How to digitize a book to PDF

How to digitize a book to PDF

By carolc

Millions of physical books exist all over the world, they can be old or new, thin or thick, and there are many people who love to read them. Storing a lot of books, or carrying a heavy book to read somewhere you go can sometimes be a hassle.

Not only libraries stock a lot of books, so do many people, either because of their professions, or because they simply read and collect them.

In today’s times, technologies have made easier the way to store and read books digitally, simplifying the problem of physical spaces where to keep them organized, and for those who want to read them anywhere, they can carry them in any device they own and use to save and read them. So, you can exchange a few feet of area for a few megabytes of virtual space.

The question is how do we digitize the books to make them virtually accessible? It can be done in different manners which are basically divided into two types: Destructive book scanning and non-destructive book scanning. Depending on the one you consider is feasible for you, review the options and decide which one to use from the ones shown below.

Destructive book scanning

This method requires to unbind a book to separate it in pieces and doing the scanning process. Here is how to do it:

  • With a paper stack cutter, remove the spine of the book including the glued part to dissect it and get booklets of pages.
  • Cut the booklets along the left margin to obtain single sheets.
  • Insert the pages into the document feeder on a scanner or a multifunction printer. This process will take time because it is done manually.
  • Scan the fronts of all pages.
  • Flip the pages to scan the backs of them.
  • Crop and edit the scanned pages.
  • Use a software to sequence all the pages into a single PDF

Non-Destructive book scanning

With this technique the binding of the book is not removed and can be done even two pages at a time with a regular scanner, a camera or a smartphone. This method can take a longer time for scanning than the destructive type because you will need to turn all the pages one by one for each take.

Digitize a book using a scanner

For this process, there are different options to scan books considering that the biggest problem is their binding when need to be placed on the glass of the scanner. Bellow, we show you the different types of equipment that can be used to convert a book in PDF format:

  • Book Scanners with zero margin design. These are the best choices because they don’t have a plastic border surrounding the glass scanning area avoiding the shadow or text distortions due the curve of the page caused by the book binding. To scan a book:
  1. Lay up the full page directly onto the corner of the scanner,
  2. Repeat step 1 with each page of the book,
  3. Crop and edit the scanned pages,
  4. Use a software to create searchable and editable PDF files.
  • Flatbed scanner and multifunction printers. These are designed to scan flat documents, so the curve of the page near the book binding can cause text distortions with a final result difficult to convert to readable PDF files. The scanning process is pretty much like the previous one, trying to fit as best as possible each page on the glass of the scanner, then crop and edit the scanned pages to convert them in PDF files.
  • Camera. This is not a conventional procedure but it works. In this case you are going to need a sheet of glass to help getting good takes with the camera. The process for digitizing a book would be the following:
  1. Spread the open book facing upward.
  2. Carefully place the glass over the open book to keep the spread pages flat. The glass becomes the flat image.
  3. Light the book page spread from both side of the camera to avoid reflections.
  4. Focus on the glass with the camera from above.
  5. Put marks on the glass to align the book on each take.
  6. Take the capture with your camera.
  7. Import, crop and edit the takes.
  8. Convert to PDF and paginate for reading.
  • Mobile device. Smartphones can serve as scanners downloading any of the available free apps to scan book pages and collect them into a single digital file. If you need to digitize a few dozen pages to share or for your own reading, this process can work great. Its limitations are to scanning large books, so the entire project might take a long time to be completed, and also phones camera doesn’t reproduce very well the detail of the pages becoming an issue to get a good zoom of the text.

Finally, if any of the mentioned options don’t suit you, you have the alternative of hiring professional services for document scanning, that will have a cost but the work is performed by experts with specialized equipment to ensure quality digitized versions of the books.

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