How to digitise all your books – and carry your digital library with you at all times. Book scanning made easy.

The main reason I wanted to digitise all my books was to have access to them at any time (on my Mac, iPad, iPhone, online) and also to be able to search the whole e-library rather than just individual books. And I wanted to get rid of my bookshelves, because I was moving house. Also Google’s attempt to digitise all the books on this planet has got a bit stuck – this is my one small step in the same direction.

Book digitising in 3 easy (but quite time consuming) steps:

Step 1. Get a double-page scanner and paper guillotine cutter – Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M Document Scanner and A3 guillotine paper cutter photo trimmer heavy duty. Better still borrow them (which is what I did) or share the cost if you buy it, either directly or on eBay. The scanner is a good investment (I’ve scanned all my tax documents, etc).
Step 2. Cut/chop off the spines of the books with your guillotine. Keep the pages in order.
Step 3. Run the pages through the scanner (very straightforward and it scans both sides at the same time), but you need to flick through the book to check for stuck pages. (If the scanner detects pages that are stuck together or several pages going through together at one time, it will stop which allows you to sort out the problem and continue – but you want to avoid this if possible.) Both sides of the page are scanned at the same time (but you can set for a single side scan if you’re scanning just a document). Because it’s a small scanner you can do only 50-100 pages at a time depending on the type of paper.
You can’t scan bigger than A4 formats. You can save the files in different formats – I’ve chosen pdfs. The scanner can convert the images to text if you choose that option, but it will slow down the process so I’ve opted out of that. Instead I converted the pdf images to text later using the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Pro (OCR: Optical Character Recognition – Documents > OCR Text Recognition). This software converted the whole folder which made the pdf fully searchable and editable – but this did take a few days (for all 700+ books).  I tend to read ebooks on my iPad now and iAnnotate PDF  is probably the best app for reading and editing pdfs.

A part of about 600+ books digitised

A part of about 700+ digitised books

A couple of tips from me and Tom (who did it first and lent me his scanner and the cutter – for which I’m very grateful – he’s a great NLP trainer and has some interesting NLP online courses:  http://www.nlptimes.com/)
1. There will be lots of blank pages at the back of the books – reuse them as scrap paper. But remove them before scanning. Good eco-karma.
2. Flick through the books to check for stuck pages, especially at the beginning of the book. Also for bookmarks and post-it notes that might be there – these might jam the scanner. I kept the folded corners intact because this is one of the ways I mark important information. The key value of this process is that I wanted the wisdom from the books ie all the underlining and highlighting and comments I’ve made. That’s the true value of digitising books. I don’t need more raw knowledge or information – I could easily get these books as ebooks at a later date. What is valuable is the work I’ve already put into the books when I’ve sped read them and noted what is key to me.
3. As a byproduct of the scanning process – I’ve downloaded (photoread) lots of books just by flicking through them to check for stuck pages. Downloading is one of the 37 speed reading techniques that we teach that primes the brain with the information from the book so when you work with the book it’s easier to process.
4. You can name the files later if you need to. I used APA (American Psychological Association) format which I had to use when doing my Masters in Environmental Psychology which goes like this: Norman, S., Cisek, J. (2010). Spd Rdng – The Speed Reading Bible. Amazon: Kindle.
There are other referencing styles.
5. Because I was scanning lots of books every day – about 10 books/hour my fingers got quite dirty. The tendency is to lick your fingers to turn or check pages. DON’T DO IT! Some books can still have some unpleasant chemicals in both the paper and the ink – you don’t want to ingest the toxins. So don’t lick your fingers – check out The Name of The Rose (book or film)  – oops I’ve just spoiled if for you – sorry. But actually, knowing the ending of the book is good for your learning.

In America they have a book digitizing service available for as little as 1 USD/book –  I wish there was somebody here in the UK doing this – it would have saved me about 6 days of scanning.

I’ve filmed the whole process and will publish a video about it shortly so bookmark this blog now.

How to digitise all your books – and carry your digital library with you at all times. Book scanning made easy.
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