An automatic book scanner is a great option when you have large volumes of bound books to scan. For example, a national library going into mass digitization would be the perfect place to implement automatic scanning of bound books and documents.
This device would have to be designed from the ground as an archive scanner, focusing on delivering consistent scan results on a day to day basis. It should be able to provide the same scan results whether you need a single book scan, or you want to convert thousands.
We will be taking a look at how these overhead scanners work, whether it is an A4, A3, or even A2 format scanner and even how to integrate them with an OCR function or other features you will definitely need to use with it.
How does a book scanner work automatically?
To first understand how a book scanner will work automatic scanning, let’s dive into how a book scanner works in general. As you probably know, book scanners have been built on the same framework as an old microfilm camera.
Basically, it’s an overhead scanner, that has a capturing camera on top and lighting on the sides. Please note that this is the initial approach and things have changed over time. We now have a better capturing unit, better lighting, a flattening glass plate, and an improved book cradle, all working together to deliver the highest image quality possible.
There have also been manufacturers changing the classic approach to book scanning and designing really innovative products. For example, SMA is now using CCD linear capturing units that are angled 90 degrees all the time on the document. This significantly improves the geometric accuracy of your scanned page, and also allows for consistent illumination of the page.
These, in turn, favor the delivery of crisp and color accurate high image quality. Now that you have a good quality image, it’s time to focus on automation. This simply means that the operator is not turning the pages manually and is only checking the quality of the scans. You might think this is the most important part, but actually it isn’t. It’s quality, time and productivity.
From the start, we must warn you that books were not designed to be scanned and neither were they designed to be scanned automatically. Therefore the technology was designed around them and it still has to catch up with today’s automation requirements.
What I should look for in a good book scanner?
If you are looking to buy the best book scanner, well there isn’t one that wins it hands down. We will try to list and explain what we look for in a book scanner and this should be a good starting point for your next purchase.
- Feasibility of the purchase – Everyone can understand feasibility quite well. It’s whether your purchase is opportune for your scanning project. Aspects such as the final price estimated budget and whether the quantity is worth it, or maybe book scanning services are a better solution.
- The scanning format of the books – Usually, you will have to scan various sized books during the mass digitization process. In most cases, a larger scanner will cost significantly more. Analyze how many larger books you have, and if it’s only a minority, outsource the scanning of the larger ones. You might just save a lot of money.
- Book Scanning Quality – Image quality is critical in any mass digitization project. Either your choices, you will be spending a lot of money on this device. If you do it, try and get one that will deliver the best scanning results, so you can challenge for a lot more projects.
- The versatility of the scanner – No matter how good the automatic function on your book scanner, you will not be able to scan everything automatically. In fact, I would say the percentage in any large project, will not be more than 50-60%. Therefore, the easier it is to combine automatic and semi-automatic book scanning for an entire book, the higher your productivity will be.
Sma Roboscan 2 and 1
The SMA Roboscan 1 and 2 are the automatic versions of the already established SMA Scanmaster series.
These scanners are well known for being robust, versatile and providing the highest image quality in the book scanning market. They also get great reviews for being user-friendly and focused on the user experience first.
The A2 model, Scanmaster 2 uses an innovative scanning method where the lighting and the capturing unit are positioned 90 degrees from the scanned material. This means almost perfect and constant lighting, which is definitely a problem with other book scanners on the market.
When they fitted the Robotic arm that flips the pages automatically, it just added more versatility to a product that is already a benchmark in its class.
I would say the best thing about it comes when you see how easy it is to switch between the automatic and semi-automatic scanning modes.
We would recommend this scanner for high-end book scanning projects, where resolution is important and image quality is highly critical. The robotic arm works well and the versatility is impressive.
The only downside I see is that it only has a 180 degree book cradle, which sometimes might not be as good, especially when scanning very fragile books.
SMA Roboscan V2
Now, this is a very interesting product and I’ve been waiting for it for a while. There have been a number of vshaped book scanners with automatic scanning but this takes it to another level.
First of all the Roboscan V2 is the first automatic book scanner with a vshaped book cradle that provides high-quality A2 scans. The CCD linear unit in the scanner combined with a high-performance lighting module delivers great quality images from this advanced capturing unit.
It’s probably not as good as the capturing unit in the standard Roboscan 2, but all in all, it’s close and miles ahead of its competitors.
