Instructables

DIY High-Speed Book Scanner from Trash and Cheap Cameras

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I love books. There is some truly fantastic knowledge and information hidden out there in hard to find, rare, and not commercially viable books. I find that I want my books with me everywhere. But that's where the problems begin. Buying, moving, storing, and preserving books means environmental costs... and when I loan a book to a friend, I no longer have access to it.



Digital books change the landscape . After suffering through scanning many of my old, rare, and government issue books, I decided to create a book scanner that anybody could make, for around $300. And that's what this instructable is all about. A greener future with more books rather than fewer books. More access to information, rather than less access to information. And maybe, years from now, a reformed publishing/distribution model (but I'm not holding my breath...).

UPDATE: We've outgrown the Instructables commenting system. There's a new place to discuss book scanner building -- please join us at DIYBOOKSCANNER.ORG -- and BTW, you don't need to register to get a PDF of these instructions. UPDATE:9/16/2011 - Instructables has kindly made the PDF download public for everyone. Thanks, Eric.

UPDATE: If you're actually planning to build one of these things, you really should visit DIYBookScanner.org. I have a new set of plans there that is much simpler than these ones.

I've built two of these things now, and this instructable covers the best parts of both of them. You can build a book scanner using only hand tools plus a drill. I realized that not everyone is comfortable with using all the different hand tools you might need to make it. So I scanned a book on using hand tools that should answer all your questions. ;)

Download a sample here.
Download the entire book (115mb) here. I may have to remove this if there are too many downloads. Please note that these were taken before the scanner and software were complete. Scans from the final system are much nicer.

We have written some open-source, free software to convert the images from your scanner into PDFs. It's currently in a rough alpha stage, and needs a pretty fast computer to get things done. It works on Macs and PCs. Help us improve it! This software is covered on step(78-79).

EDIT: Many people have commented that an automatic page flipper would be faster. I think this system is pretty fast. I made a comparison video if you'd like to see how this compares to an automatic scanning system. And you can watch a movie while you work on my system.

Let's get to it!
UPDATE, 2009-04-28. Step 1 now contains a beta-quality printable PDF materials list.
 
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s0lidstate4 years ago
Actually, in the USA, anything put in an area where a "reasonable" person would expect the item to be collected as trash is "abandoned property". Ironically, this has been established by the federal government to allow the police to go through people's trash without a search warrant. In the U.K. are the police allowed to examine a person's trash without a warrant? I will bet they are. Quite a double standard.
mecrofider4 years ago
http://69d3cfcc.linkbucks.com please can you people help me to get money in linkbucks.com just click in the first link:D
tmkiwipeel4 years ago
Just a small detail but if you made a frame to connect the camera to the page holder instead of the frame couldn't you avoid having the centre of the book move? It would make for a much neater scan no? It might mean you have to reinforce your plexi square but it depends on how nice you want you scans I guess.
daniel_reetz (author)  tmkiwipeel4 years ago
It's a good idea, and some people have tried that. You can see some of their designs over at the front page of www.diybookscanner.org.
9ale74 years ago
1 question, an important feature would be to look for a specific word in the pdf once you finish, so when i scan pages using a regular scaner , i choose scan text > save as tif and then print as pdf and be able to look for words, so does you're camera do that? or can i skip this step and use an OCR software?? *free software :) so my question is how can i change any ( Folder ) with pictures into an Editable Pdf where i can later on (Copy/Paste) any content into another program like office/Word (NO i don't mean editing the PDF i mean copy any text within the pdf and search through it). if you already have done it, then please show me which step Again love you're Work , specially the legal issue , many people have no clue :@ of what is legal or not.
daniel_reetz (author)  9ale74 years ago
The camera produces an image which can be fed through an OCR program, which will create the PDF you desire. Adobe Acrobat is one solution, there are many others. If you're interested in getting deeper into book scanning, we've created one of the best resources on the net over at the DIYBookScanner.org forums.
9ale74 years ago
i have seen this used by Google people on TV, really nice and simple.
dang, great job!
daniel_reetz (author)  jimmerforpoy4 years ago
Thank you!
I have been wanting to do for a long time and now that I have a E-reader, I would really like to do it. Is there a reason you did not use webcams? I am thinking of investing in some 6MP Phillips webcams a pair is equivalent to the 2 canon u used. I hope this will reduce the size of the over all machine. Using my laptop to capture the images. I would really appreciate your input.
daniel_reetz (author)  06chevymalibu4 years ago
Webcams don't have sufficient image quality. There are some tests over at the forum of diybookscanner.org.
Navisaurus4 years ago
This is so freaking awesome. THANK YOU for thinking about the future. Navi
prodo1234 years ago
It seems slow.
dingpud4 years ago

