Wednesday, March 05, 2008

BookSnap Personal Book Digitizer

In a recent article in Newsweek, Steven Levy writes about the BookSnap personal book digitizer (or ripper). It aims to be a consumer-ready product to allow people to digitize their collections of printed books. Make that rich people-- it comes with a $1600 price tag.

But it seems well thought out, with a cradle to rest the book in that minimizes pressure on the book's binding, as well as software that can snap the pictures automatically as the pages are turned. The end result can be output as a pdf for viewing in an ebook reader.

Levy doesn't quite see this first model as ready for prime time, and it is easy to see that the segment of the market who might be willing to buy a $1600 BookSnap over a $100 flatbed scanner would be vanishingly small, in spite of the added features and ease of use.

But I looked at this and saw a class of device that might someday replace the venerable library photocopier, were it suitably hardened to survive in the hand-to-hand combat of self-serve library machinery. Do that, and one more link in the research food chain can switch from analog to digital.


Kevin T. Keith said...

There is a growing movement of people doing this with home-built equipment. I strongly suspect this product is just a commercialized version of one of the many DIY scanner designs that are available.

The unit is simply a platform that holds the book pages open at a 90-degree angle, and two ordinary digital cameras, also mounted at a 90-degree angle, to shoot perpendicularly at the two pages. Software automatically downloads the two shots and combines them into a sequence of images of right- and left-hand pages. You typically have to turn the pages of the book manually for each new shot. Open-source software to do this is available, and plans for building a framework for the book and the camera mounts are also available, although the setup is pretty intuitive. How much it costs to DIY this device depends on how nice you want it to look, and what price you can get on two decent-resolution off-the-shelf digicams. I'm glad to see this technology moving mainstream, but $1600 is outrageous.

Kevin T. Keith said...

Sorry - should have included some links on the above comment.

Here is a ton of photos of DIY scanners people have built, and a link to plans for building your own:

Here's a good profile of the guy who helped start this movement: