Last updated: August 4, 2021

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Book scanners are scanners that specialise in books. With their help you can scan books in good quality. Book scanners compensate for book curvature and are particularly gentle on the book. This means that even old and valuable books can be scanned safely.

With our book scanner guide, we want to help you find the best book scanner for you. We introduce you to different book scanners and their advantages and disadvantages. We also explain what you should look out for when buying a book scanner.




Summary

  • Book scanners are scanners that are specially designed for books. They allow you to digitise books in a high-quality and gentle way.
  • Book scanners with a rocker ensure that the book is not opened completely. This protects the spine of the book.
  • Book scanners support a variety of output formats. This opens up many possibilities for the use of the files.

The Best Book scanner: Our Choices

Book scanners: buying and evaluation criteria

In the following, we show you which aspects you can use to decide on a book scanner. Criteria with which you can compare book scanners are:

In the following paragraphs, we explain what you should look for in the individual purchase criteria.

Operating system

In order to connect the book scanner to your computer, it must be compatible with your computer's operating system.

Nowadays, most book scanners are suitable for both Windows and Mac. There are also exceptions that are only suitable for one operating system. Therefore, when buying a book scanner, check which operating systems it works with.

If you have an operating system other than Mac or Windows, your choice of book scanners is significantly limited. Unfortunately, most devices only support these two operating systems. Accordingly, they are unsuitable for other operating systems.

Formats

The size specifications for book scanners are based on the DIN standard for paper sizes. You know these sizes from everyday life. A4 is the size of a college notepad, A3 corresponds to a drawing pad twice as large.

For manuscripts and reference books you need an A3 scanner

Books do not have a standardised size in Europe. Therefore, it is not possible to give a general size recommendation. For reference books and manuscripts, you usually need an A3 book scanner. For smaller books, an A4 scanner is sufficient.

Most book scanners are suitable for A3. There are also models that have smaller or larger scanning areas. Book scanners have a maximum scanning area of A1.

If you have particularly large books, you should first measure whether you can digitise them with an A3 book scanner. In this case, you may need a larger book scanner.

With mobile book scanners, the size of your book doesn't matter. Since you are holding it in your hand, you can always digitise the pages.

Resolution

Resolution, speed and storage space are directly related. Scanners with a high resolution are usually slower because they store more pixels. The more pixels are stored, the more storage space the scanned document requires.

For books, a resolution of 300 DPI is recommended. This resolution is sufficient for displaying text. If your book also contains pictures and graphics, you should choose a higher resolution.

Many manufacturers do not specify the resolution in DPI, but in megapixels.

The pixels recorded are important for the quality of the image. Pixel specifications are therefore often misleading.

DPI (dots per inch) indicates the resolution in dots per inch. This makes it possible to compare images of different sizes in terms of their resolution.

Megapixels indicate the pixels per image. Here, interpolated pixels are also taken into account. Interpolation means that a pixel is calculated from the values of its surrounding pixels. So no value is recorded, but the value is calculated afterwards.

Speed

The speed of book scanners varies greatly. To scan many pages, a fast scanner is practical. However, fast scanning has a negative effect on data quality. It is therefore important to find the right balance between speed and quality.

The speed of many scanners is reduced to protect publishers and authors.

The speed rating refers to the time it takes to scan an A4 page. For many devices, the scanning speed is below the technically possible speed. This is because people want to avoid the commercial distribution of books through scanned images.

Many manufacturers specify a daily maximum number in addition to the speed. The daily maximum number indicates the maximum number of pages you can digitise in one day. The number of pages is limited because otherwise the device overheats.

To give you a better idea of the scanning speed, manufacturers often quote the number of pages per hour. Keep in mind that you may need more time to turn pages.

Weight

If you plan to take the scanner with you often, the weight is crucial. In this case, the book scanner should not weigh more than a few kilos.

The weight depends, among other things, on the type of book scanner. The more technical equipment it has, the heavier it is.

Mobile hand-held scanners weigh only a few hundred grams and are well suited for taking along. Even larger devices often weigh only a few kilos, which makes them easy to transport. Scanners with a book cradle or other additional features are much more robust. They can weigh up to 10 kilograms. Due to their size and heavy weight, they are not suitable for transport.

Output formats

Book scanners support a variety of output formats. Exactly what these are depends on the device in question. In the following table we present the most important output formats with their advantages and disadvantages.

Format Advantages Disadvantages Note
JPG/JPEG The file is compressed before it is saved and uses little storage space Quality is lost during compression. The format is therefore not suitable for logos and fine graphics JPG is ideal for saving images with a wide colour spectrum.
GIF Files are compressed with good quality With 256 colours, the colour spectrum is limited The format is suitable for texts and graphics with few colour gradients.
PDF This format offers good reproduction of fonts and graphics Files are difficult to edit PDFs can be opened on all computers.
TIFF/TIF Tif files are lossless compressible Tif files are geared towards raster images This format is used by many printers.
DOC The files can be easily edited When sending the texts, the layout often shifts Doc is the format of Word documents.

