Six Years of Work and Rationale In A DIY Book Scanner Documented

[Daniel Reetz] spent six years working as a Disney engineer during the day and on his book scanner, the archivist at night. Some time last year, [Daniel] decided enough is enough, got married, and retired from the book scanner business. There’s a bit more to it than that, but before leaving he decided to dump, not just the design, but the entire rationale behind the design into a twenty-two thousand word document.

One of his big theses in this document, is his perceived failure of the open hardware movement. The licenses aren’t adequate, as they are based on copyright law that only applies to software. This makes it impossible to enforce in practice, which is why he released the entire design as public domain. He also feels that open hardware shares design, but not rationale. In his mind this is useless when encouraging improvement, and we tend to agree. In the end rationale is the useful thing, or the source code, behind a design that truly matters. So, putting his money time where his mouth is, he wrote down the rationale behind his scanner.

The rationale contains a lot of interesting things. At a first glance the book scanner almost seems a simple design, not the culmination of so much work. Though, once we began to read through his document, we began to understand why he made the choices he did. There’s so much to getting a good scan without destroying the book. For example, one needs a light that doesn’t lose any color information. It doesn’t have to be perfect, as the software can correct the white balance. However, it can’t lean too far away from the natural spectrum, it can’t be too bright, and it can’t be uneven, and it can’t be prohibitively expensive. A lot of thought went into the tent light design.

[Daniel]’s book scanners are immensely popular, and are being used all over the world. He’s certainly made an impact, and the community that formed around his project continues to grow without him. He made some interesting points, and if anything wrote a really good build and design log for the rest of us to learn from.

Automatic Book Scanner To Bring Knowledge To Ethiopian Students

In 2013 the dean of an Ethiopian university addressed Maker Faire Hannover and outlined one of his concerns; that the high price of developed-world textbooks was holding back the cause of education for universities such as his own in developing countries. He was there to ask for help from the maker community to solve his problem, and a group of his audience took up the challenge to create an affordable and accessible automatic book scanner.

Their scanner builds on the work of Google engineer [Dany Qumsiyeh], whose open source linear book scanner turns pages by traversing the opened book over a triangular prismic former such that pages are turned by vacuum as they pass over carefully designed slots in its surface. Their modification replaces the vacuum with the Coandă effect, to more gently tease open each page and it is hoped reduce the chance of damaging the volumes being scanned.

The whole machine is controlled by a Raspberry Pi, and the scanning is performed by linear scanning optics, sensors, and electronics taken from flatbed scanners.

An important design goal of the project was to ensure that the scanner could be built without special tools or expertise that might be difficult to find in a developing country, as well as that it should be as inexpensive as possible. The frame of the machine is off-the-shelf extruded aluminium, and the body is acrylic sheet which can be cut to shape with a hand saw if necessary. It is estimated that the device will cost in the region of 500 Euros (about $568) to build.

More information can be found at the project’s web site (German language, Google translate link), including a selection of videos such as the one below the break showing the device in operation.

Writing from the perspective of having been peripherally involved in a professional book scanning operation at a large publisher the benefits of this machine are immediately apparent. Removing the binding and automatically scanning each page as an individual sheet produces a very fast and high quality result, but by its very nature damages the volume being scanned. This machine promises to deliver a solution to the problem of book scanning that is considerably less intrusive.

It is also worth noting that the project does not address any copyright issues that might arise from scanning commercially published textbooks, though this is more of a concern for the end user in terms of what they scan with it than it is for the maker.

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Linear Book Scanner Does it with Arduino

About two and half years ago, the Google Books team open-sourced the plans for their book scanning rig, and there was much rejoicing. As [Dany Qumsiyeh] explained in the Google Tech talk we linked to at the time, the scanner uses a vacuum to lift the next page from the stack and turn it, saving hours of human labor and, admittedly, putting books in a little bit of danger.

[Chris] tipped us off about a different take on the linear book scanner created by [Forssa1] that uses server fan to turn the pages. [Forssa1]’s rig is built from laser-cut acrylic and employs two handheld scanners driven by an Arduino Mega. We don’t have a great deal of information about this build, but you can check it out after the break.

UPDATE: [Forssa1] checked in with us and sent a link to more build photos of his book scanner.

