Theoretically an e-reader device frees users from the need to ever own printed books. But most avid readers already have full bookshelves (and in many cases, love the beauty of the physical object.) And in any case, many printed titles aren’t yet available in electronic form.
ION Audio, better known for their USB enabled turntables, has now produced what it’s calling a solution to this problem. No, it’s not, as it appears, a hammock-stroke-sunbed for your books, but rather a digital scanner.
If you’ve ever scanned a book in with a flatbed scanner, you’ll know its a painfully slow process, with added discomfort if you hate the idea of stretching your book’s spine any more than strictly necessary.
The ION Book Saver attempts to make the process easier by not requiring the book to be in a flat position. Instead, twin cameras (both fitted with flashes) can scan two facing pages in as little as a second. The users then simply turns the page and clicks a button to shoot again. The content is then saved directly to an SD card.
There are some obvious limitations. While the speed is impressive in comparison to other scanning methods, the company still reckons on almost 15 minutes to scan a 200 page title once you take into account the time spent turning the pages as well as scanning, plus processing time.
The books themselves are scanned as PDF files, which will be viewable on e-readers, but won’t have some of the key features such as being searchable or automatic text resizing and reflow. The device comes with text-detecting software, but most OCR packages I’ve used tend to be hit-and-miss, and I’d be surprised if this method of image capture didn’t make results even more unreliable.
Still, at $199, the device is pricey but not obscenely so. From a legal and ethical perspective, there doesn’t seem to be any reason why somebody prepared to use it wouldn’t be happy just searching for an illicit scan of the same book online that’s already in an e-reader friendly format. But for those with a large collection of less common titles, or with a lot of documents they’d like in digital format, this might be a viable option.