With GIF you can save texts and graphics with few colour gradients very well. If you want to share your texts, the PDF format is a good choice because it can be opened on any computer. If it is important to you to edit your texts afterwards, a Doc document is recommended.

Book scanner: frequently asked questions and answers

In order to inform you about the book scanner, we have selected the most important questions on the subject. In the following, we will go into all the important questions and answer them briefly.

Who is a book scanner suitable for?

Book scanners are used to digitise books. They are indispensable for libraries and archives because they shorten the digitisation process while protecting the book.

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Book scanners are suitable for anyone who wants to digitise large quantities of literature.
(Image source: Radu Marcusu / unsplash)

Due to their price, large book scanners are not suitable for the small purse. Smaller, mobile versions are particularly suitable for home use. They are easy to take along and can be had for little money.

In principle, book scanners are suitable for anyone who wants to digitise large quantities of texts.

How does a book scanner work?

A book scanner is a scanner that is adapted to the digitisation of books.

Like any scanner, the book scanner emits light. The light is reflected by the pages of the book to different degrees, depending on the printed colour. The reflected light is passed on to a sensor.

In contrast to the classic document scanner, the book scanner is adapted to books. It prevents distortions that occur due to the curvature of the book.

In the next step, the analogue light signal is converted into an analogue voltage by photodiodes. This voltage is converted pixel by pixel into a digital value by an analogue-to-digital converter.

What types of book scanners are there?

Book scanners come in different designs. They differ mainly in the type of recording and in how the book is positioned during digitisation.

Overhead

An overhead scanner scans the book from above. The book lies open on a plate in the middle under the camera.

One double page is recorded per scan. A line-scan camera moves across the recording surface and scans the book page. It captures an entire image. The movement of the scanner avoids blurring due to the curvature of the book.

The scan quality is affected by the external lighting conditions. Many book scanners have a built-in lamp. It helps you create ideal lighting conditions.

Advantages
  • 2 pages at once
  • no blurring
Disadvantages
  • the book is opened 180°
  • external lighting conditions influence the result

An overhead scanner is suitable for all books that may be opened wide. Besides books, you can also scan other documents with it.

Flatbed

The flatbed scanner is similar to a household scanner. You place the book on a glass plate and scan each page individually.

With the flatbed scanner, the support surface reaches all the way to the edge. This allows you to digitise book pages up to the binding. The rest of the book hangs down from the scanner at a 90° angle. The line scanner is adapted to the curvature of the book and displays the pages without distortion.

To protect the book, flatbed scanners have a height-adjustable lid that rests lightly on the book. With some models you can also leave the lid open.

Advantages
  • Lid provides ideal lighting conditions
  • adapted to the curvature of the book
Disadvantages
  • scans only 1 page
  • book suffers from overlay
  • double pages must be joined together afterwards

Due to the limited support surface, it is difficult to scan large books. In this case you have to scan the page in parts and join the files afterwards. The same applies to graphics that extend over two pages.

The flatbed scanner is good if you only want to scan a few pages and the book doesn't need to be handled super carefully.

V-book scanner

The V-book scanner has a book cradle on which the book rests. The book cradle restricts the degree to which the books can be opened. They are only opened between 90 and 120°. This protects the spine of the book and is ideal for old and valuable books.

Advantages
  • protects the spine
  • protects the pages
Disadvantages
  • no line scan
  • must be requested from the manufacturer

To ensure that the pages lie smoothly, a pressure-regulated glass plate is placed on the pages. It avoids blurring caused by curvatures.

Unlike the other models, V-book scanners do not have a line scan camera. With them, a digital camera photographs page by page. V-book scanners are ideal for libraries and archives because they are very gentle on books.

Handheld

Handheld scanners are small portable scanners. They are battery-operated and easy to carry around. The data is stored on a memory card in the scanner.

With a handheld book scanner, you move line by line across the page of the book. The speed is about the same as typing text on a computer keyboard.

Advantages
  • mobile
  • light
  • cheap
Disadvantages
  • slow
  • depends on ambient light

A handheld book scanner is good for private use. It is relatively cheap and easy to take with you.

Automatic book scanners

Automatic book scanners are not available on the market or are very difficult to obtain. It is possible to use a book scanner and build your own page-turning device. You can find various instructions on the internet.

In 2012, Google engineer Dany Qumsiyeh presented a book scanner that turns the pages of a book on its own. The pages are turned by the intake air of a hoover. The construction manual is available on the internet. According to Qumsiyeh, the device has a material value of about 1,500 US dollars.

