How Book Digitization Works

It’s easier than ever to preserve important written works through the scanning and storing of digital documents.

The ease of use of digital reading materials, whether displayed on an e-reader or contained in a PDF file on a desktop computer, has recently made physical books less of an indispensable asset than they were for centuries upon centuries of human history. That said, countless stories, facts, and figures can still exclusively be found printed on wood pulp pages, and keeping each of those precious pieces of information accessible today and tomorrow is where book digitization comes in.

Book digitization preserves a physical book of any kind, from a historical manuscript to your child's favorite storybook, through the use of scanners. Once a book has been scanned into a file, it can live on forever on devices and in the cloud — and it can even become easier to access by more people than it was before.

Read The Complete Guide to Document Digitization discover the benefits of digitization, get process recommendations, and much more.

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What is book digitization?

Book digitization is the act of converting a physical piece of bound media into a digital file, thus replicating the original work and allowing for easier storage and reference. This dovetails perfectly with the pressing need to preserve older works of cultural or personal significance, as well as with streamlining the operations of businesses that have valuable data contained in physical books. Modern scanning technology helps archivists, librarians, historians, and consumers preserve whatever they wish, using equipment that ranges from purpose-built commercial scanners to contactless models that can digitize a page simply by laying it flat underneath a sensor.

On top of the digitization of medical records that allows providers to more easily access patient charts, medical periodicals and books can also be scanned to let providers across multiple locations consult the same essential materials at the same time. Similarly, digitizing financial records that were formerly stored in bound formats can help create a more complete picture of your corporate history for digital-first employees — as well as freeing up shelving space for more productive purposes.

The benefits of book digitization

The most obvious benefit of book digitization is how it nearly eliminates physical deterioration as a potential form of data loss. Even accounting for the possibility of bit rot or user error destroying locally sourced files, it’s infinitely easier to back up a digitized version of a book than it is to physically recreate the book itself (it makes you wonder how the medieval monks who dedicated their entire adult lives to the process would feel about it).

On a larger scale, digitizing books allows organizations that make a business of storing massive quantities of data, such as libraries, national archives, and museums, to save resources on storing and preserving that data. While some historical documents will always be worth preserving in their original form for the sake of the thing itself, digitization presents the possibility of a world where no information need ever be discarded simply for physical reasons.

Even better than simply creating a digital version that can be accessed anywhere, book digitization makes improved accessibility possible. Powerful optical character recognition technology can automatically convert printed pages into digital text, making them suitable for use by screen readers and just as easy to search through as the internet.

The best equipment for book digitization

Scanners

The key to book digitization is the device used to perform the first step in the process. Digitizing a book with an automatic document feeder office scanner requires you to remove the pages of a book from its spine and scan them, which can be destructive to the original copy as well as time consuming. Using a flatbed scanner is less destructive but even slower. Thankfully, scanners built with book digitization in mind allow you to simply open a book and lay the desired page flat beneath its sensor.

Did You Know?:The ScanSnap SV600 scanner is also well-suited for quickly digitizing a range of document sizes, without needing to feed them through a machine or carefully position them on a flatbed.

Software

Quickly scanning a book doesn't mean much if the text is too blurry to read or if the pages are scanned at awkward angles. Luckily, intelligent scanning software can identify problems that would interfere with the function of documents to correct fixable issues or alert the user before moving on to the next page. For instance, the ScanSnap SV600’s Book Image Correction function automatically detects and corrects the distortion from the spine of the book, resulting in more legible and natural-appearing images.

Other tools

The most important tool you'll need outside of the scanner itself is the means to store the digital copies of the books you digitize. External and internal hard drives allow you to keep local records for a relatively low one-time cost, but cloud storage solutions are both easier to share with others and less likely to fall victim to natural disasters or degradation over time. The right storage solution for you will vary depending on your particular book digitization needs.

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Did You Know?: Need help finding the right scanner for your projects? Check out our guide, How to Choose the Right Scanner for Your Computer.

Our recommendation: ScanSnap SV600

We know you have no shortage of options when it comes to choosing a book digitization device. We pride ourselves on having spent the last 50+ years designing and developing some of the most beloved electronics in the world, including our line of award-winning, easy to use, one touch ScanSnap scanners.

The ScanSnap SV600 is built to tackle your book digitization needs with its unique overhead format, which takes up less space and creates a more user-friendly scanning process. Its built-in Book Image Correction and Point Retouch features optimize images on the fly, while Page Turning Detection and Time Mode functions make scanning whole books faster and headache-free. Click here to learn more and shop the full line of ScanSnap scanners.

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