Friday, April 27, 2012
Homemade Low-budget Bookscanner
What It Is: a low-budget digicam-based bookscanner of my own design (it's that wood-and-black paper-and-acrylic contraption sitting on the cardboard M that you're looking at).
Where It Came From: Built it myself, with components from Hobby Lobby and Lowe's.
What It Means:
I have a huge preservationist streak. It doesn't help the hoarding tendencies at all, and in the past, it has led me to collect Public Domain-aged books (1922 or earlier in the US, at least until Congress's next retroactive extension) and scan them for Project Gutenberg. When I did this, I was just mashing the books on my scanner bed as best I could while trying not to damage them. Once, I ran into something (vintage Count of Monte Cristo fanfic, of which a good deal was actually published back in the day) where the pages were too fragile to survive the process, and I actually cut the pages out to scan them --- with no little personal drama, being as I am one of those "dies a little inside every time a book is destroyed" types.
And so, later on when I started following the folks at QuestionCopyright.org (in the spirit of fan-artist self-advocacy; only later did I happen upon the Organization for Transformative Works, and I recommend giving both of them a look), I was fascinated when they announced The BookLiberator, a device to scan books more quickly, portably, and non-destructively, using two digital cameras to capture pages much faster than a flatbed scanner and with not only adequate but surprisingly good results.
I didn't keep close tabs on it, though, and just in the last few months went back to find that the BookLiberator project had been abandoned, and the Ion BookSaver that they pointed to as an alternative didn't seem to get off the ground either, but they also linked to people who haven't given up the fight, at DIYbookscanner.org. Their standard design is a thing of brilliance, but was beyond my budget, equipment, space, and requirements. Their simplest rig, consisting only of a cardboard box and a pane of glass, was closer to what I needed; I was willing to make some sacrifices on efficiency, but I had an inspiration of my own. I did make the cardboard box book cradle, but my bright idea was to build a camera mount onto an acrylic box-style picture frame, which as you can see above is what I did (to an 8.5" x 11" frame using my hand drill and backsaw with miter box), and I even made it its own thread on the DIY Book Scanner forums.
However, it has its share of problems. The black paper box you see attached to it was an addition after the fact to minimize the otherwise-disastrous reflections in the acrylic, and became even more unwieldy when I scaled the design up for an 11" x 14" frame, plus the picture frames were not made to resist scratching and will have to be replaced eventually. I also didn't get enough distance between the camera and the book, so that the images it produces require a good bit of post-processing to eliminate lens distortion and skewing. In the end, what I came up with actually isn't more efficient than a flatbed scanner, but it is gentler, and the molded acrylic angle at the side of the frame is better for digging into books that are printed very tight into the spine (especially comics with bleeds) although there does come a point at which nothing can save it, unless I go the dramatic route and cut the book up...
Ironically, given where this journey began, it isn't public domain books I've been scanning with it. I just haven't been taking the time to deal with those myself anymore, and instead have begun shipping them off to The Internet Archive's Open Library for the most part. Actually, I've been using it to digitize obscure Japanese video game comics... which I might show you some other time...
Where It's Going: Nowhere; keeping both it and its even-more-unweildy 11" x 14" brother despite them being bulky and getting in the way, because I do use them now and then.