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BrickPi Bookreader 1 and 2 Read Tablets or Books Aloud, You Choose

BrickPi Bookreader 2

Have you ever wanted to relax with a good book but couldn’t due to the hassle of having to actually read and turn pages? Well, now BrickPi offers 2 solutions to that problem. They have you covered regardless if your document is on a tablet or resides in a physical book.

The original Bookreader will read out loud the displayed text on a tablet. brickpi bookreaderThis is not an application that runs on the tablet, it is a completely separate device that ‘reads’ the tablet screen. As you could guess from the BrickPi name, the brains behind the operation is a Raspberry Pi. A camera takes a photograph of the displayed text and the Raspberry Pi converts that image file to text using Optical Character Recognition. A Text-to-Speech engine then speaks the text in a robotic sounding voice. In order to change the page the Raspberry Pi controls a Lego Mindstorms arm that swipes across the tablet screen and the entire process is repeated.


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Google Books team open sources their book scanner

It’s no secret that Google has been scanning hundreds of thousands of books in the hope of recreating the Library of Alexandria. Publishers and authors really didn’t like that idea, so the Google books team is doing the next best thing: they’re releasing the plans for a very clever book scanner in the hope others will pick up the torch of creating a digital library of every book ever written.

Unlike some other book scanners we’ve seen that rely on an operator manually flipping pages, this linear book scanner turns the pages automatically with the help of a vacuum cleaner and a cleverly designed sheet metal structure after passing them over two image sensors taken from a desktop scanner.

The bill of materials comes in at around $1500, but according to the official design documents this includes a very expensive scanner, something that could be replaced in true hacker style with a few salvaged flatbed scanners.

After the break you can check out a Google Tech Talk presented by [Dany Qumsiyeh] going over the design and function of his DIY book scanner. There’s also a relatively thorough design document over on a Google code page.

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Page-turning book scanner roundup

[Daniel] at posted a roundup of the best automatic book scanner builds to date. A lot of the comments on our last coverage of book scanners were summed up by [Spork] with, “No automatic page turning = no use.” Turning a page in a book with a robot is really hard, though, and these builds do a really amazing job at automating very tedious work.

First up is [jck57]’s servo actuated auto scanner. From the video, this build is very good and we caught it skipping only one page. Check out the video in action and the overview.

Next up is the Berlin Hackerspace c-base’s vacuum box scanner. The video shows a large diamond-shaped box with a vacuum cleaner hose attached to the top. The box is pressed down into the binding of the book where the vacuum picks up the next page. The build is a manual version of this very expensive machine, but does have the bonus of not poking a centuries-old book with robotic manipulators.

[dtic] was one of the first people to look into automatic page turning. His prototype (video here) uses servos, but has a very simple construction. The downside is that the book can only scan one side of the book at a time; to get other side, the user would have to turn the book upside down and scan it again.

Project Gado was an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign whose goal was to develop a scanner to archive photos at Johns Hopkins University. The build used a vacuum-powered suction cup to lift pages onto a flatbed scanner. It’s a lot slower than some of the other builds, but we think there would be less of a risk of skipping a page.

As for processing the images captured by a digital camera, [Steve]’s book scan wizard handles a lot of the necessary post processing tasks. Converting everything to a PDF, changing the DPI, and putting all the pages in order can be done with [Steve]’s app. Download here.

Turning a page of a book is a very hard problem – books are designed for hands, not grippers. If you’ve got a book scanner build you’d like to show off, send it in on the tip line. We’ll be sure to put it up.

DIY book scanner processes 600 pages/hour

Like any learned individual, [Justin] has a whole mess of books. Not being tied to the dead-tree format of bound paper, and with e-readers popping up everywhere, he decided to build a low-cost book scanner so an entire library can be carried in a his pocket. If that’s not enough, there’s also a complementary book image processor to assemble the individual pictures into a paginated tome.

The build is pretty simple – just a little bit of black craft board for the camera mount and adjustable book cradle. [Justin] ended up using the CHDK software for the Cannon PowerShot camera to hack in a remote trigger. The scanner can manage to photograph 600 pages an hour, although that would massively increase if he ever moves up to a 2-camera setup.

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