However, one day I realized that digital cameras nowadays are actually pretty decent scanners! You're not going to get super high quality scans like you would with a regular scanner, but you won't have to spend a day just to scan one book. In fact, I've scanned a 600+ page history book in under 2 hours!
In this instructable I will show you the methods I used to both capture every page of a book with a digital camera, and later process the images into a readable PDF file using cheap/free software.
This information is for educational purposes only. I am in no way responsible for anything illegal you do with this knowledge.
Step 1: Theory and Materials
Digital Camera - It doesn't need to have too many fancy features, but it does have to have some way of triggering it remotely. My camera has 6 megapixels and the images turned out pretty readable (I wouldn't recommend any lower than 6, though it never hurts to try).
Tripod - A basic tripod with adjustable legs.
Remote control / Cable release - You need some way of firing the camera without touching it. This is important because of two reasons. Firstly, you don't want shaky images. Second, and more importantly, you're going to want to move as little as possible between flipping the pages and firing the camera. You will to be making the same motion hundreds of times, and having to get up and fire your camera, or reach in awkward positions will definitely wear you out. If you don't have a remote control or shutter release cable, there are a bunch of instructables showing you how to make your own =).
A heavy weight - The tripod is going to be in an awkward position and will need extra support on the back leg to stop it from falling over.
Lighting - At least two lights are recommended. You also may need something to diffuse the lighting, like wax paper.
A PC - Preferably windows based (software will be described below).
These programs are required if you want to turn your book into an Adobe PDF file for easy reading.
Snapter - This is an EXTREMELY useful program I was very lucky to find. It makes cropping all of your images into separate pages very easy, and it's pretty cheap ($50 - about half the price of the average textbook). Sorry Linux and Mac people, this program only works on windows. If you don't want to use snapter, there are programs that can do batch processing, but these require little bit more effort.
Bullzip - This free program lets you compile all your pictures into a PDF file. Bullzip is also windows only but there are plenty of alternatives for Linux and Mac.
Step 2: Basic Setup
1) Set up tripod - Attach the camera to the tripod and set it up so that the camera is facing directly downward. Do this by first positioning two legs in front of the camera, with one leg in behind. Then, extend the legs out so that the the legs in the front are shorter than the leg in the back.
2) Secure tripod - As you will notice, the tripod in this position has a tendency to fall over. Somehow tie a weight onto the back leg (use your imagination) so that your tripod is nice and secure.
3) Rough Set-up - Adjust the camera so that it is facing straight down (I used a level for this, but it's not necessary). Place the book on a solid colored surface and place it in the center of the frame. Try to get it centered and straight. Later, you will make more minor adjustments but for now this is fine.
4) (Optional) Place Support under front cover - I found it helpful for the first couple of pages of the book to place an object about the size of the book's spine under the front cover. This helps keep the book down without having to bend the front cover all the way down to the floor.
Step 3: Lighting
What you're aiming for in this step is to have consistent lighting over the entire book. You don't want to have a shadow in the middle fo the spine, and you want to minimize highlights as much as possible (this becomes harder to do with glossy books, but still possible).
You should try experimenting yourself with this step.
The most popular method I found online was to have two light sources, one on the left and one on the right of the book. The problem I had with this method was that because of the curvature of the book, the light tended to reflect off the pages and create nasty highlights. I found it better to place a light source in front and behind the book, as low as possible. This way, the light is reflected in front of and behind the camera.
Also, you can try using a diffuser of some kind (like wax paper) to create more even lighting. This will make it easier with glossy books, but I got by without it.
Step 4: Take Test Shots and Adjust
This is the procedure I used to adjust my set-up:
Adjust positioning - Make sure the book is directly under the camera. Make sure it is as straight as possible in the viewfinder, and try to get it centered too.
Zooming - You want both pages of the book to be visible in one shot, this will make things go twice as fast! Zoom in until as much as you can while still maintaining some space around the book. Remember that the book will be moving around a bit as you're flipping pages (mostly to the left) so position it accordingly. You can also make some marks with a pencil to note the position of the book so you don't have to check the camera every time the book moves.
Exposure & White Balance - The picture needs to be fairly light without washing anything out. If it's too dark, it will be stressful to read (black text on a gray background). Try to get the background to appear as white as possible. Also, I forgot to do this, but you should use the custom white balance feature if it is available to you if you're doing a color book.
Lighting - Follow the tips in the last step to try to get as consistent lighting as possible. Check on a computer screen that the image is easy to read and that no parts of the page are washed out.
Step 5: Shoot the Images!
I would highly recommend shooting about 10-20 test pages, processing them, and making sure you're satisfied with the final outcome. I don't mean just looking at the images on your computer, but actually processing them as I will describe in the next couple of steps. There's nothing more discouraging than to have to scan the same book twice because your shots didn't come out right.
There's not much I can say in this step. Just try to get as comfortable as you can on the floor and start taking pictures. Don't be afraid to keep your finger in the shot at the edge of the book to hold the page down. However, if you do this make sure you don't move the page while you're taking the picture or else it will come out blurred.
Step 6: Processing the Images
The first thing you're going to have to do is split each image in half, so that you have one image for the left page and another one for the right. This is where Snapter comes in.
Here are the basics -
1) Start up snapter
2) On the left side, select the icon that shows a book
3) Browse to the folder you saved your pictures in and select all of them (ctrl+a)
4) Click on the box that says "Output" If you're doing a black and white book, go to photometric enhancement and select Grayscale
5) Click on Process
6) When all the pictures are done, they will show up in the box on the right. Right-click on them and select "Save All..." and select a folder to save your processed images to
Step 7: Making a PDF With Bullzip
Navigate to the folder with all your processed images in it, and select everything.
1) Right-click and click on print
2) Select "Bullzip PDF Printer" as the printer
Now you will have to play with the settings a little to get a balance between image quality and file size. I tried to keep my books around 1-2mb for every 10 pages.
Try playing with the "Quality" first and mess around with the DPI. If you need more settings to mess with follow these steps:
1) In Vista, click on "Options" in the bottom right corner (not sure about XP)
2) Click on "Printer properties"
3) Click on "Advanced"
Now you can do more fine-tuning until you get a readable image that doesn't use up too much space.
Step 8: Share!
You can optionally share your content on a P2P network. A really great resource is www.textbooktorrents.com . Someone may have even already scanned your book for you!
EDIT - Unfortunately, textbooktorrents has been down for the past couple of weeks. I spoke to some guys in #textbooktorrents on irc.p2p-network.net and they said they're working hard to try to get it back online as quickly as possible.