Book scanners: digitising millions of books
 


According to a Google blog post from 2010, nearly 130 million different books have been printed since Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440. Over a decade later, that number is now estimated at around 170 million. Whilst the latest releases usually have a digital version, many older printed texts are still only available in physical form. And if the latest pandemic has taught us one lesson, it’s that access to public places such as libraries and archives can be revoked at any time, and that is one of the reasons book scanners have become increasingly important in recent years.

 

What is a book scanner?

As the name suggests, it is a device converting physical books and printed material into digital media such as images, electronic text, or electronic books (e-books). Technology-wise, book scanners can be as simple as a cardboard box rig, a camera on a tripod, and your hand as the controller. Or they can have multiple moving parts with computer-controlled capture and high-resolution cameras. Some even have a robotic arm, carefully turning the pages of the book as it is being scanned.

 

How does a book scanner work?

Modern book scanners are usually built around five basic elements, but high-end models can even feature additional components, such as air-sucking technology or infrared camera installations which allow detection and automatic adjustment of the three-dimensional shape of the page. 

 

Lighting

Though some scanners can be used with ambient room lighting, a dedicated light source is crucial for capturing high-quality images. Furthermore, the lights need to be strong and even, and ideally positioned to minimise glare and reflections. Most book scanners have light sources on either side of the camera, mounted on a frame or physical support for an evenly spread illumination. 

 

Cameras

Depending on the model, a book scanner usually features one or two cameras. The simpler version is the single camera book scanner, manually operated but easy to use. The book lies open on flat support while an overhead camera captures images of the pages. However, depending on the book size, corrective software needs to be used to cancel the resulting image distortion and recreate the original image of the page. More advanced book scanner models include a pair of cameras. Each camera must be mounted securely and aligned to point directly at the centre of the page it is scanning. Two cameras can capture both pages at the same time, one for each open page, and in combination with a V-shaped book support the resulting captured images require almost no software correction.

 

Platen

One of the biggest challenges when scanning bound books, especially bigger ones, is that when it is laid flat, the part of the page close to the spine gets significantly curved on the scan, distorting the text in that part of the digital image. Rather than separating the book into individual pages, unbinding or even destroying it in the process, a non-destructive method is to hold the book in a V-shaped holder and photograph it. The curvature in the gutter is much less pronounced this way especially when transparent plastic or glass sheets are pressed against the page to flatten it. While there are some computer algorithms that can help “de-warp” the pages after capture, it is always more reliable to capture flat pages in the first place. 

 

Book

The book lies at the centre of any book scanner. It is alternately pressed against the platen for scanning and then pulled away so that the page can be flipped, a process that is being fully automated in the more advanced book scanner models. If you are scanning a rare edition, however, manual operations are still mandatory to avoid any damage to the book.

 

Cradle

At the bottom side of the book scanner lies the cradle, which supports the back and spine of the book being digitised. While any contact with a book will cause wear and tear, a V-shaped cradle can minimise the wear that scanning can cause.

 

Why use book scanners?

While physical books do retain their charm, more and more people are reading books on their tablets and smartphones. Beyond that, there are several advantages of digitising books at a large scale: it allows remote access to information, it makes content indexation and search much simpler and it safeguards texts and scriptures that may otherwise be subject to environmental hazards, loss and theft. It can even be used to help in the restoration of damaged books to bring them back to life and make them viewable once again.

 

As digitised books can be accessed online or downloaded for offline use, they can be easily shared on the cloud or other online platforms, anywhere and anytime. Also worth mentioning are the costs of reprinting, including sub-costs such as equipment management, paper record maintenance and cost of space, which can be greatly reduced and thus help you achieve cost efficiency. Finally digitising books at scale can add dramatically to your green credits as it removes the need to make photocopies and print multiple copies, and thus, it helps to save paper.

 

The best book scanner is the one you really need

When implemented correctly, digitisation can help organisations, libraries, archives and publishers achieve cost-efficiencies, high-quality digital output and higher returns on investment. However, successful digitisation of books at scale requires specialised knowledge and special software such as optical character recognition (OCR).

 

Dyanix, the trusted advisor at your side

At Dyanix, we’re at your side to analyse your exact needs and we provide professional book digitising hardware and services. Our trained and experienced technicians ensure high-quality digitisation at each stage of the conversion process, including support when it comes to file preparation, data entry, image output and quality control. Simply contact us by completing our contact form or giving us a call at +31 30 7901 900 to receive information, prices and tailored quotes from top professionals in your area. Our dedicated team is looking forward to supporting your digitisation project in the best way possible!