Google Books Team Open Sources Linear Book Scanning Device

Leave it to Google to open source one of the most clever content digitizing gadgets out there. The Linear Book Scanner is a prototype device that scans books and turns pages automatically. All you need to do is essentially place the book face-down on the wedge-shaped device and turn it on.

This scanner is far from perfect, however. It doesn’t work with all book sizes, page thickness, or binding methods. Out of fifty books tested on the current design, 45% experienced torn or folded pages during the process, 45% had skipped pages, and only 60% of the books tested were scannable using the default scanner size and settings. That doesn’t mean 45% of the pages scanned were either torn or skipped, but simply that in 45% of the 50 books tested on the device had one or more such instances. A single skipped page is really no big deal, even on significantly more pricey alternatives.

What is impressive about this design, and Google’s choice to open source it, is the fact that you can build it for around $1,500. That’s a far cry from the $20,000-50,000+ scanners presently in use by the industry. Google itself uses a much more expensive scanner to digitize rare and out of print books for its extensive library, and this particular project is seen as a viable alternative for the home user.

Because Google’s open source license is so liberally worded, it’s conceivable that manufacturers could refine the design and create products that improve on performance, are made available for less than current material costs, and have a better scanning ratio.

The Linear Book Scanner works by sliding an open book face-down across an angled surface with dual scanning sensors before passing it over a vacuum-powered page-turning mechanism that passes each page from one side of the book to the other. The vacuum pressure is passed through very thin slits that sit across the surface of the scanner, allowing it to grab a single page without risking sucking it in or grabbing multiple pages. This suction should be matched to the thickness of the pages to prevent tearing.

As it stands, the Linear Book Scanner by Google is capable of scanning a 1,000 page book in just 90 minutes. Each time it is slid across the scanners and page-turning vacuum, two pages are captured.

So, what do you have to do to get your hands on one? Just download the plans and start building. If anything, you’ll have a brilliant DIY project to keep you busy through the holiday season.

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Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.