Erik Hetzner wrote:
At Wed, 29 Apr 2009 13:32:08 -0400,
Christine Schwartz wrote:
We are looking into buying a book scanner which we'll probably use for
archival papers as well--probably something in the $1,000.00 range.

Any advice?

Most organizations, or at least the big ones, Internet Archive and
Google, seem to be using a design based on 2 fixed cameras rather than
a tradition scanner type device. Is this what you had in mind?

This is probably the type of machine that will be needed for books if they need to remain bound throughout the scanning process. For looseleaf materials or for books that can be disbound and are in good condition, you can get inexpensive duplex sheet feeder scanners for a few hundred dollars that might be good enough.

Unfortunately none of these products are cheap. Internet Archive’s
Scribe machine cost upwards (3 years ago) of $15k, [1] mostly because
it has two very expensive cameras. Google’s data is unavailable. A
company called Kirtas also sells what look like very expensive
machines of a similar design.

$15K seems pretty cheap for that kind of scanner; most that I've seen run from the tens of thousands well into the hundreds, depending on the model and features. I don't remember precisely what IA's Scribe stations cost, but I think they were more in the range of $40-60K CAD; it would probably be cheaper in the US, but not that much cheaper, and I suspect that IA gets some sort of bulk discount for buying them by the truckload.

The main issues to consider are:

- Type of material: is it fragile or not; is it rare; can you afford to damage or destroy a copy during the scanning process; can the items be disbound; what is the minimum and maximum size of item to be scanned; if books are to remain bound, are the bindings tight or are the margins; paper thickness; existence of damage, water spotting, show through, and other defects

- Scanning resolution required

- Image output (color/greyscale/black and white) and output format (TIFF, JPEG2000, PDF, JPEG).

- Throughput requirement. (How much stuff do you have: dozens/hundreds/thousands/millions of pages, and how quickly do you need to get it done: days/weeks/months/years?)

- How much technical work can/are you willing to do yourself? Can you invest in substantial post-processing, or do you need to be able to press "Go" on the scanner and produce a more or less finished product? If so, what sort of metadata, OCR, etc. requirements do you have, if any, in addition to getting the basic image?

For some projects, there are suitable desktop scanners available for very little money, and in some cases, using a decent (7 megapixel or higher) digital camera in conjunction with a stand and maybe an image editor like Photoshop (or something free like Irfanview) to crop and deskew afterwards might work just fine, but in other cases, a much more elaborate setup might be needed.

William Wueppelmann
Systems Librarian/Programmer

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