Picture of Bargain-Price Book Scanner From A Cardboard Box.
Who doesn't want access to their books, notebooks, magazines, class notes, and other stuff everywhere, all the time? The thing is that often these things are a pain to scan. I have a really good solution for that, but it's expensive and can take a whole weekend to build. How do you scan a book, magazine or notebook when you have no money, one camera, and just a little time? Matti and I show you how:

(PDF version here)

Step 1: Reasons You Might Want To....

Picture of Reasons You Might Want To....

BEFORE WE BEGIN... Reasons you might want to do this include the following:

  1.  You need to scan something, fast, but it doesn't scan easily.
  2.  You don't want to build an entire DIY Book Scanner.
  3.  You don't want to waste your time with a flatbed scanner.
  4.  You have only one camera.
  5.  You might not have a lot of tools or experience.
  6.  You want digital copies of your books or notebooks.

ALSO... We've done this book scanning Instructable thing before. And answered many questions in the comments! And we love you guys completely, but sometimes (well, actually, all the time) we get the same questions over and over! So we've compiled a Fairly Annoying Questions (FAQ) Here are some answers before we get started!

1. Why not just take a picture with the book on the table. 

  1. Why don't you. ;)
  2. Your camera doesn't have enough resolution for two pages.
  3. The distorted pages are not fun to read onscreen.
  4.  Lighting is inconsistent.
  5.  Cameras cast shadows. You cast shadows.

2. Why use a camera instead of a flatbed scanner?

  1.  Pressing a book on the scanner breaks the binding.
  2.  Flatbed scanners are slow.
  3.  You need to reposition the book for every page.
  4.  Flatbed scanners are slooooooow.
  5.  Sloooooooowwwwwnesssssss.

3. Why not use a sheet-feed scanner like the ScanSnap?

  1.  I don't like sawing the bindings off my books.
  2.  A small part of me dies when I destroy a book.
  3.  I don't have a tablesaw.
  4.  I'm not willing to spend ~$500 just to destroy a book.

4. Can't I use a webcam?

  1.  No.


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manuzio1 month ago

This looked very nice, but the OCR quality turned out to be terrible. For ebooking purposes this is probably useless. If you just want a PDF image, on the other hand, this should work.

Lesson learned.. Turn off the time stamp on your camera before taking photos of 224 pages!
mtdna neutronbomb3 months ago

"Doh!" - Homer Simpson

ivmilicevic6 months ago
is anyone using this to scan glossy magazines? One part of the page is blown with higlights, almost white and bottom is dark. Did enyone else had this problem?
ChuckinWA made it!1 year ago

I constructed the box base scan bed as instructed and it works as described. I have an issue I'd like advice about if possible. I've been scanning my grandmothers sewing publications for archiving. As the example shows, I've have a reflection on the bottom edge of the picture (it's been rotated) that I haven't been able to eliminate. I've repositioned the light source and also tried putting spacers under the center of the box's hinge point to change the angle from about 90 degrees to something larger. These changes haven't eliminated the reflection. Moving the book higher on the box to avoid the hinge point does work, but that takes away the efficiency in this design when scanning multiple pages.

lrockwell11 year ago

Just made one of these and am currently using it to scan some awesome antique science books. Thanks for the ible!

daniel_reetz (author)  lrockwell11 year ago
Nice! If you want to expand it, or explore other book scanning stuff, join us at www.diybookscanner.org/forum .
Thanks for this! Some notes- you can go with a bigger piece of glass (mine was 12x15), but your wrist will get tired of holding it. Turn the pages away from the camera so that you can have an efficient circular motion throughout the scanning process. Don't move the book between pictures! It will make cropping the pictures with ScanTailor way easier later.
Also, ScanTailor is very neat, though I have trouble with it always running out of memory on certain pictures. The dewarping facility was useful because I didn't get a proper straight-ahead shot of the pages.
I'm having a problem getting the rename and rotate all program to work correctly. When it runs in the DOS shell it indicates that it went thru all of the files and renamed them all, but when I actually open the file it only finished half the job. Any ideas???
that looks AWESOME, Where did the idea come from?
prawnonly2 years ago
I also looking for similar solution.
But it seems that some company came out with XCANEX.
Checked its video and it look cheaper.
ANyone tried it??
ecz2 years ago
I'd been looking for a solution to this; too many books and no kindle versions. So far this seems to be an outstanding solution, with detailed help every step of the way.

Thank You!
JensonBut2 years ago
tooo awesome!
sdfsger2 years ago
Is a very good website, Yes, for I have a lot of help, thank you!!!!!!
I would recommend to my friends.

