all common undergraduate text books and share them on various eastern european websites. So the official course webpages often just link the textbook directly.

Re:high quality digital cameras doom textbooks (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30425338)

..and enterprising kid could buy the popular undergrad books, cut them up, use a professional autofeed / OCR scanner (pirate the software) and make a tidy sum selling USB keys for ~500 year old knowledge that should have been opened and standardized in form a LONG time ago. It's fundamentally _wrong_ that kids need to pay $1000's for undergraduate books when the fundamentals are hundreds of years old.

Fuck the SOBs. You could make the argument that undergrads shouldn't even need books, if the Profs were actually as good as most of them think they are.

e-versions . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30424642)

The publisher of the textbooks I use offer e-versions. The e-versions are cheaper than the physical book, and even though they are copy-protected, they can easily be saved as a pdf file.

Re:e-versions . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30425136)

Interesting, can you share with the name of the publishers you talk about?

Re:e-versions . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30425654)

..and please quantify "cheaper"?

Bandsaw (1)

skroz (7870) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424656)

Just use a bandsaw to cut off the spine and feed it through a normal scanner with a sheet feeder. Duh. Faster, cheaper, and better results along the spine.

Oh, you wanted to keep the books INTACT?

Re:Bandsaw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30424754)

Using a bandsaw assumes that he's buying the books, so can destroy them abandon if he wishes. With all the whining about the cost of books, I doubt he's buying them.

If he really is buying them, scanning them and keeping them, the what relevance is the cost of the books and why is the cost of books even mentioned in the article?

better wy (3, Informative)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424672)

from the comments with the article
posted by: irrational | 12/11/09 | 11:56 pm

I do it in 5 steps, and you get rid of the book when you’re done since you don’t need to store it. After you get done putting 200 hours into your creation, you’ll have spent thousands of dollars worth of your time. I solved this problem much more quickly years ago:

1. Buy a good sheet-fed and high-speed scanner. I have a Panasonic KV-S2026 color.
2. Get a decent jigsaw from Home Depot. Use metal cutting blades (24 teeth/inch or better)
3. Saw the spines off the book and for God’s sake use some C-clamps on each end of the book. Preferably sandwich them between two flat boards.
4. Remove and feed sheets through the scanner to OmniPage and text recognize the pages.
5. Save as PDF.
6. Repeat. You now have searchable digital books!

Re:better wy (3, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424840)

Even thousands of dollars worth of your time can be recouped easily over 4-5 years of college book costs. And rarely will a college student find a job that pays better than scanning their own books to save book costs.

A million monkeys... (1)

Vegard (11855) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424710)

might not be able to *write* the entire collection of Shakespeare, but with this setup, I'm quite sure that they would be able to digitize it!

Well, ironically (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30424726)

Ironically, all these books that he and others are trying to scan into a digital format where created in a digital format from the start, sitting on a publisher's computer somewhere.

Thanks copyright laws! Thank you very little.

Did the same thing with just a single camera (3, Informative)

milesw (91604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424770)

I'm amazed at how good OCR has gotten. I did the same thing without building anything: just connected my Canon PowerShot A540 to a tripod, lay the tripod on a coffee table, put the book on the floor, and started snapping away. Fed the JPGs to ABBYY FineReader 10, and it spit out plain text that was *at least* 97-98% accurate on every page. I did not use any special lights, do not know anything about photography, and frankly thought I'd have to buy all sorts of special equipment. The only other thing I added for convenience sake was Dirk's CanoRemote [canoremote.de] so that I would not move the camera (however imperceptibly) every time I pressed the shutter.

Re:Did the same thing with just a single camera (2, Insightful)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425890)

I was reading about OCR accuracy in my Game Developer magazine just last night, and they were lamenting that 98% accuracy really wasn't good enough for them. I know that the difference between personal and professional use is rather wide, but they printed a few sentences with 98% accuracy and I will admit, it was distracting. Of course, if they hadn't mentioned, would I have noticed?