The second thing is the incredible versatility. You can use this scanner in automatic mode with or without the flattening glass. Switch to semi-automatic and again, the same thing applies, with or without a flattening glass. It’s just on another level. And you can do this during the same scanning job.
Another great thing about it is that you can make the book cradle sit at 180 degrees and scan A2 documents easily. Not to mention an optional 180 degrees flattening glass which allows you to scan even challenging A2 documents.
No other automatic book scanner, except for the standard Roboscan 2 or 1 can do this and believe me, it’s a lifesaver, especially for inserts.
Qidenus Robotic Book Scan 4.0
I don’t know what to say about the Qidenus Robotic Book Scanner. When they first launched the robotic series, it was a breath of fresh air, a V-shaped book scanner with the automatic turning of the pages. Since then they have also launched the Qidenus Mastered and the Qidenus Smart series.
The bionic finger is not really the fastest approach to book digitisation, especially when you take into account the scanning surface and book thickness. The book size is another aspect that can influence the scan speed and of course the general throughput of pages per hour.
Then there is the resolution, optical resolution to be exact. Given that the distance between the camera and the document changes during scanning, there are some risks in having unfocused images and the optical resolution will vary.
Although the manufacturer is claiming 300 or 400dpi you always have to take into account the scanning size. The Roboscan V, for example, provides the same scanning resolution, being independent of the size of the document. When using digital cameras, this will be different based on the document size.
For example, the lighting issues will increase if you have an A3 page or will become very noticeable when you have an A2 page. I guess for normal A4 documents you won’t notice it, but sometimes you need a high-quality scan to collect data.
And that is my biggest worry with this scanner. For documents where automatic data collection is critical, I think you might run into some problems. Therefore, I would not really recommend using this model. Yes, it’s fast, but if you have to do constant rescans, the entire productivity will go out the window.
Positive aspects of the Qidenus Robotic Series
- High scan speed in manual or semi-automatic mode – Yes, this planetary scanner will be pretty quick when not in automatic.
- Versatility – The Qidenus robotic book scanner is a versatile machine going from automatic to semi-automatic and fully manual very easily. Having the glass plate move up and down by itself and the user only turning the page is helpful a lot of the time. But for this, you can spend less on the Qidenus mastered series.
- User-replaceable optics – Both the camera and lenses can be replaced by the user, very easily. This approach also saves money when you want to quickly replace the optics for whatever reason.
Negative aspects of the Qidenus Robot Series
- DSLR or Matrix camera system – While this isn’t a problem for bound document scanning when you spend this amount on a book scanner you want to also capture high-quality books from time to time. I am not sure this device is what I would choose to use.
- Automatic mode is not reliable – Using a bionic finger to scan books automatically isn’t the most reliable approach. These devices are industrial scanners, therefore you want an innovative approach to automatic scanning that will also work in practice. Also, I don’t know if it’s very well suited for a fragile book.
- The price of the scanner – While for robotic book scanners this might not seem expensive, you have to check if you will use it mainly in automatic or semi-automatic mode. If it’s the semi-auto mode, then spend way less and get a Qidenus mastered or another vshaped book cradle device.
Which scanner is best for scanning books automatically?
If I were to choose one of these 3, for general projects I would go with the SMA RoboScan V2 V shape book scanner. The reasons behind the purchase are simple:
- It has a good purchase price and is not within the market range. Depending on the market it’s maybe a bit less expensive or the same price as the other two.
- The A2+ format scanning is enough to scan around 90% of the books and bound documents in this world. I am very happy when I know I can do any book scanning project I want.
- Book Scanning Quality is not on par with the standard SMA Roboscan. It has a smaller scanning resolution, and because it’s not using the innovative 90-degree scanning technology results might not be as good. Still, the quality is way better than for most of the other book scanners on the market. And it crushes the Qidenus which uses a camera technology that will never match the Roboscans.
- This book scanner shines in terms of versatility. I think you can use 5 different scanning modes. As long as your bound book is not larger than A2+, there is a setting that will scan it. And you don’t need an additional A3 flatbed to scan covers or inserts.
All in all, I would get the SMA Roboscan V2 as a general automatic book scanner, and for those really high-end projects I would get the standard SMA Roboscan. I would avoid the Qidenus Robotic scanner, there are better and cheaper alternatives out there.