If you love books, don’t read this.
If you love to work with the content of books, especially in digital format, do.
I’ve got a pretty large book shelf and it bothers me. It bothers me because it takes up space and I see myself more as a digital nomad than as someone who carries a lot of books around, and it bothers me because I like to read book in digital form. Sounds strange, but I like to read them as .pdf on my notebook, being able to copy interesting passages into my wiki where each book has a page and where I store notes about the book.
I’m a huge fan of ebooks, if they aren’t “eyes only” DRM, but this doesn’t help me with the books I have — I’m not going to buy them again. Yes, I can find copies of most books “for free” online, but I actually believe in paying for what I use.
So, I’ve made an investment. I bought an Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M, a really fast document scanner, to scan all the books I own, or rather, most of the books I own.
But wait, how can you scan books with a document scanner? It only takes sheets of paper, not bound books.
This is where it gets painful for librarians and book-lovers.
You take a cutter, open the book so that the thick cover is out of the way, and then you cut down near the spine until the whole spine is separated from the book. If you cut in the right distance (about 2mm) the whole text is on the page itself but the spine with the thread or glue binding, holding the pages together, is separate from the pages itself. You might have to turn the first page also, sometimes it is glued to the cover in a way that makes the distance from the spine appear smaller than it actually is. When it happened to me it did cost me a book (cut right through the first letters of each line). So mind the distance. Next you cut the spine part from the front cover. This leaves you with a) the front cover, b) the book block as sheets of paper, and c) the back cover.
See, I told you not to read on.
After this painful procedure, the S1500M takes care of the rest — it scans the book block in “Best” Quality (B&W 600 dpi, duplex scan) as .pdf without OCR (this comes later in Acrobat) in the blink of an eye. Seriously, this scanner is fricking fast. You put in 50 sheets of paper (100 double sided scans) and you are hard pressed to do something useful in the short time it takes to scan the pages. I also scan the covers in “Best” Quality (Color 300 dpi, simplex scan, you can create scan profiles so switching goes really fast) and put them together in Acrobat with the book block.
Regarding file size, my favorite book, a 12,24×19,03 cm 146 pages book is 8,1 MB after Acrobat is finished with it.
And it’s well worth it. 🙂
But wait, doesn’t that mean that I destroy my library?
Yes, in a way, I do. The books are fodder for the trash bin when I’m through with them. But on the other hand, the really important part, the content, lives on digitally. Sure, a lightning strike can turn my virtual library to cinders, but on the other hand, it could also do that with a paper library, if a fire breaks out after the strike. Only that I probably won’t have a copy of my paper library in the next bank, or at work, or even with me on a 16 GB USB stick.
Danger of loss is omnipresent — but you can deal with it.
But there are some … damn it, the book has finished scanning and I haven’t got the next one ready — I can’t keep up with this scanner … books I won’t scan, for example, books with character. This can be a book I have favorable memories of or a well worn book that belonged to a library. Some books shouldn’t be cut and scanned. But I have no problems with scanning a one in a hundred thousand off the mill copy of an internationally successful book.
I’ve scanned (or cut/killed/gutted, you name it) eleven books in the test run yesterday evening. Acrobat did the OCR while I was sleeping. Was it fast, you betcha! 🙂
Note: While this might sound as an advertisement for a specific scanner, it is not. It works with any scanner that is fast enough for you to work with (varies depending on individual preferences). Also note that I take no responsibility, legal or otherwise, of what will happen if you use the information and recommendations of this posting. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I paid for my scanner, the full price, and I didn’t get any incentives to post this here (just the expectation of the warm and fuzzy feeling of sharing something that works for me and might work for others ;-)).