/ Technology

Can book scanners turn a new page for the ebook market?

Pile of books and e-reader

A new book scanner revealed at the Consumer Electronic Shows (CES) allows you to digitise books for e-readers. But is it the device that book lovers are after, and does it have the hallmarks of a bestseller?

To date I’ve resisted buying an e-reader, although I’m an avid bookworm. At home I have cupboards and shelves full of books I’ve collected over the years but I can’t just plug these into a device like a Kindle or Kobo and transfer them across.

Compare this to the market for digital music.

I was relatively quick to buy an MP3 player, which, combined with iTunes, allowed me to import my existing music collection from CDs. As music downloads were relatively cheap I soon began topping up my collection by downloading singles and albums from online.

Again, compare this to the ebook market where electronic copies of books cost the same – and often more than a physical paperback.

I’m impressed by the Impress book scanner

So, on the face of it the Impress scanner is the device I’ve been waiting for.

It works in the same way that commercial book scanners do. Simply place the book onto a v-shaped lectern, which has two 5Mp cameras mounted onto it to capture the pages. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software then converts the scanned pages into e-reader friendly formats such as PDF and ePUB.

The Impress scanner uses suction to automatically turn the pages and claims it can capture six pages of a book per minute. But, it would be fiction to think that this will revolutionise the ebook market.

Will book scanners really take off?

Even at six pages per minute the Impress would take over 33 minutes to scan a 200-page book. A similar device from Ion, the Book Saver Book Scanner claims to do the same thing in 15 minutes – less than half the time. But it would still take days to scan all the books in my collection.

What’s more, the technology doesn’t come cheap. The Impress will sell for $499 – around £325. And even if consumers are keen, it isn’t as if the ebook industry needs this device – sales of electronic books on Amazon have already exceeded those of paperbacks.

As for me, even with the launch of the Impress I won’t be buying an e-reader any time soon – I’m loathe to start my personal library from scratch. But – perhaps more importantly – I’m still too addicted to the smell and feel of a paperback.


Very interesting. I could not be bothered to scan books but this would be very useful for scanning old reports and other documents where no computer file is available, provided it will handle up to A4 bound documents.

Libraries may welcome these copiers because opening up books sufficiently for copying on a normal flat-bed copier can damage the binding and the need for replacement or repair.

Hopefully the price might deter book pirates.