Instructables
In my college life, I've had this thought cross my mind every semester - "Hrm, what if I can borrow someone's book for the weekend, and copy it!". It's an appealing thought considering the average college textbook is upwards of $80. However, I never really thought it was a practical idea.

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.

DISCLAIMER:
This information is for educational purposes only. I am in no way responsible for anything illegal you do with this knowledge.
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Theory and Materials

Picture of Theory and Materials
The basic idea for this method is very simple. Have a camera set up on a tripod facing down on a book. Take a picture, turn the page...and repeat.

Basic requirements:

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).

Software:
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.
yellowcatt1 year ago
If you have several books to copy it would be easier to use a copy stand, you could buy one or better still make your own. I made a copy stand from an old enlarger .and it works very well. I think I would photograph one page at a time rather than two. Here is an example of an enlarger manual that I copied: PDF FILE
prawnonly1 year ago
look like a lot of company is doing this.
look at this xcanex
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2p_Nt2WQE0
dade1 year ago
Scan Tailor is free and open source software. You can crop, split pages in two, deskew etc.

What an OCR program? after you take the pics use Snapter to crop the pics. What about making them into a PDF and making them searchable?
hackmattr1 year ago
I just spent ~$500 on textbooks for three classes because the teachers were strict saying that if you don't have the book by the second week, your dropped. Couldn't do amazon and get the books here on time so I had to go to the College bookstore =(

Some guy in my class scanned every single page and returned it to the bookstore for full price. He said it took him 6-8 hours to do it.

I plan to scan the ones that I want to keep for future reference and sell them outside the class when the next semester comes. Screw selling it back to the bookstore. They want to give $2 for a $80 book when I checked last time.

This seems like a quicker way to do it compared to scanning it page by page.
ErinBane2 years ago
This is cool, but there are some book scanning services/companies that will scan your books for you:

http://www.1dollarscan.com/
http://www.blueleaf-book-scanning.com/

It's a cool article, but I like to just send in my books to have them scanned. They have options where you can search for words after too, called OCR it's pretty cool especially for textbooks.
after i scan my book can i search for certain words?
idogis15 years ago
can this software do batch photo editing. For example changing the color balance so that all the page are white.
uytre idogis14 years ago
You can try Avanced Batch Converter for this task
for batch editing i would recommend imagemagick: www.imagemagick.org
uytre4 years ago
(sorry for possible bad english, I am not english speaker)

This is an interesting article about an very interesting and very useful activity that is not enough done for people.

You can scanner many books as books friends to lend you or books you to take from public library, and this manner you extend your private library for no cost.

For now I have scanned and "ebooking" over 300 books with this method , and growing.

I do some steps a little bit different respect this tutorial. For me a very important detail with no mention in article is an software or hardware intervalomenter wich fire camera each X seconds. I work with software intervalometer included at Eos Utility software and computer connected to canon 400D. Minimun time between photos for this software is 5 seconds... I tried less time with other procedeures , but camera begin to fail some photos with less seconds.
At this rate you have photographied 24 pages a minute. An 240 page book, then, need only 10 minutes to be photographied completely.

I think that book have to be in a table, with the tripod over the table too , and you confortably seated with book in front of you. Its a mechanical task turning pages each 5 seconds or less (some seconds spare at this rate) , but is not tiring task and you can listen music or podcasts while you do it. Its very useful too buy two metal clamps as this: http://www.toolstation.com/images/library/stock/webbig/14106.jpg At any hardware store sell you very cheap. You will utilize this pieces for immobilize the book , wich is placed with inferior pages side coinciding with table side nearest you. Then you fix open book with the two clamps , one for first book page (cover book) and other for last page.

For image proccess I utilize two programs: Advanced Batch Converter for turning 180º each photo (with windows can be done same with two 90 º turns) and Image Cutter for cut photos into two pages and eliminates image parts around book pages.

Finally for transform all pages in an ebook I utilize Image to Pdf v2.1.0

aetherfish5 years ago
Thanks a lot for posting this instructable! This is gonna be so useful when school starts. As for Linux alternatives to the apps mentioned, you could use GIMP with the DBP plugin (I think this is available in the Ubuntu repos as part of the package gimp-plugin-registry) to crop and/or adjust color balance. Then you could import the cropped images to gscan2pdf and have that export all the pages to a pdf. It won't adjust for page curvature and perspective like snapter does, but if you shoot the photographs straight-on it'll be close enough.
stevepuk5 years ago
To avoid highlights and shadows you need a well diffused light. There are a few ways you can do this.

