05-05-2013, 12:26 AM
#1
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My Better Half and I likes books - like them so much that we are running out of space in which to put them, not to mention the hardship of packing five books for a two week vacation. So we - well, mostly she - hatched a plan to get our book digitized and readable on either our ebook readers or on our tablets.

Digitizing books can be tricky though - the easy solution would be to hack the spines off and feed them through a document scanner, but there is two major issues with that plan: First, a fair number of our books are hard-to-impossible to get. Second, that's barbarism and just not something you do to books. A different approach was clearly needed.

A dedicated bookscanner that don't require you to mutilate your books are quite costly - if you want one of those you better be prepared to put a second mortgage on your home - but luckily there are dedicated tinkerers on the Internet that are more than willing to share their home-brewed designs. One such group is over at DIYbookscanner.org, who both have as a goal to put a book scanner in every hackerspace, and have come up with a simple, rugged and more or less fool proof design. One of the guys from there lives in Europe, and have stared a business (DIYbookscanner.eu) selling kits with almost all the bits you'll need to build one.

As these things often do, it took longer from the box arrived until it was ready than I had planned for - part was down to timing (it arrived just before I had to be out of town for a few weeks) and part of it boils down to me not being quite as good with Linux as I had led myself to believe - more on that later.

Putting the hardware together was a breeze;
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One thing that wasn't in the kit was a good handle - it came with one that I consider unsuitable for our use. However, a threaded rod, some nuts and washers, and a bike handlebar fixed that...
Getting a grip...
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Then it was just a matter of mounting the light, the cameras and installing the software on the old Eee.

Yeah, about that...

The Eee is an old little Linux Netbook, so the first hurdle was installing Ubunto 12.04 on it and then uninstalling pretty much every app that came with it. Once that was done I could download and run the various scripts that controls the cameras - only to find that they would not zoom in as they should.

Headscratching... lots of it, both for me and the guy I bought the kit from (a very likeable guy, and very, very helpful).

My Better Half and I was discussing buying a new computer just for scanning (either Linux or Windows - software exists for both), when i out of desperation decided to reorder two steps in the script. And while it shouldn't make no never-mind, it did fix it - the cameras zoomed in happily enough and snapped away.

Ready to scan:
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The Eee only handles the camera triggering script and the downloading from the camera. Post-processing is done on our desktops, using a very nice (and free) piece of software called ScanTailor, which is custom made for this sort of things. The output from ScanTailor can be OCRed to produce searchable text, and/or turned into a PDF or other format ebook.

Output from camera (reduced size):
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After processing (reduced size and quality for uploading):
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So there you have it - one homebuilt and working bookscanner!

If anyone are curious as how the quality of the finished product is, I have a short OCRed PDF uploaded - an exerpt from an old Norwegian book of collected fairytales featurning huldra.

PS: Some build these with a mechanical trigger instead of a software trigger, but the downside then is that you'll have to unmount the cameras each time.

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 05-05-2013, 03:17 AM
#2
  • MikekiM
  • Senior Member
  • Long Island, NY
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Okay.. I was worried when the first image in your post had a rubber mallet in it... but I see why. Lot's of assembly.

The final scan looks great.

Walk me through this.. You place the book in the cradle, then use the handle to lower the assembly on the book. I think I see glass plates that I would think press the pages flat. Yes? Image it, lift with the [pretty cool] handle, turn the page, repeat. Yes?

Where is/are the camera(s)?

The files get sent to a different computer where you have some kind of auto crop dialog that you run?

I love the idea of OCR'ng it, and if you pdf it using Acrobat, you might even have the ability to annotate, bookmark and highlight.. depending on the reader you're using.

I love this!! Not enough to build one, but it's really cool.

You could start a small business doing this and pay for the machine in no time. And, if you did... I have a few books I would love to have on my iPad!!

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 05-05-2013, 04:00 AM
#3
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Wow, that is pretty cool. How long does it take to scan a book then? Is each page as quick a camera shot, or does it actually scan the page?

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 05-05-2013, 05:03 AM
#4
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The cameras are mounted on the cross-pieces of the centre section.. look at this picture (not my scanner, but made to the same plans) to see how;
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Pulling on the handle lifts the book up to the glass plates so it's nice, flat and in a known distance to the cameras. I then trigger the cameras, lower the book, flip the page and repeats. I'm still getting the hand of it, but others reports on scanning speeds of up to 1200 pages an hour (or rather, 15 minutes on a 300 page book). Post processing can be about as fast, unless the book has a complex layout and/or many pictures.

The beauty of using cameras is that they "see" the whole page at once, so there is no need to wait for a scanner head to move across the page as on a flatbed scanner.

Once the files is moved to my desktop, I use IrfanView to rotate and rename them - you can use any graphic software you like, but I like IrfanView's batch mode capabilities. Then I send them to ScanTailor, which figures out how to straighten, dewarp and in general fix any issues, before it turns the picture from the scan into a nice, crisp TIFF file. I use Abbey FineReader (the only piece of non-free software in the process) to OCR and make PDFs - and it would equally well turn the scans into a Word-document or web-page.

