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Jun 24, 2022

(+) The Easier Ways to Scan Books

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

I have been downsizing my book collection by scanning the books and then often, but not always, throwing away the printed copies. I keep the digital copies in a laptop computer’s hard drive plus on several flash drives plus copies stored in the cloud. The copies in a cloud-based storage service let me access any of the digitized books quickly and easily on an iPad, a cell phone, a friend’s computer, or anyplace else I wish to view them. I find this handy not only for my own use but also when at genealogy conferences and various meetings. If I am discussing something I saw in a book with another genealogist, I can view the book on my tablet computer’s screen and even send a copy of the book to the other person by email if the copyright laws allow.

Of course, another big benefit is the fact that digitized books require no shelf space. There is no need for me to purchase more bookshelves. In fact, if I were to place all the printed genealogy books and magazines I have ever purchased on bookshelves, first I would need to purchase a bigger house!

The problem became even worse when I started a mobile lifestyle. For several years, I spent my summers in the northern U.S. and my winters in the Sun Belt in a Winnebago motor home that had restricted space for books. Yet, I refuse to stop doing genealogy reading and research when on the road. Luckily, I have since I purchased a home in Florida where I have lots of room. However, I became so used to having ebooks digitized and conveniently online and easily available, that I have refused to purchase new bookshelves and go back to the old-fashioned way of storing books.

That solution sounds great until you start scanning the books and magazines. Then you run into a major problem: scanning hundreds of pages is a slow and tedious process with most scanners. In fact, “tedious” isn’t a strong enough word. It is truly boring. After about two years of effort, I have found a few ways to minimize the labor required.

Buy a Scanner with a Sheet Feeder

Scanning with a typical flatbed scanner you purchased at a local computer store is an exercise in futility. The scanners typically cost $30 to perhaps $150 and do a great job on single pieces of paper or photographs that are placed on the flat glass scanning area of the scanner. However, making a scan, picking up the book, turning the page, placing the book back onto the scanner, and then making the next scan quickly becomes tedious. You won’t want to digitize 1,000 pages this way! Most of these flatbed scanners also have issues with “page curl,” trying to get a good image on the edge of each page that is near the binding.

Of course, if you have lots of money, you could always purchase a book scanner.

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