Buchscanner-2

There are no fully automatic book scanners on the market. You can automate your book scanner with some modifications.
(Image source: Aaron Burden / unsplash)

Researchers are working on digitising closed books. This involves irradiating a book with terahertz radiation. The individual book pages reflect the radiation. Special software then reconstructs the individual pages. The device is a prototype. The possibility of digitising a closed book is particularly interesting for old books.

Fully automatic book scanners are not yet available. With all available devices, you have to turn the pages yourself. With a little skill, you can build your own page-turning machine.

How much does a book scanner cost?

Book scanners come in many sizes and price ranges. The price range is very wide, from 30 to several thousand euros.

Type price
Handheld about 39 to 315 euros
Overhead about 71 to 670 euros
Flatbed about 74 to 1,600 euros
V-book scanner price on request from the manufacturer

The prices for book scanners vary greatly. Basically, the better the recording quality and the more book-friendly the device, the more expensive the scanner.

What alternatives are there to a book scanner?

A book scanner is only worthwhile if you scan books frequently. If you do not want to invest in a book scanner, it is interesting to look at the alternatives to book scanners. In the following table, we present book scanner alternatives and their advantages and disadvantages.

Alternative Description
Rent You can also rent book scanners for a certain period of time.
Apps There are many apps for mobile phones that scan texts as PDFs. Some of these apps even offer OCR text recognition.
Document scanners Household scanners work similarly to flatbed scanners. The image can be distorted by the curvature of the book. Scanning puts stress on the spine of the book.
Library or university Many libraries and universities offer their book scanners for use by outsiders.
Copy shops Some copy shops have book scanners you can use.
External companies You can send your book to these companies. They will then digitise it for you.

You don't have to buy a book scanner nowadays. You can either rent a scanner, use it from an organisation or use alternatives like apps.

What software do I need for a book scanner?

Your scanning software affects the speed and quality of your scan. In addition to automatic text recognition, features such as automatic page cropping or automatic page curvature compensation improve the quality of your scan.

OCR is short for optical character recognition. The software converts image documents such as JPG or PDF into text documents. This allows you to edit scanned texts afterwards. Some book scanners have an integrated OCR function. If your book scanner does not have this, it is worth investing in software with OCR.

Buchscanner-3

OCR software enables you to convert scanned files into text files.
(Image source: Ivo Rainha / unsplash)

Software offers you the possibility to edit your scanned documents afterwards. Many book scanner manufacturers offer additional software. These softwares allow you to make changes to the colouring, the format or the page separation. They help you to correct book folds and much more.

Every supplier offers different software. It's best to compare different providers and decide on a software according to your wishes and financial means.

Which scan settings are the best?

For a good scan you should pay attention to the resolution, brightness, contrast and colour settings. You should adjust all points to your requirements and your environmental situation.

A high resolution consumes a lot of memory. For texts, a resolution of 300 DPI is sufficient. If you have books with many illustrations, you should choose a higher resolution.

For book scanners without a cover, the ambient light affects the brightness of the scan. Many devices have a built-in lamp. You can use this for good illumination. Make a test scan to see if the lighting is good enough. If the image is too dark, try to illuminate the surroundings well with your given possibilities.

Buchscanner-4

For texts you need a resolution of 300 DPI. You have to adjust the brightness and contrast of your scan individually to your environment.
(Image source: Chris Lawton / unsplash)

There is no general recommendation for contrast. It is best to make a test scan and then adjust the contrast individually.

The colour setting for texts is ideally black and white. This way you get a good contrast of your text and make it easier for the OCR software to do its work. If you have images in greyscale, you should also scan in greyscale. If you have photos or colour images, you should scan in colour.

How can I edit scanned pages?

Different software offers you the possibility to edit your scanned pages afterwards. Often, software is included with the purchase of a scanner. You can also buy software from the book scanner manufacturers or download it online for free.

With various image editing programmes you can edit disturbing page margins, colouring, brightness and contrast.

If you want to edit the scanned text afterwards, you need OCR software. This text recognition software converts scanned images into letters. This way you get a text document that you can edit further.

Another function is auto-cropping. It cuts book pages on its own. This way you get the individual book pages directly and do not have to cut the pages manually.

What accessories are available for book scanners?

You can find many accessories on the internet that make scanning books easier. The following list gives you a brief overview of the accessories available.

  • Page holders
  • Pressure plates or finger pressure aids for smoothing the pages
  • V-pressure aids for book rockers
  • Skew holders to replace book rockers
  • external lighting

Depending on which book scanner you have, accessories will help you to improve the scanning quality.

Conclusion

Book scanners allow you to digitise large amounts of text. In contrast to conventional scanners, they are adapted to protect the spine and compensate for book curvatures.

When buying a book scanner, you have to decide between the different types. There are significant price differences between the individual models. V-book scanners are only available from the manufacturer.

Image source: Baloncici/ 123rf

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