1) Use expensive professional lighting umbrellas.
2) Take the photos outside on a bright but cloudy day.
3) Use a home-made light box/light tent. There are several Instructables on this http://www.instructables.com/id/Photography-Light-Box/
emopants925 years ago
great instructable! i am going to do this with the books that are ridiculously oversized, that I have to bring home every night. Also a nice tip is to anyone with a psp (custom firmware only, search if confused) and use a nice little homebrew program to take the book with me on vacation or at friends houses ect.
OHHH anyone looking for a nice tutorial for a shutter release for almost ANY CAMERA. here is a link http://www.camerashed.co.uk/project5.asp . Its nice because I have a fuji s1000fd
idogis15 years ago
Thanks, now I have an excuse to buy a sony reader.
djsc5 years ago
quicker than a scanner? I'll be trying this tonight to find out...
djsc djsc5 years ago
oh yeah it is! This is great. I used a 4MP compact with an infrared remote. Didn't have to do any adjusting in snapter. My suggestions: a conservatory is a great place to do this or maybe an atrium or outdoors if you have to. Some cameras have a feature to automatically take a picture every X seconds until the memory fills up; that would leave a few extra fingers free to hold the book.
dosadi6 years ago
Great instructable. I use this method all the time because I don't have a scanner at home. I use a 4 megapixel Canon PowerShot camera. Even footnote text (6 point?) is clearly readable. No camera phone will work well for this. The resolution of such cameras is basically irrelevant because the high noise of their tiny CCD sensors is a more significant factor limiting picture quality. I have two suggestions: 1) If you're using a camera that has multiple jpeg compression settings, use the lowest compression setting (largest image file size). 2) Use the shutter timer. It will prevent blurring caused by the camera moving when you press the shutter. A 2 second delay timer is ideal, if your camera has that setting. This is a good idea for low shutter speed photos in general.
Nice instructable, the only criticism I have is your requirement of 6 megapixels. Only realize that a one megapixel camera will still take a picture large enough to fill your computer monitor.
Tried that with my 3.2 MP Sony Ericsson phone. Yes, the image will be fairly big on a computer screen but the resolution sucks. Headlines were readable but the rest was not very legible.
Resolution is often not just dependent on mega pixels. It depends on the camera. If you used a camera (not a phone) It would probably come out better (better CCD, lens etc). They often skimp on quality just to make the camera small enough to fit in a phone. But I may be wrong, I'm just making a generalization because all the camera phones I have seen (some were pretty good) just wouldn't be good enough. Yonderknight: Great instructable. I will be doing this once school starts up again. 5*
"Resolution is often not just dependent on mega pixels."

Yes, it is. A larger image sensor will give you a better looking picture, but the same resolution.
Oh whoops, I meant the quality isnt just dependent on megapixels. I didn't think they were different. Thanks for catching that.
yonderknight (author)  trooperrick6 years ago
Well the bottom line is this: would you rather have each letter occupying 1 pixel in the final picture, or 10 pixels? Obviously when you have more pixels you can more clearly make out the letters than if you had fewer pixels.
Resolution has nothing to do with the clarity. Resolution is simply the number of pixels that there are. More megapixel would not make your pictures clearer, only a larger image sensor would do that. But even DSLRs can have 3-4 megapixels (and some do!), this does not affect the quality of their images.
yonderknight (author)  Weissensteinburg6 years ago
Hrm good point. But when you're actually reading you don't look at the whole book at once, but zoom in to look at maybe a quarter to half a page length. On top of that you have two pages in each shot. I looked deeper into this though and resized some of my previous pics. I found that they're still kind of readable at around 50%, and at 30% it's starting to become really hard to make out some words. So I guess somewhere between 2-3MP should give you okay results.
tiuk6 years ago
Great instructable. The less people who get ripped off by the greedy publishers the better.
keng6 years ago
this was great right up to the point where you committed a felony by telling people to share their copywritten material using bittorrent.

if i may offer some advice before you go to federal-pound-you-in-the-=%!-prison....watch out for your corn-hole.
vedran6 years ago
Very nice tutor. I have never use Snapter but you shud try "ABBYY FineReader". I think it is best solution for this stuf. You can use it to convert text from pictures into Word and more.
DanAdamKOF6 years ago
RIP, TBT. I long for a successor. Great tutorial, I've only ever siteripped online versions of textbooks, but the analog method is pretty nice too :)
Oh, it'll be back? That's awesome. I always assume the worst when it comes to trackers, haha.
BrianKT6 years ago
That is a great idea! Definitely going to try this out when school starts again. I won't have to carry my books back and forth anymore.
yonderknight (author)  BrianKT6 years ago
That's the spirit! =p
Gjdj36 years ago
Really nice! Text books can get pricy and this seems like a great way to cut costs. Also, thanks for the link to textbooktorrent. 5 stars.
yonderknight (author)  Gjdj36 years ago
Thanks!