The recommendation of a friend professional Graphic Converter! really good and I like it very much, I save a lot of time. To try his
I tried the Scan Tailor and it won't process jpg files. Anyone having the same problem? (I convert to tiff , it worked but would rather have the jpg files and save a step). By the way, thank you so much for the instruction for the book scanner, I am in the process of learning how to set it up and actually have a book in pdf.
zwheel3 years ago
I wonder how this would work...

Skip the tripod
Get 2 lamps instead of one (With the bendy arm just like in your example)
Remove the light from one of the lamps and attach the camera to that.
chakkers4 years ago
Another cheap alternative for buying a glass sheet are clip frames. You can usually find those in cheap, or poundland type shops in the UK anyways.
monkban4 years ago
So what do you do with a paperback book you want to copy that does not open up nicely as hardback books do? Meaning -- if I put a new paperback book in the box-wedge and open to the page I want to copy, the book simply closes. Any thoughts? Thanks.
monkban monkban4 years ago
Wondering if anyone had any thoughts yet on how to handle a paperback book with the problems described in my first post (above) about book not lying flat. Thanks!
maybe two pieces of glass?
fire bat4 years ago
This is an amazing prodject. i was in a bind (no pun here) the other day. my backpack literally broke under the weight of my engineering texts. i built this in 10 mins, and now all i bring to class is a laptop and a note book. you guys are a life saver. 5 stars here!
daniel_reetz (author)  fire bat4 years ago
Awesome. If you ever get a chance, drop by DIYBookScanner.org and share a picture of your setup!
I started this today, (great instructable) and have some questions. How do you consolidate all the separate pdf pages into a "book" to load to the ereader? Is there another program to make a large pdf or epub file? I haven't bought an ereader yet, but plan to soon. I have a 1200 page vegetation ID reference book, plus a few others that I'd like to convert so I can lighten my backpack.
daniel_reetz (author)  robbtoberfest4 years ago
Robbtoberfest, you should really join us over at DIYBookScanner.org. In particular, check out the "software" forum and the "new standard scanner" build thread to see some modern improvements. This instructable, though great, is outdated and we have lot of improvements over on the forums.
Will do, thanks much.
Need2Relax4 years ago
Mac Users can do the same "print to PDF" thing, but it is already built into the Mac OS X. View all those images in any application, then print. Note the "PDF" button at the lower left corner of the print dialog box, and use it to print to a PDF file instead of whatever printer is selected.
10.6 and possibly 10.5 allows you to create multi-page pdfs simply by copying all the files in finder and pasting them in preview.
daniel_reetz (author)  Need2Relax4 years ago
Thanks for the tips!
wnnorton4 years ago
Some cameras have the ability to "lock" the focus and exposure settings, allowing a much quicker recovery and re-shoot. With a static setup such as this, it should prove quite useful.
bluefly12154 years ago
Very nice, this would work great with old books that are falling apart. It also would come in handy for keeping a documented copy of important items such as genealogy, baby books, scrapbook pages, wills... I could go on but I think you get the idea. I have taken photo's and made them into phish, not fun with old books, some over 100 years old. This gives the book some support without cracking the old spine and the camera is parallel to the page.
CyborgGold4 years ago
Um... correct me if I am wrong.... but I believe a camera should be on the things needed list... just saying ;) Maybe you know some magic trick that I have yet to learn :P
daniel_reetz (author)  CyborgGold4 years ago
Good point, we thought it was implied. I'll change it someday.
D00M994 years ago
I may or may not do this project, but one thing is for sure;
daniel_reetz (author)  D00M994 years ago
You're welcome! Matti did most of the work for the small programs, and Scan Tailor was done by Joseph Artsimovich. I am just the camera/scanner guy. :)
Need2Relax4 years ago
Mac users can use the shareware GraphicConverter. If you pay the shareware fee that unlocks batch processing.Opens almost any format of graphic, and saves in almost any graphic format. Also great for cropping & adjusting. The batch processing is a wonderful thing.
ezuk4 years ago
This is a _superb_ 'ible. There aren't many ebooks in my language, and being able to convert my own books (that I've bought and paid for) to read on my e-reader is _awesome_. Thank you so much!
daniel_reetz (author)  ezuk4 years ago
You're very welcome. Feel free to join us at the DIY Book Scanner forum if you run into any trouble along the way.
Servelan4 years ago
Totally cool...I've got all the raw materials for this. I agree with you totally about banging up books, and sometimes, magazines, depending on how they are bound, are just as much a problem [think National Geographics and the like] to scan.

daniel_reetz (author)  Servelan4 years ago
Awesome. Looking forward to seeing your results... and all your questions are probably answered over at diybookscanner.org. :)
My younger one has a project like this in mind. He wants to build a portable scanner in a box. To do that the camera has to be situated in the box. Is this possible with the steps above.
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