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Posted by pereh
May 3, 2010 at 08:05 PM


I frequently have the problem of getting phrases, sentences, whole paragraphs of books into my outliner software. I have searched the web about hand scanners etc., but the outcome was pathetic. I think I am not the only one who has to deal with this problem, so I would like to ask you about your experiences with these hardware tools (or toys), and maybe some recommendations about what could be really useful.



Posted by Stephen Zeoli
May 3, 2010 at 11:49 PM


Shortly after reading your post, I saw this application listed on Macupdate. I have never used it, and have no idea if it works as advertised, but it purports to capture text from your photographs… i.e. use your digital camera to “scan” a page. Here’s the web site:




Posted by Cassius
May 4, 2010 at 12:08 AM


About 10-12 years ago, a colleague of mine who worked as an independent consultant for Eurocontrol wanted to digitize hundreds, perhaps thousands of pages of printed documents.  He decided to use PaperPort.

I have no idea if PaperPort is still the latest technology or if it might be overkill for what you want.



Posted by dan7000
May 4, 2010 at 12:33 AM


I used to be a big fan of my “Infoscan” handheld scanner.  It’s like a big highlighter that you use to scan in individual lines of text.  It does OCR on the fly and shows you the results on a little LED screen on the device itself so you can decide to re-scan that line.  A big plus for me is that it has its own data storage, and holds some 200 pages.  So you can take it with you and get notes out of a book without lugging your laptop around.  I would scan the page number and then a line of text so that when I returned to my computer, I would know how to cite the line.

Unfortunately, the drivers for this device were always a mess - nearly impossible to install even on XP where they were “supported.”  Once I got a new machine I never got it working again. 

I also have done a lot of scanning with a regular desktop scanner, but that’s slow, doesn’t work well for books, and you can’t easily get just the excerpts you want.

Lately, I am using a new method that works for a growing list of materials: Kindle.  On the Kindle, you can highlight a passage and it keeps it in a “clip” file on the device.  Then you can copy that text file to your computer and see all the excerpted text.  Unfortunately, there is no way to get the proper page number from the kindle, so it’s tough to use if you need citations.  I have actually sat there with the paper version and the Kindle version together to record page numbers as I clip—it’s still a lot faster than scanning.


Posted by Chris Thompson
May 4, 2010 at 12:56 AM


If you’re considering scanning whole books intact (i.e. without cutting the spine), you might consider a book scanner. Then you can highlight the PDF files directly. Most modern PDF tools (Acrobat Pro, OS X Preview, Bluebeam, etc.) will let you export annotations.

I used to own an OpticBook 3600, which was about as low end as book scanners come, and it was actually pretty good. You could scan a 500 page book in 2 hours in high quality. Unfortunately, it didn’t have a replaceable lamp, so once the lamp died, it was the end of the scanner.

Also, as someone mentioned previously, most modern smartphones have apps to let you take a picture of a book page and automatically have it image processed to look semi-decent. This is a good alternative if you’re in a library. The trouble with this is that a lot of libraries are relatively dim, so you get somewhat blurry photos. Good enough for taking notes and reading them later, but not usually good enough for OCR.



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