Depending on what's available for your salvaged material, you might benefit from using a harder material for making your template as repeated use may offset your holes and mess up your alignment....just a thought...
((awesome project by the way!))

daoes dingpud4 years ago
I've surfed the net more than three hours today using new search engine nowGoogle , however, I haven't found such useful information like yours. Thanks a lot, it's really useful for me.

daoes4 years ago
That answer is quite simple.. led is mass produced extremely fast in large plastic smelters. you don't need to be a genius to understand the tinting will varie from batch to batch.I know it is all cool and trendy to pretend you are doing something edgy, instead of edgy be responsible and do something where you actually involve the community where you live instead of turning your back on them.
Sonata
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daoes
dummy19774 years ago
I applaud the incredible amount of detail and effort went into this.  Truly over my head and would find myself going fetal by step 6, but I can appreciate a brilliant instructable for what it is.

I can not believe this was just grammar-copped.  There are some instructables where that is actually called for, but this is really scraping the bottom of the bin. 
ubicomp4 years ago
 "fewer" books, not "less" books.
daniel_reetz (author)  ubicomp4 years ago
You're only the fifteenth or sixteenth person to correct me on this. Please note, it is corrected in the text. Re-doing the video to satisfy pedantry just seemed like too much work.
Vailhem4 years ago
 This just impressive.  Thank you.   ...but, the real question is... how much for you to build and me to buy?  I tend to get confused after step 6 in things
daniel_reetz (author)  Vailhem4 years ago
Thanks, but sorry, I will not be selling these things. 
 Well, if you change your mind... want some extra cash for your kids college fund or something... you know where to find me  = )
jlms4 years ago
Oh please....

Lets be a little less childish.

Why don't you just go to the shops and businesses where all this rubbish is disposed of  and ask them if they would give you some? Or what about asking your neighbours?

Many people will be glad if you do this. There is little need of these pseudo daredevil shenanigans where you can get hurt or could be questioned for looking suspicious (why do you need to go at night to a dumpster?)

I know it is all cool and trendy to pretend you are doing something edgy, instead of edgy be responsible and do something where you actually involve the community where you live instead of turning your back on them.

Of course it is better to recycle, and if you must do it this way, that is fine, but I fail to see what is so difficult about going and asking. Could it not be that some of you are spending far too much time in front of the computer and are forgetting that "please" and "thank you" will carry you a long way?

Just sayin (gosh, I am feeling old now...)


 Jims, you must understand that one he never said you HAVE to just jump in without permission, and two assuming your jumping into the dumpster of a book store or library, there is not such a big security risk that you would have jumping into the dumpsters of Microsoft or large businesses where recycling can be dangerous due to sensitive information that may be disposed of.  Also, legally as long as the owner shows intent of getting rid of the property, its free game.  For example, if you put your lawn mower on the corner with the trash cans on garbage day, anyone can take it because you took a significant step to get rid of it.  However, it is the taker's responsibility to handle these things wisely.  Its not necessarily illegal to jump into a dumpster and collect scrap paper.  However, it is illegal to put them together and use passwords or bank information and the like for your own or anyone else's ends but the owners.  Illegal usage of the material taken is the fear created in dumpster diving, not the lost "politeness" you speak of.  Whether the books go to the recycling plant or to your house, the owners have showed by putting the books in the dumpster they don't want any more responsibility in the care of them.  Its yours for the taking.  
I should point out that your comment about taking trash is certainly not true in the UK.  It is against the law in the UK to take something from someone's bin (English for trash can).  When someone puts something in a bin in the UK the law says that doing so demonstrates their intention to have it destroyed, not that they are relinquishing their rights as owner.

