Some would say that the smell of the book and holding a hefty, musky piece of bonded paper in your hands is enough to hold on to this technological relic. But these sentiments are being fast pushed into the bin of history, a simple realm of nostalgia rather than convenience and efficiency.
Here is why most books will become ebooks in the foreseeable future:
• You can hold an entire library’s worth of ebooks in your pocket. On the other hand, how many physical books can you hold in your pocket, not a single one?
• Can you search an entire book within seconds, for any word and phrase, like you can easily do with ebooks?
• Can you instantly buy or exchange a physical book, completely disregarding the cost and environmental burden of transportation?
• Is it more comfortable to hold a thin, light, illuminated screen, or a heavy, unwieldy stack of papers which are prone to damage and decay?
• Can you provide infinite backup redundancy for physical books?
As you can see, the sheer technological inertia of convenience, efficiency, perseverance, and eco-friendliness of ebooks will override all the nostalgia some people may have left. All books will have to become ebooks, or be lost forever.
With improvements in battery and screen technology, and the availability of e-ink screens for specialized ebook reader devices, this will become increasingly apparent. Already, most books are offered in ebook formats first, and physical copies second.
However, we still have millions of books contained within their restrictive papery bonds. In order to digitize them all we need quality devices to perform this important task.
Unfortunately, for the average user, there is still no book scanner in which you can simply slot in a book, and all the work will be done automatically for you. Nonetheless, there is still some range of convenience and conversion efficiency to be considered when it comes to book scanners. Let’s take a look at some of the best book scanner options on the market.
Best Book Scanners for 2021:
1. Plustek OpticBook 3900
Externally, you could mistake it for an ordinary scanner, but book scanners are specifically optimized for speedy scans, along with a number of features that enhance the final scan of the text. In the case of OpticBook 3900, the primary among those features is the Shadow Elimination Element technology, accompanied with a thin 0.24” edge. This corrects for the book spine shadow you would normally see if you had scanned a book with a regular scanner, or a photocopier.
Furthermore, the optical resolution of 1200dpi with a 48-bit color depth range is more than enough to accurately capture any imagery a book may hold. Be warned though, select only the highest resolution for pages that require it, those that contain images.
Otherwise, you should select the 300dpi resolution for pages that only contain text. That way the scan will be done in about 7 seconds, which is unfortunately still too lengthy for a dedicated book scanner. Still, the Plustek OpticBook 3900 is quite robust, as it offers a daily duty cycle of approximately 2500 pages, which is about 5 hours of daily operation.
If you have a very low scan throughput in mind, and a lengthy 7-second scan at lowest dpi is not too off-putting, then for such a low price the Plustek OpticBook 3900 is an adequate solution. It can work with both Windows and Mac systems. Of course, you could also use it as an office document scanner, in which case it is an excellent and super affordable choice.
2. Plustek OpticSlim 2610
If you are looking for a light and compact document/book scanner for under $60 it is hard to find anything better than the OpticSlim 2610. Weighing at just 3.1lbs, or 1.4kg, the ‘slim’ part of its name certainly fits the bill. You can easily store it as you would store a folder in a drawer.
But that doesn’t mean there is not some serious scanning capability to work with here, as it is specifically designed with thick books in mind thanks to its specialized lid design. It is also focused on the ease of use aspect of scanning, as with 5 one-touch buttons you can effortlessly set to scan, copy, OCR, custom setup, or email.
The maximum resolution of 4800x4800dpi is an overkill for any detailed image you may encounter, but, like always, keep in mind that the higher the resolution the lengthier the scan will be. The 300-600dpi resolution range is enough for accurate textual digitization.
The Plustek OpticSlim 2610 performs all of its duties without fault, besides being slim, compact, light, it also has full compatibility with all Windows and Mac systems, and can hassle-free scan very thick documents and books. All of it for a super cheap price. In addition, the specialized OCR software does its job in removing the need for correcting errors and retyping post-scan, especially for PDF files.
3. Ipevo Ziggi-HD Plus
Easily mistaken for a desk lamp, the Ziggi-HD Plus is a very comfortable document and book scanning solution, once you properly set it up. Its 8.0 megapixel, auto-focused camera is enough to perform up to 3264 x 2448 resolution scans, and it is compatible with both PCs and Macs. The area it can effectively capture is approximately 13.46” x 10.04” or 342 x 255mm.
