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Create Your Own Digital Library - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal

Jul. 30th, 2003

01:53 am - Create Your Own Digital Library

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I love books, but they take up a lot of room and aren't very portable. I'm thinking of digitally photographing the pages of my favorite books, storing them on a portable firewire drive, then selling most of them. There appear to be a number of copy stands intended for this purpose (among others), but I don't want to get something so specialized. Rather, what I would like to get is a tripod with an long arm that clamps to the tripod's center pole. At the end of the arm I'd attach a 360' ball joint, which in turn would be attached to the camera. Has anyone else done what I'm proposing? If so, what are your experiences?

[Edit:

Below is a ascii side view of what I have in mind:


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    ||            (ball) (camera)
  ===================O===[  ]
    ||                    ==
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   /||\                (book)
  / || \           /------\/------\
 /  ||  \          ================
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Comments:

[User Picture]
From:mindwalker
Date:July 29th, 2003 11:21 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I don't really understand how you would use a copy stand to accomplish the task of digitally photographing your books. Why would you need to use one, and how would it make the task any easier? Nor do I understand your alternative. Perhaps I'm missing something here. Why would you want to digitally photograph them rather than using a scanner? Wouldn't you still have to manually flip to every page using any of these methods?

BTW, I love books, too, and usually prefer the real thing rather than digital copies, but I also would like to have digital copies of my books available. What I'd really like is to be able to access them via a 100%-waterproof, extremely lightweight PDA (so that I could take them in a bathtub for instance, and even have part of it underwater) or better yet, projected directly onto my retina.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:crasch
Date:July 29th, 2003 11:38 pm (UTC)
(Link)
It would make it easier to make uniform images of the pages, if the camera were at the same height each time the picture were taken, which is difficult to do without a stand. Yes, I would still have to manually flip the pages, but I imagine it would be significantly easier (and possibly less damaging to the books) if they were face up (with a scanner, I would have to lift the book, turn the page, then flip it over and press it back down on the scanner vs. simply turning the page with a copy stand.)

My setup would have the advantage over the portable copy stands of having a larger flat area (no copy stand base to get in the way), and the tripod/arm combination could be used for other things in addition to being a copy stand.

Below is an crude ascii picture of what I have in mind. The tripod is on the left. The arm extends out at 90 degrees, with a camera mounted on a 360 degree ball joint at the end.

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    ||            (ball) (camera)
  ===================O===[  ]
    ||                    ==
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   /||\                (book)
  / || \           /------\/------\
 /  ||  \          ================
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(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From:joe_tofu
Date:July 30th, 2003 12:27 am (UTC)

a book-photographing stand

(Link)
Such a tool exists. I have seen it. I believe my high school art teacher had one. I believe the idea was to photograph flat things so that they could be reproduced. I would look in an art supply store.

Also, that would take a crapload of time. Furthermore, you could not legally sell the books after making digital copies. You only own one license to that particular intellectual property, so you'd have to keep or destroy the books.

Maybe a better idea is to donate them to a local library. Then you can borrow them almost whenever you want, but you don't have to store them. However, make sure the library has lots of space because sometimes they dispose of unwanted books too.

Yeah, if every publisher let us have a choice of print format or e-book, that would rock.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:crasch
Date:July 30th, 2003 12:14 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Yes, it may take a crapload of time. That's why I don't particularly want to invest in a dedicated setup . If I try a couple and decide not to do it anymore, the tripod setup will still be useful for other things.

Local libraries don't have a lot of room, so they're pretty ruthless about throwing books out. Many of my books would probably be of interest to only a few people.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From:joe_tofu
Date:July 30th, 2003 12:36 am (UTC)

incidentally

(Link)
Incidentally, I have an idea for a business. You are free to steal this idea if you want.

I propose: a bookstore where you can get any book you want, any book in the world, in print, out of print, whatever, in under 15 minutes at a reasonable price. The place would be like a Starbucks-type coffee shop basically, with computer kiosks in one side where you call up all the libraries on earth to make your book selection. You choose a few options such as "hardcover or softcover", "font size" and go sit down to enjoy your delicious (high profit-margin) espresso beverage and confection of choice.

The back room or basement looks more like a Kinkos, with high-speed printing and binding machines rapidly churning out individually-customized books for the patrons. Within 10-15 minutes you get your book delivered to your table, and you can recline on one of the many soft chairs to read.

I have not researched printer technology so I'm not sure how fast a personalized book can be printed and bound, or at what cost. Also you would have to work out agreements with all the major publishers which might make the service too expensive. You have to be able to get the latest and greatest bestsellers or people will just go to Barnes&Noble regardless. However if this is feasible it would be really interesting.

I myself would be the type who would get addicted to the feeling of reading a new book "when it's still warm".
(Reply) (Thread)
From:contrariandoer
Date:July 30th, 2003 03:37 am (UTC)

Re: incidentally

(Link)
I think this is a very good idea. I can see there
is a market for this kind of book printing service.

The challenge is to make the whole process
automated and integrated. You know printers
and computers are not always compatible. For
this reason, we need at least one person in
standby to watch the whole process in case
something goes wrong.