Copier (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 4 years ago | (#30424776)

I thought about doing this several years ago to archive a huge stack of old lab notebooks, then we bought some Ricoh copiers that were also scanners with a platen large enough to scan two pages at once. I was able to turn a 300 page notebook into pdfs in about a half hour.

on a related note (1)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425076)

I have a project that requires text recognition. I'm need to quickly identify the presence of text URLs in several thousand photographs. In the easy cases, the URL is a solid color on a contrasting background, added as a band across the top or bottom of the photo. But in the hard cases it's a partially transparent watermark across the center of the photo that may be rotated several degrees from horizontal. The good news is that the URLs all start with "http://", and I don't need the software to capture the entire URL, just let me know that it's present. I need a solution that is faster than a human and reasonably reliable. Can current OCR software handle this? Thanks!

Re:on a related note (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425590)

If it can't directly, OCR to a plain text file and grep for http:/// [http]

Camera batteries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30425286)

I used to use my Sony DSCP72 Cyber-shot 3.2MP digital camera to digitize chapters of my text books in college and convert them to PDF (I forget what software I used), but I stopped once I realized I never actually read them. The major limiting factor in how many pages I could scan at once was the camera's battery life, and in this design the cameras he uses are still powered by AA batteries. Being able to use an AC adapter would be useful, though that's really just a limitation of the cameras he's using. Since turning off the flash improves the camera's battery life a lot, the halogen light is nice to keep the images bright. The other improvements over simply taking the pictures with a camera are pretty minor, but definitely make it less cumbersome.

Images of pages taken from my netbook's 1.3 MP camera are actually pretty readable as well. For the poor college student, simply using a webcam and some decent lighting is a viable alternative: it's a lot cheaper, more space efficient, and gets around the problem of having to use batteries, at the cost of being a bit slower, since you have to take more time setting up the book and camera and can only take one page at a time.

mo3M up (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30425412)

See also the BookLiberator, a more compact design (4, Interesting)

kfogel (1041) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425580)

See also the BookLiberator [bookliberator.com] , a somewhat more compact cube-in-cradle design, that's also easy to build. Although soon you won't have to build your own: we're prototyping a manufacturable, flat-packed kit to sell from our online store; see questioncopyright.org/bookliberator [questioncopyright.org] for more about the project. It should be ready next year.

None of which is to detract from Reetz's accomplishment, of course. This renaissance in personal book scanners is going to make it easier for all of them, in the long run, especially as we can share the same open source software among all the scanners.

I wonder if anyone in my area has such a rig? (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425744)

I have a book I would LOVE to preserve digitally. I have an extremely rare and out of print book -- it doesn't have an ISBN or anything! Technically, though, I believe it is copyrighted. I would like to scan it in and OCR it into a usable format that can then be put anywhere. (PDF bitmap pages are ridiculously large!) It is "Home Again" by James Edmiston. Copyright 1955 by James Ewen Edmiston, Jr. First Edition, signed by the author. Library of Congress number 55-5265. It is a significant and important book, in my opinion, and quite likely valuable as well. (Originally sold for $4, quite likely worth a lot more now...) I wonder how long the copyright will last on this book?

I am in Northern Virginia, so if anyone has a book scanning rig, I'd love a chance to use it.

Re:I wonder if anyone in my area has such a rig? (4, Insightful)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425964)

I wonder how long the copyright will last on this book?

Based on the last 40 years of Disney legislation?

For-fucking-ever.

Re:I wonder if anyone in my area has such a rig? (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30426302)

Well Merry Christmas to me! I found it! The very same file... and perhaps in the very same place. Check out the file dates in here...

ftp://ftp.de.flightgear.org/ftp.monash.edu.au/pub/nihongo/ [flightgear.org]

eBook (1)

Mista2 (1093071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425908)

Now if only textbooks came as e-books, then this whole tech would be un necessary.

The real problem (1)

zerofoo (262795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30425922)

"It was a watershed moment when I realized getting an 8-megapixel Canon camera was cheaper than buying a bunch of textbooks."

There in lies the real problem. Textbooks are too damn expensive and have been for many years.

-ted

you FAIL it (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30426216)

So w/o the software this is . . . (1)

wrencherd (865833) | more than 4 years ago | (#30426350)

. . . a light box and two cameras?

Perhaps I'm not smart enough to see it, but that's a pretty low standard of DIY, even for "Instructables".

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