Do you dream of digitizing your entire book collection? This book scanner can help you

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Advantages

  • Corrects the tilt of bound books
  • Color correction and white balance
  • Separates pages from open books

The inconvenients

  • ScanSnap software can be clunky
  • USB interface only
  • 11×17 maximum footprint is a bit small for coffee table books

I’ve written before about how my wife and I used Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners to manage our paper sprawl. We originally planned to digitize our collection of giant books, but we ended up managing the huge legacy of documents from my parents, which came to us when they became very ill and I was suddenly responsible for all their personal and financial affairs.

We tried to digitize books. We even bought a paper guillotine, cut the spines off some of her craft books, and ran them through one of ScanSnaps automatic document feeders.

Why would we want to scan all our books? Well, they take up a lot of space. We are both avid readers and love books, but there are practical limits. Over time, we receive more and more books, but our space does not expand at the same rate. Another problem with our large collection is that my wife has allergies and the books attract dust.

Exam: Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1600: the wireless game changer

My wife wants all of her craft books to be available anytime, right on her iPad. We bought him a maximum iPad Pro 12 inch M1 with 2TB of storage so we can achieve this.

But these craft books make a perfect storm of failures for document feed scanners. The pages are too big. Sometimes images cross the spread through the spine. And some of the large coffee table book-style craft books are nearly impossible to cut with the guillotine.

While products like ScanSnap iX500and even the extremely powerful and flexible ScanSnap iX1600are great for scanning documents, but they’re just not quite up to par with scanning books.

Limitations do not affect the number of pages per minute that can be scanned. The iX1600 can swallow 40 pages per minute. The thing is fast. But it can only handle flat sheets. And cutting books with a guillotine gets old fast.

Enter the Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600 book scanner

While working on the iX1600 review, I noticed that Fujitsu also made a scanner specifically designed for scanning books. It uses the same ScanSnap software we already use, but has built-in intelligence to separate pages, remove distortion, and optimize the entire book scanning process.

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Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600 Specifications

Scan speed

About 3 seconds per page

Horizontal scanning resolution

285 to 218 dp

Vertical scan resolution

284 to 152 dpi

Maximum document size

432 x 300mm (17.0 x 11.8 inches)

Minimum document size

25.4 x 25.4 mm (1 x 1 in)


So I contacted my friendly Fujitsu PR representative and explained our project to him. He was intrigued and sent us an SV600 for review. It’s very different from other ScanSnap scanners we’ve used.

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The device looks a bit like WALL-E and a bit like Short Circuit’s Johnny 5, especially once you flip it on its back and look at the array of lights and cameras under the hood.

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As you can see, the SV600 is a fundamentally different beast from the ScanSnaps automatic document feeder we’ve already reviewed. Rather than a turntable that frictionally feeds pages through a small slot and scans them as they pass through an image capture mechanism, the SV600 features a base and tower structure that most closely resembles a lamp. Office. In fact, you could be forgiven if you saw this from afar and thought has been a desk lamp.

But it’s not.

Instead of putting sheets in a scanner slot, you lay the open book under the camera and it takes images from top to bottom. Although you have to provide your own muscle power to flip through the pages, the device does its best to make the scanning process as smooth as possible.

There are two main scan modes: automatic and triggered. When auto mode is on, the machine will rescan each time you turn a page. The page flip itself triggers the shot. Alternatively, if you want a little more control, you can set the ScanSnap software to wait for you to press the blue button on the base of the device to trigger a scan.

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A key feature of the SV600 is the software’s ability to distort page scans. This device is less of a traditional scanner (where the leaf sits just above the imager) and more of a top-down camera. Each “scan” is actually a photo that the main unit takes and sends to your computer.

The difference between using your smartphone to take a photo and this one is that the SV600 provides illumination and actually moves across the scanning surface stitching the images together. It also calibrates the white balance and color of the little white rectangles on the sides of the base, so the color is much more accurate than it would be if you were doing it with your smartphone. So it takes photos, yes, but it does so in a way that’s particularly suited to scanning books and large pages.

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Since you’re taking photos of book pages, which often lift at the spine and then flow down, each page photo arrives somewhat distorted. Where ScanSnap shines is in its ability to see the curve of the page and distort it, producing a clean, level scan.

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You can adjust the scan area to manage the skew of your books.

You can choose to store both pages side by side in a finished PDF, or split the pages and store them as individual pages. ScanSnap also has an option for this.

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You can also adjust where the page separation is applied.

I was a little disappointed to find out that the SV600 has to be USB connected to your computer. As you can see from the back of the device, the only ports are power and USB.

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I would have preferred a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth interface. That said, since you’re likely going to be interacting with each scan a bit more than if you were using a bulk sheet scanner, it’s probably not too inconvenient to require a USB connection to the computer.

In the pros and cons at the start of this article, I described the software as “clunky”. This is a subjective opinion, as the software does everything it’s supposed to do, and more. But I find it a little heavier to use than I would like. For example, the software periodically asks you if you want to upgrade. This is not unusual, but if you decline the upgrade, you must confirm the decline. The scanning and editing process can be difficult and if you want to go back and re-edit a scan (set page boundaries etc.) you will need to do this before saving the PDF. Basically, the software does everything it’s supposed to. It just feels like each task requires an extra step or two than what should be needed.

Additional thoughts and advice

In addition to books, this will scan large flat documents up to 11×17 inches. So if you have a map or a small poster, this will capture it.

The device does not need to touch the scanned pages. This means it is ideal for archival, historical or delicate documents that require special handling.

You can scan multiple documents at once (such as business cards, receipts, etc.). Simply lay them out and the scanner will separate them into individual PDF files.

The scanner comes with a black mat that defines the size of the scanning area. It’s easier to place these small items and make sure you’re in the scan area.

If you are scanning a book with a non-removable dust jacket, you may want to put a piece of black construction paper over the inside portion of the dust jacket that the scanner’s optics can see. This way, when each page is stored, ScanSnap will not be confused by what is on the page versus what is on the inside cover.

Although the device monitors page breaks and scans automatically, I prefer to press the button to tell it to scan. This is because pages sometimes stick together and it’s a pain to have to go back and fix scans when a page flip doesn’t go right. There’s really no extra effort to turn the page and press the button, and you know you’re scanning when you have a clean page slip.

It takes about 3 seconds to scan one page. If you have a good pace, you can scan a 200-page book in about 10 minutes. In terms of decluttering, that’s about one to two boxes of books a day. Not bad.

Have you digitized your book collection? What methods did you use? Let us know what you’re up to with digitization and your book collection in the comments below.

Conclusion

It’s a product you’ll likely spend a lot of time with, and as such its little quirks can feel like big annoyances. If all you’re doing is scanning a book or two, you’re probably not going to want it. But if you’re trying to digitize 50 or 100 boxes of books, or if you’re trying to migrate an entire collection to digital form, you’re going to be spending a lot of days, day after day, with this product.

In this context, would I prefer it to be smoother, faster and a little less cumbersome? Sure. Almost any product you spend a lot of time with (and I mean a plot time) can be improved. But does it do the job? Yes absolutely. Is there a better product? Not that I’ve seen, certainly not for the price.

Would I recommend it? Yes, provided you really need a product that does what this product does. If you want to bulk scan loose pages, get an automatic document feeder scanner like the previously reviewed iX1600 ScanSnap. But if you want to convert your entire book, magazine and resource library into digital form, this is the device you need.

I’m certainly very happy to have it in my digitizing arsenal and if you’re a dedicated librarian, archivist or declutterer, it’s a worthwhile investment.

Alternatives to consider

Besides the Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600, here are some other book scanners you might consider:


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