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A Most Stupendous & Audacious Undertaking

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Last week I watched papertygre  upload most of her books as she prepared to move out.

Seeing the process aroused a transhumanist sentiment in me, a glimmer of a future in which our world is gradually transformed into digital information.  It creates a sense of raw possibility and freedom, albeit tinged with a bit of emptiness.

The ability to liberate objects from reality is something I'm passionately working towards in my new startup; it's exciting to see another form of this process.

In the case of book scanning, it's a two-step process involving cutting off the binding and then putting the pages through a bulk scanner 100 at a time.  Hard-core book lovers might want to look away at this point...  :-)


(In case you're wondering, there are many reasons why she didn't choose to buy e-books and then donate the original books to the library, not the least of which is the annoyance of DRM.)

Here are some surgically mutilated books, post-scan.

Ratha digitizes her book collection
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The book slicer is mildly terrifying looking. :)

What is she using as a bulk scanner? And what format file does it produce? Reviews, tips, comments, warnings?

I've got a bunch of bulk scanning (not books) that I want to do.

Fujitsu fi-6130. About $850, free shipping at amazon. It's awesome, but let me explain to you how the software works because there is NO documentation and it took me 2 days to figure out.

Also, are you a CMU-er? That looks like a pre-1998ish CMU login ID. I was cg39.

I assume you're now in the bay area. Would you consider lending or renting it? I want to scan all my old bills, bank statements, etc

Yes, I'm a CMU-er. I was the last starting class to get that style of login, fall of 1994.

Alas, I just moved to Seattle. A few days ago. I would have been happy to loan it to you. This is just the kind of thing that would be ideal in a hacker space, as a way to share the expense. Yes, I scanned all my receipts and pay stubs and the like, that was the primary use case, and the books were a bonus.

Nice. I started in 1993 :)

Thanks for documenting this!

Even though the comment thread on the g+ post is juicier, I don't have access to g+ yet, and won't for the forseeable future due to GAFYD not being in the field trial, so responding here. You can relay any information you may wish to.

I think there's at least one out of copyright book that I've scanned. I can put that on a dropbox share and then post the link so people can see the quality of the results if they are curious.

I was on track to finish all the books I'd planned to scan before the move, and then I started having technical difficulties with the back sides of pages coming out blank half the time. Called tech support, and we couldn't get Acrobat to work through remote desktop so couldn't reproduce the issue. But there is an alternate scanning app which I hadn't tried (because I assumed it was a hardware issue) and that was working fine for us, so I will try switching to the alternate app when I get back after traveling. As I mentioned before, the software is really the weak link in the toolchain by far.

The feeding mechanism is nigh flawless. That is the reason I chose the scanner I bought, which is a little pricey and they keep asking me for my company name everywhere because apparently individuals rarely buy it. The only feeding trouble comes if there is a bit of glue between pages here and there, as that does precipitate a double feed, but it is easy to fix, because the strong rollers skew the coupled pages apart as they are drawn in, so it makes a noticeable sound and I can stop it and re-scan.

Yes, the whole process is a bit of work, but going forward I will only scan in books that I decide I actively want to add to my collection. It also motivates me to shop at used bookstores and scan in + destroy old books that have already had a good life.

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