I know that the magazines are printed locally.
Whenever a publisher releases issue of a
magazine, they send out a template to the local
print shop. I am wonder how easy it is to
modify such a template. Perhaps we can take
a trip to a print shop that prints magazines
for publishers.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From:joe_tofu
Date:July 30th, 2003 09:54 am (UTC)

Re: incidentally

(Link)
Yeah, i wasn't recommending that it be unmanned. Due to the various paper trays needing to be filled, etc., there would certainly be an employee or two making sure everything was running. patrons wouldn't use their own computers - the bookstore (chain) would have access to all the books in e-book or postscript format. hopefully within the first few years they'd get all the major publishers to use a standard format to prevent trouble
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From:contrariandoer
Date:July 31st, 2003 04:28 am (UTC)

Re: incidentally

(Link)
I think the most challenging part of this is to
convince the publishers to cooperate. They
use different kind of software to edit and
store templates of about-to-be-published books.
To make them customizable is going to take time
and energy, not to mention the risk of having
the templates stolen. I think they will go
along with it if there is a huge benefit for
them - money. If the market research tells
them that they can make more money, then
they will rush in, like a pirate seeing a
ship full of gold.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:crasch
Date:July 30th, 2003 12:01 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Thanks for the idea. Do a search for "books on demand" or "print on demand" and you will find several companies working on the development of "book making machines" intended to do what you suggest.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:selfishgene
Date:July 30th, 2003 05:27 am (UTC)
(Link)
Now if you make it with a page turner and sync the camera somehow you can leave it to run unattended. You would need some sort of OCR and a routine to detect when a page was skipped. If page 203 is followed by 206 then the page turned screwed up.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:crasch
Date:July 30th, 2003 12:20 pm (UTC)
(Link)
A page turner would be hard, I think. A 400 page book would take about 30 minutes, assuming I photographed 2 pages at once, and it took 10 seconds per page.

If I was willing to destroy the books, I could just cut the backs off the books and feed them through a document feeder into a scanner. But that would be very difficult for me to do.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:gustavolacerda
Date:July 30th, 2003 02:32 pm (UTC)
(Link)
idea:
use an arm with on-off suction cups to turn the pages. The book is held in place as the arm reaches into the middle of the right page. When the arm gets back, it releases pressure and lets the page fall back, finishing the turning operation. Some help from a page-pushing/page-holding arm may be necessary, but this wouldn't be anything new.

If the paper is the non-shiny kind and won't stick, find a way to coat it so that it's easier to stick. Shine is not a problem with proper lighting.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From:joe_tofu
Date:July 30th, 2003 05:42 pm (UTC)

you're missing...

(Link)
Maybe you can photograph that much in 30 minutes, but you're forgetting what kind of post-processing you'll need. You will end up with enormous files, and every pair of pages in its own file. Ideally you would combine them into one PDF file, but because they are pictures it would probably be huge. I don't know what software tools exist to help with this.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:frostbyte
Date:July 30th, 2003 07:28 am (UTC)
(Link)
Such a device exists. Do a Google search on "document camera" - there's a number of companies producing them. Canon, Elmo, Panasonic...

It also seems to me that a simple flatbed scanner should be useful for this purpose....
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:crasch
Date:July 30th, 2003 12:29 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Thanks for the suggestion!
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 30th, 2003 08:09 am (UTC)
(Link)
There are entire internet communities dedicated to digitizing books and making them readily available. Project Gutenberg is my favorite legal source; irc.bookwarez.org is my favorite "who gives a shit what the government thinks; we're not hurting anybody" source. The latter has a very high density of scifi, fantasy, and computer reference books, predictably enough. Surely there are folks there who could point you to decent scanning/imaging and OCR products.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:crasch
Date:July 30th, 2003 12:29 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Thanks for the suggestion. Very helpful. I'm a bit scared of getting on IRC. I'm addicted to LJ enough as it is...
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:gustavolacerda
Date:July 30th, 2003 02:14 pm (UTC)
(Link)
I have tried to do this.

I actually paid like $40 for the copy stand, which is now useless. I photographed a few pages, but didn't get around to OCRing them. My ideal device for this could be named "book2pdf".

The other thing I wanted to do is digitize my thousands of scribbles, including math, drawings and lots of handwriting. This could be done, but the resulting medium (a simple picture format) would be far from desirable. Still, I searched for ways to automate snapping (pressing the camera button for each page is a little troublesome), lighting and automatic feeding (the stack-of-paper analog of flipping) of pages with ADFs (automatic document feeders). If automated and properly synchronized, I could leave them doing their thing. But it was to be yet another idea that stayed on paper... or rather, on mind.

By the way, once this sort of process gets good enough, scanners will become obsolete. The cameras' resolution is already more than enough.
(Reply) (Thread)
From:joe_tofu
Date:July 30th, 2003 05:40 pm (UTC)

hmm

(Link)
Well, a camera has a curved lens, so there is some distortion. For that reason anybody who is serious about getting an accurate reproduction (artists, "analog" photographers) will need a scanner.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]
From:gustavolacerda
Date:July 30th, 2003 07:59 pm (UTC)

Re: hmm

(Link)
It's not because the camera has a curved lens. Any "eye" is going to project a rectangle onto a sphere.

But that's a fairly small problem given a decent distance, say 70cm, especially if the text is going to be OCRed.

But for the sake of the pictures and all, you can always use some good old digital geometrical transforms, or maybe a special kind of lens designed to correct that. For the former approach, laying a gridded transparent glass on top of the sheet may be helpful.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From:neo_kami
Date:April 25th, 2006 06:25 pm (UTC)
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That's an awesome ascii.
(Reply) (Thread)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 25th, 2006 06:35 pm (UTC)
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Now with modifications:

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/||\ .#####. <--spine
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Camera shots are horizontal; therefore, lay the book in a horizontal position. No ball should be used. A ball would create imbalance. Rock-hard stability is best.
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