I have no idea how the law stands in the US but it's worth pointing out that taking trash (without permission) is illegal in some countries at least.  However as jlms says, a simple "please" goes a long way and in this case removes any legal doubts.
Laws in the USA vary from state to state, city to city.  In many cases, trash is considered "the property of the one who put it out", and taking it "can be" (but rarely is) considered theft. 

The exceptions are businesses as trash can be have information on HD's, memory chips, and documents.

  Also, "big" items put out in the city (by the general public) are normally TAGGED (meaning the owner paid extra to have this item removed, and taking it WILL constitute theft).  

It's complicated :-) 
 
daniel_reetz (author)  jlms4 years ago

The condescending tone of your message is completely unnecessary and does not reflect the "maturity" you putatively represent.

Condescension also does not reflect the values of this community. See the message below the comment box for more.

To address your comment, most of these pictures were taken at night because, as a graduate student, I attend classes all day, and so acquiring materials during the day is impossible. Furthermore, I built this scanner during the winter, when it is dark from 6pm to 9am.

While I agree that it is possible to ask for materials, and indeed, it is safer, it is not always preferable. Businesses, in my experience, are not happy to just hand out scraps to anyone who walks in. They are, however, happy to discard valuable materials in quantity. This is true of restaurants, who throw away masses of food, construction companies, who throw away masses of materials, and just about all other companies, too.

Clearly, dumpster diving involves more risk than asking. For some of us, circumstances dictate what we do. For others, we simply prefer to have fun out searching for materials and taking measured risks. 

Your angry words about "edginess" and "turning your back" speak for themselves. As the founder of another community, and an active member of this one, I have worked hard to foster respectful and constructive discussion, to educate, and to learn from what's being offered. Of all the things I've learned, the most important one is not to make too many assumptions about why people do things, whether that's building a book scanner, jumping in a dumpster, or making a rude and condescending comment.










merijnvw4 years ago
 nice idea, great outworking
Edgar4 years ago
...And you can significantly reduce the size of your files with this OPEN SOURCE OCR, so you're saving digitized text, not images of pages, avialable for both Linux and Windows:
http://code.google.com/p/tesseract-ocr/
daniel_reetz (author)  Edgar4 years ago
 Yep, some of the forum members at DIYbookscanner.org have been working with Tesseract... it's definitely a next frontier for us. You should join and check out the awesome builds people have made.
Just thought, in this line of activities, about this gem, something any Gizmo maker must read , and an endless fountain of fun stuff :
http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/12655

Just see the cannon prank...
daniel_reetz (author)  Edgar4 years ago
 I LOVE the Boy Mechanic!!! My Dad has a copy, and I spent many, many hours reading it. I had no idea it was on Gutenberg, though! Thank you.
Just found this, useful for a lot of things, besides Paintball, as, for example, a piston to turn the pages on your idea:
http://www.spudfiles.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=160
Wow - you don't even know how useful this is going to be for me.  I too love old books and I just yesterday bought an Etacto Jetbook Lite for an E-reader.

I will likely ask my son to help me put together a scanner in the near future.

On the auto-arm, pager flipper path... I used to work as a printing press mechanic and think that one could find vacuum operated "lifters" from a press that could be incorporated.

Thanks a million for sharing with us and this is one detailed and very utilitarian instructable - great job!!!!

www.theruralindependent.com
 Very glad to hear it -- if you or anyone else decides to build a scanner please drop by www.diybookscanner.org to see the updated designs. 

I'm working on a new "standard scanner" tutorial here.

Edgar4 years ago
Ahhh, to jump into a trash dumpster, and recover stuff!
And I thought it was a lost art!
You've got the makings of a future great Inventor, my friend! :)
bookscanner4 years ago
great instruction ! ... a completely different concept - check out www.roboticbookscan.com
HK24 years ago
Could you show us some images of the input files? Is the quality good enought for OCR?
daniel_reetz (author)  HK24 years ago
There's plenty of that kind of material over at www.diybookscanner.org.

mbear4 years ago
I love it. Great idea.

Instead of looking for a syringe to weld your acrylic, you could always go to a hobby shop/model railroad store and get some brass/aluminum pipe. Then use it like a pipette. (Dunk pipe in cement, put thumb over open end to prevent cement from leaving, move pipe over joint, remove thumb to let cement fall into joint.)

Might be easier than looking for a syringe.
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