Unlike all the flatbed scanners, it offers a unique feature of live video recording, although at only 30fps, but still at fullHD resolution. The video-streaming can further extend to its maximum 3264 x 2448 resolution, but then the framerate drops from 30 to 15fps, which is not something to worry about when you are not filming live-action movies.
The proper capture and video-streaming setup is ensured by its multi-jointed stand and swiveling head. The combo of video streaming and detailed document capture is a fantastic solution for both traditional and online educational institutions, and freelancer teachers and instructors. It goes without saying that it can be plugged into an LCD projector, further increasing its range of use.
For just under $100, it is a fantastic product. As for book scanning, you can simply enjoy reading the book in your comfy chair, while Ziggi-HD Plus captures all the pages you turn. Great product with a wide range of application.
4. CZUR ET16 Plus
One of the more luxurious overhead scanners, the CZUR ET16 aims to improve the scanning procedure in all areas:
• Dual side lamps evenly cover the entire scan area to ensure excellent scans.
• Black mat provides the reduction of surface glare, interference, and artifacting in scans.
• Reduced glare when scanning magazines, certificates, laminated documents and other glossy pages.
• Smart software allows you to auto-flatten pages and automatically crops out your fingers as you hold the pages.
• Even if the document is not ideally placed on the mat, the ET Smart Book Scanner software will automatically recognize the page edges, and adjust them accordingly.
The scanning speed is amazing, mere 1.5 seconds per 2 pages thanks to its 32-bit MIPS CPU, which is out of reach for even high-end flatbad scanners that have a higher price tag. See samples of scans on the Czur website.
Although all scanners possess the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology by default, the conversion to an editable document in all major formats – Word, PDF, TIFF – is effortless. Not to mention that the integrated ABBYY technology allows this scanner to recognize the characters of 187 languages.
The maximum scanning size is up to A3 format, and to further increase your comfort and convenience it can be plugged into pedals, which you actually might end up getting in order to exploit the ET16’s incredible scanning speed.
Sleek in design, fast, powerful, convenient, great software focused on auto-correction…the CZUR ET16 Plus seems to have it all, so if you are fine with the relatively high price tag, there is no reason to not get it.
5. Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600
With almost twice the price of the CZUR ET16, does it also offer twice the benefits? In a word – no.
Although it does have one nifty feature that the ET16 doesn’t have – automatic page turning detection. However, you would still have to adjust your page turning speed to the scanning speed, so not having to click the scan button every time when you turn a page is of dubious value. It is up to you to decide if it is important enough to splurge extra $400 compared to the ET16.
All other features present in ET16 are present in the SV600 as well:
• Detection and auto-correction of multiple documents.
• Auto-removal of fingertips
• Correction of page curvature
• Competent OCR software
As far as quality goes, the scanned images are crisp and clear, perfect mirrors of their physical objects. In short, you can count on a high-quality scan of anything you put beneath it, and just like with ET16, the maximum scan area is up to A3 size.
If you have a ton of things to scan on a regular basis, the SV600 might be for you despite the prohibitive price tag, but it does seem to be a robust, professional, overhead scanning machine producing exceptional scans.
6. Vupoint Magic Wand
And at last, the most mobile and affordable scanning solution – the handheld Vupoint Magic Wand. There is no better solution when you know you will need to scan something on your trip. And even if you don’t know you’ll need it, its under-foot size and slight 6.9 ounces weight makes it a no-brainer gadget companion.
Its size also limits its scanning capability to up to 8.27” wide scanning material, but that should cover most formats for documents, books, and magazines. It can be set to 3 scanning resolutions: 300dpi, 600dpi, and 900dpi. If you are just scanning text and set it to the lowest resolution, you should be finished with a single page within 3 seconds, which is a respectable speed.
Of course, your hand will have to do all the work, so you will have to practice for a bit in order to achieve the best results. In the bundle is included a microSD card, so if you set the scanning resolution to lowest you are good to go for about 5000 scans. OCR software does its job and turns the text into editable PDF or Word files, supported ONLY by Windows operating system (Windows 10 and older), not Mac.
How does it scan?
It depends on the material being scanned and if you have followed the instructions. Always make sure it is on the proper setting – PDF or JPG, and which dpi resolution. The surface that is about to be scanned should be as flat and smooth as possible, and your hand should be steady as you roll over the material. If you are a student or a researcher who often needs to copy books or parts of documents which cannot be taken from the library, this is a great cost and time saving scanning solution.
