For most people, their first experience with a scanner is a flatbed, designed to take an image one at a time under a door. If transferring an entire book, or archive, to digital form is your goal then a dedicated book scanner will take hours – perhaps days – off the process.
Good book scanners are built to speed up every part of the process which would otherwise be repeated by the user; instead of a moving scanner, a camera is held far enough above that it can capture the page fast. Nevertheless even though it’s measured in seconds, time-per-page is a factor which can add up for books of 300-400 pages.
Mechanisms to recognize page turning keep times down too; some scanners come with pedals so the operator can turn pages with their hands, hold them in place, and initiate a scan without the book slamming shut. There are even some which use AI to detect the page turns.
If you’re planning on scanning a lot of shiny pages, then scanners which offer lower or more diagonal illumination may help avoid reflections. Another great hardware feature to look for is laser sensors which can detect the three-dimensional shape of the pages. These assist the algorithms which replicate original flat pages in the scans offered by even more scanners, but usually hardware measurements offer the process an advantage.
The best book scanner in 2022
CZUR don’t like to stand still, and have recently added this higher resolution 5696 x 4272 scanner to their range. It has much in common with the ET18 Pro, including magnetically-detachable side-positioned lights to minimise reflection. It also boasts higher resolution; pushing it over the 300ppi point from an area over A3.
A hand button and foot pedal are found in the box so you can speed-scan, as is a black mat to place the book on and ‘finger cots’ – a kind of thimble to hold the page down which are automatically removed by software, while pages are flattened by ‘second generation’ laser measurement. The software can, for the most part, also recognise page turns for automated scanning.
All this adds up to a machine which can scan at up to a page a second and save out to PDF, Word or other files thanks to the included OCR.
An HDMI port provides live view at 1080P too, so this scanner is just as comfortable in the lecture theater as the office.
If you want a slightly cheaper option, consider the older lower resolution CZUR ET18 Pro:
Rather than directing a high resolution camera downward like many document scanners, the ScanSnap SV600 still conducts linear scans, adjusting focus as it goes to avoid the potential for distortion in the image corners. While the lights remain in the same spot, the brightness adjusts as the scan swoops across the page too. Software efficiency tools are impressive too; an A3 landscape in three seconds and the scanner is happy with bound pages up to 30mm thick too. It can compensate for curvature, producing perfectly flat-looking scans, and detect and separate multiple documents on the bed. ABBYY OCR is also included, meaning extraction of scannable & editable text is feasible, and indeed the quality should help. Resolution is good, with 150, 200, 300 and 600 dpi modes (all at 3 seconds), which should please the design agencies, studios, galleries and professional archiving services in mind.
The Aura Mate Pro is Czur’s answer to the mobile worker’s book scanner and presentation tool; a document scanner equipped with much of their processing functionality from their dedicated devices with extra features for online meetings, not least of which is a second camera in the post, ideal for a lecturer sharing a book or a students in a Zoom class, though the addition of wi-fi might be more useful more often.
As well as working with your computer (Mac and Windows), you can use your phone with an complete enough to remind you to adjust your posture if you’ve been using it long enough! It might be portable, but the inclusion of a foot pedal makes clear Czur still take the book scanning functionality seriously; OCR software and page flattening isn’t left out. The lamp-like design includes a 320 x 240 px preview LCD and (especially compared to its sibling) looks gorgeous – Pixar would be proud.
Many of us are involved in sharing parts of documents, including books, in live online presentations and lectures; step forward the modern-day overhead projector: a document camera. One of the our favorites is the IPEVO V4K Pro, which took one of the most popular designs on the market and refined the microphone with smart AI noise reduction. The camera can easily be directed at a book, either to produce a live view or to capture still images, on a Mac, PC or Chromebook. It’s not equipped with all the rapid page processing tools of the Czur or SV600, but it can definitely tackle capturing a few pages for work, which is why it sports a higher resolution autofocus camera than required simply for 1080P live streaming. We also liked the fetching bottle green shade, and it’s hard to deny the relatively low cost of a product dedicated without book scanning tools.
This is a full duplex sheet feeding scanner, which, by taking pages from a pile and scanning both sides, might be a more useful tool for some archiving tasks. It’s certainly quick; Xerox say a user can plough through 1,500 scans a day so, if the book will be discarded after scanning, why not un-bind it so the scans can be run more quickly through the scanner?
In practice this technology – which Xerox commonly place atop photocopiers – does prefer perfectly trimmed pages, but if that’s something you can provide the system will churn out images at 25 pages per minute which eclipses even the most powerful book scanners once the page turning is accounted for. We were also impressed that banners up to 3m (118 inches) could be scanned if required; you’ve got to admire flexibility. There is also the option of standard one-off 600ppi scans from under the lid, always a handy option to have in the office; all this for a relatively modestly priced device.
IRIScan Desk 5 (and bigger brother Desk 5 PRO) are built to handle A4 (letter) and A3 (tabloid) sizes. The smaller Desk 5 is a great choice if you’re not looking to capture large documents as Canon-subsidiary IRIS have kept the feature-list trim while including all the archiving essentials – assuming, that is, you’re not using a Mac. These are edge detection, cropping, finger detection and deletion. There is even page turn detection, eliminating the need for a pedal switch.
The supplied software also allows live view dual-screening with your (Windows) computer’s webcam, making for an alternative to switching between views in a e-learning situation. We also appreciated that the device is entirely powered by its USB connection so painless to transport.
There was a time when a handheld scanner, which you move over the page or photo, was reasonably common. Now they’re hard to find, but – if you want to scan sections of a book without taking them from the library – could still have a use. The IRIScan 5 doesn’t even need to be attached to a computer, storing images to a 4GB MiniSD card if preferred. Scanning can be monitored from a 1.5-inch LCD screen; this too is where the settings are adjusted.
Though it’ll take a few tries to get used to moving the scanner over the page, it can satisfactorily manage to digitize type at around 8pt using the OCR. It might not be as easy and as quick as one of the book scanners above, but it certainly has the virtue of subtly, and can manage around 100 scans per charge.
Don’t forget your phone!
While it’s unlikely to be something you’ll want to do on an industrial scale, or even for a whole book, it’s worth remembering that your camera phone (opens in new tab) likely includes a camera at least capable of putting up a fight against some of those featured by the scanners on these lists, and might well have them beaten when it comes to processing power. This isn’t lost on developers either, and there are a good range of scanning tools out there, perhaps the most useful of which (beyond the built-in note tools) is Adobe Scan (from Apple App Store or Google Play), which is not only straightforward in its design but features reliable OCR and can output clean PDFs.
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