Monday, May 4, 2009

Book Scanning Technology

Ever wonder how it's possible to digitize books by the thousands? Who's turning all those pages? Well, wonder no more, as here's the answer - a neat little contraption with two Canon EOS cameras, and a vacuum that automatically turns the page after a high resolution image is made of each page.

We recently had the opportunity to see the digitization in action - the same process that Google is using in their project. These are custom-made units, and the connectivity is amazing. The operator is simply on hand to trigger the page capture (buttons, on the left of the console, slightly visible in this image), and swap the books. Everything else is automated. With a room full of these devices, it's no wonder the process of digitizing all the worlds' books is almost half-way complete!

(Continued after the Jump)

At left, note the black piece covering the right page. That is the vacuum, which has is about to turn the page, from right to left. Watching the vaccum in action, once it gets past the peak point, and begins to decend to the left, it releases the vaccum, and the page naturally falls down. The vaccum moves out of the line of sight of both Canon cameras, and both facing pages are captured, and then the vacuum moves back into position to make the next pair of images.

A closer look at the lens choice, shows a 24-70mm f2.8 L series lens being chosen. This would make sense, allowing the operator to make adjustments when books got larger, or smaller. The ports in use are clearly the shutter release, the USB, and the power adapter. In this closeup, the lens appears to be set at or near the 70mm mark, and the lens is also set to MF (manual focus).

This device allows for books of all ages (and even levels of fagility, if watching the delicate vaccum in action is any indication) to be digitized very quickly. New Scientist seems to be suggesting (Google sees infrared in plan to scan world's books, April 4, 2009) that scanning these books is taking too long, but that didn't look like a slow process to me, I was amazed at the speed of these machines. NPR wrote about Google's Patent application, in The Secret Of Google's Book Scanning Machine Revealed (4/30/09), but, as with all USPTO applications, the line illustrations leave a little to be desired.

Back in 2004, Information Today wrote - Google and Research Libraries Launch Massive Digitization Project , (12/20/04), about the process, and Googles plans, but to see it in action, is amazing. I was watching as books far and away out of copyright were digitized. This is in contrast to the lawsuit filed against Google, and, as reported in the Washington Post - Google Settles Publishers' Lawsuit Over Book Offerings (Washington Post, October 28, 2008), but which, as reported just last week (Google Battles For ‘Opt-Out’ Extension To Deadline In Book Lawsuit, 4/29/09),
"Internet search giant Google has requested before a judge a two month extension to a deadline for authors and publishers to opt out of a settlement to a legal battle over its intention to develop the world’s largest digital library, the Associated Free Press accounted. Google’s decision was prompted after a group of authors and their heirs asked the US District Court judge hearing the case to give a four month extension to the already effective May 5 deadline so that the “enormously complex” settlement could receive the time it was due for study."
So, the discourse continues - now with a few more visuals for you to contemplate.

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Anonymous said...

Wait a minute, didn't I see that machine in a book by Timothy Archibald?

Xmas said...

Is it a very useful machine ?

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