Flatbed vs Overhead Book Scanners
There are basically 3 types of scanners for documents, images, photos, and books:
1. Flatbed – those are the most widespread ones
2. Overhead – like a desk lamp, they offer some extra features and a wider flexibility and comfort of use
3. Handheld – the most mobile ones, often the size of a thicker marker
Although the third ones are the most ‘handy’, they are not as nearly efficient as the other two types because more manual labor is involved, not to mention that such compact size somewhat sacrifices scanning quality. So, we will focus on just the flatbed and overhead scanners.
As always, depending on your particular needs, you have to hone in on the best solution that is right for you. There is no best solution for every occasion.
Flatbed vs Overhead Book Scanner
Ease of Use
Flatbed, horizontal scanners have a long tradition and as such people are accustomed to using them, be their standalone scanner, a bulky photocopier, or a multifunctional device that includes printer and telefax. The familiarity with technology is very important if you intend to implement it into space where many people will make use of it, like public libraries, schools, or office environments.
Almost all flatbed scanners are exceedingly easy to use with no setup required, and can easily be moved to another location. Which cannot be said for overhead scanners, as they need to be firmly affixed to a hard surface, and not many people are aware that such devices even exist.
Overhead scanners often offer features that can’t even be implemented into flatbed scanners, like video streaming and the ability to use them in conjunction with LCD projectors. Both of those features are critical when it comes to situations where you need to present material in front of large audiences or even if you are performing one-on-one online tutoring session.
As for the scanning purpose alone, flatbed scanners by default press the material between the lids so the scanning result is more consistent, in addition of avoiding damage to the spine of the book because the scan can be taken under a 90 degree angle. This is not the case with overhead scanners where you have to manually spread out the book to 180 degrees, which could result in book damage after repeated use, depending on the type of the book. That being said, with overhead scanners you never have to worry about the size or thickness of the books, magazines, and documents you want to scan.
Cost and Scanning Efficiency
Even high quality flatbed scanners are much cheaper than overhead scanners, while also offering greater scanning speed. As you can see, it all depends on your specific needs. At the same time, it is safe to say that flatbed scanners would be a better solution for most situations, especially if scanning alone is a sufficient functionality to have.
Book Scanning Services
Buying your own scanner, be it flatbed or overhead, is almost always a cheaper solution than seeking out professional scanning service. However, if you earn more money per unit of time than you would by spending your time on scanning, and correcting the scans, then a commercial book/document scanning service is the way to go.
There are several benefits to using book scanning services:
• OCR software is not infallible. Even the most advanced ones, like we mentioned in some of the reviews, does create garbled words or words with missing or conjoined letters from time to time. Book scanning service is an additional layer of making sure you don’t end up with shoddy scans.
• Book scanning services have a lot of scanning experience under their belt and must have a goal of offering the best quality unless they want to be pummeled by competition. Therefore, they know which tools and software produce the best results for each type of content, in addition to manually checking the results.
• The more material you have to scan the cheaper the end pricing will be.
Some of the more notable book scanning services you can employ are:
1dollarscan – the most affordable one at just $1 per set, which constitutes 100 pages. So an average book of about 300 pages would only cost you $3 dollars, or $4 if there are 320 pages. More importantly, they offer re-scanning for $0.2 or free if you have a membership, within 14 days of the initial scan. So, it is always in their best interest to perform the best scan the first time around.
BlueLeaf – are much more expensive with $.10/page for non-destructive scanning and $.07/page for destructive scanning (the book is then not returned). However, with both options you have first 50 pages for free, and additional books are about %60 cheaper. The biggest feature they promote is their OCR accuracy, but they still provide a disclaimer urging you to manually proofread the text, if it is to be published.
BoundBookScanning – slightly cheaper than BlueLeaf at $0.06/page for destructive and $0.09 for non-destructive scanning. Their main marketing strategy that elevates them above the competition is speed and quality, for which they offer numerous customer testimonials.
When you know your needs, the scope of digitization work required, and your financial resources directed into this expenditure, the choices are simple to pick:
• A dedicated flatbed scanner with enough flexibility for thick books and sufficient speed for the price offered.
• An overhead scanner for when you need the additional functions like video streaming and LCD projector plug-in, in addition to increased level of comfort while scanning.
• A hand-held scanner for when you cannot take the books/documents with you, or just want to have an insurance of capturing a moderate amount of content fast, wherever you end up being.
• A commercial service for when you don’t want to hassle with choosing a scanner, buying one, setting it up, and learning how to use it to its fullest potential. Or when you either have money to spare and only have a couple of books to scan, in addition to being certain that you will never be in need of scanning again.