We have played with the idea of helping others scan their books - but shipping from abroad would be very costly.

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 05-05-2013, 06:55 AM
#5
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Holy cow, Hans, you think that is a simple home-made scanner?!
That seems quite complex to assemble! Biggrin
Great job and enjoy the reading.

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 05-05-2013, 07:12 AM
#6
  • slantman
  • Expert Shaver
  • Leesburg, Florida
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Fantastic Hans. If we had a technical forum this would go there.

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 05-05-2013, 07:18 AM
#7
  • Johnny
  • Super Moderator
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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I'm impressed with several things here.

Your ability to follow instructions and put that together.
Your ability to know how to use all the electronic gadgets to do this.
And most of all, the ability of someone to dream this up.

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 05-05-2013, 07:27 AM
#8
  • Agravic
  • Emeritus
  • Pennsylvania, USA
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Very impressive, Hans!
I truly respect the initiative and talent needed to do such a thing! Smile

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 05-05-2013, 07:59 AM
#9
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that's pretty.....incredible!

excellent work.

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 05-05-2013, 08:26 AM
#10
  • freddy
  • Senior Member
  • San Diego, California, U.S.A.
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Hans, that is amazing effort and ingenuity. Congratulations on a successful outcome. Thumbsup

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 05-05-2013, 08:30 AM
#11
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Compared to some of the rigs others have build, it is very simple - at least the electronic side of things; some have rigged up motion detectors so their cameras snap when they flip the page over.
I would like to think that all off us would be able to assemble something like this; having seen the work some of you guys pulls off in restoring razors and brushes, putting this together was easy. Tab A into slot B, and then a screw to keep it together. The real glory goes to the guys who came up with the design to begin with.

Still need to fiddle with it; the light from the living room window causes a bit of glare, meaning I get best results at night... and the summer nights in Norway isn't very dark at all.

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 05-05-2013, 08:43 AM
#12
  • freddy
  • Senior Member
  • San Diego, California, U.S.A.
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Just out of curiosity, how many books will your wife and you be scanning, in total?

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 05-05-2013, 09:07 AM
#13
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All of them?

Uhm... I'm not even sure how many books we own, and the number keeps growing - but maybe 400-450 books on the shelves in the living-room alone.

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 05-05-2013, 09:12 AM
#14
  • freddy
  • Senior Member
  • San Diego, California, U.S.A.
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(05-05-2013, 09:07 AM)WegianWarrior Wrote: All of them?

Uhm... I'm not even sure how many books we own, and the number keeps growing - but maybe 400-450 books on the shelves in the living-room alone.

Boy, does that scanner ever make sense! I am not a fan of reading on an electronic device. However, the scanner proves its worth as a fantastic backup device or being able to take large heavy reference works anywhere for instant access.

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 05-05-2013, 10:27 AM
#15
  • Arcadies
  • Senior Member
  • Greeneville, TN
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Wow..that is one hell of a contraption! I don't think I would of had the patience to put it together, let alone scan them all!
I went a similar ordeal last year..my home is small and my collection of books had become a bit ornery after over 25 years of reading. I just couldn't toss them like some people do, I always kept them because I enjoyed collecting them and so I could read them again in the future.

Sadly, I just didn't have room for it any longer and upgraded to a Kindle Paper White. I put my MUST HAVE books (about 100) in storage and donated the rest (27 very large boxes full) to a thrift shop run by the local homeless/opportunity shelter. All of my future books will be digital, it's amazing how that tiny little tablet holds over 1,000 books..plus unlimited storage in the cloud to swap in and out as desired.

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 05-05-2013, 10:39 AM
#16
  • Howler
  • A calamophile and vintage razor lover
  • Fort Smith AR
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Impressive very many levels.

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 05-05-2013, 10:43 AM
#17
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Hans, That's pretty neat!

Can you use a flash? If so, set the exposure for the flash and just disregard the ambient light. The flash will need to be placed so as not to give a reflection. You'd need to play with it.

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 05-05-2013, 04:07 PM
#18
  • MikekiM
  • Senior Member
  • Long Island, NY
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Really slick...

Lifting the book to the plates makes more sense than dropping the plates to the book..

Love it!

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 05-05-2013, 10:42 PM
#19
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Using a flash is... tricky at best, if the posts at the book scanner forum is to be trusted, due to the glass plates. More so since my cameras don't support an external flash, unlike my DSLR.

There is a 10W LED light mounted on top of the scanner (the gray thing on top, behind the extension cord), so there isn't a lack of light - rather it is too much light coming in from the window, reflecting of the right hand glass plate. I'll probably end up putting a dark curtain on the back and sides of the scanner, which should also make it less tempting for the cat to try to climb under the cradle when it's lifted up...

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 05-05-2013, 11:45 PM
#20
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Human ingenuity, making things cheaper one thing at a time. I love it!

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