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Book scanner could allow consumer to create their own e-books

At last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, ION Audio introduced a device that should strike fear in the hearts of publishers: a consumer-grade book scanner that can create e-books at a rate of one page per second.

Set to go on sale this spring at an expected retail price of $150 (U.S.), the scanner is outfitted with two overhead cameras that simultaneously photograph the pages of an open book, which rests on an angled cradle. Described by ION Audio as an “e-reader conversion system for printed materials,”  the ironically named Book Saver “promises to shake the publishing industry in the same way CD burners shook the music industry and forever changed copyright laws in the early 1990s,” says the National Post.

The Post goes on to highlight the paradigm-shifting repercussions of the device in the context of Canadian copyright law:

The Book Saver device [...] arrives as Canada is once again trying to amend outdated copyright legislation to better address the digital era.

A key question in the current round of talks is whether consumers have any right to make personal copies of DVDs, e-books and video games for personal use.

  • Paul

    Now everyone can pirate like Google.

  • Matthew

    So this device will give readers a way to digitize their libraries without having to buy new digital copies, and probably encourage those same people to buy eBook readers and stimulate that economy? Sounds great for everyone involved to me. It’s not like there’s an automated page turner that’s going to make “piracy” any easier (only one copy needs to be digitized before it can be shared, anyway). Any fear from publishers is caused because they lack foresight, not because of devices like this.

  • Jack

    1. We’ve had scanners for a long time. Some of us have even gotten pretty good at flipping the pages for ourselves.

    2. OCR is the real problem. Take a look at some of Amazon or Google’s eBooks that are scanned … the character and format recognition is still pretty terrible. That is, of course, unless you’re fine with an image without searchable text.

    It’s extremely tedious to check a scanned text against the original copy, and you might be surprised at the dozens or hundreds of errors a page. Not to mention the lost formatting.

    Get me some better OCR software — I’ll pass on this.

  • Anonymous

    Oh no consumer creating things! This is going to be sued into the ground by the world’s business men who feel only those they pay are allowed to be creative and produce “culture”.

    You don’t need OCR. Reasonable compression and bitmaps are enough to make most books readable. Image in the front, text in the back.

  • Seth

    This device is perfect. I have a number of collections of rare academic journals that are highly sought after. Now I can finally share my archive.

    This isn’t about “piracy”. It’s about finally getting out-of-print books back into circulation.

    It’s not like a CD/DVD reader. It’s more like the devices that people have been using to digitize analog recordings or VHS videos. These devices are used by fans for sharing content that is ignored by the media conglomerates.

  • dave

    Seth, will you compensate the authors/journals/publishers of out-of-print books? Or do you believe that because the authors of those books aren’t being paid now (due to being out of print) that they never need to be paid for future use? Will you track them down and mail them a personal cheque?

    Still seems like unauthorized theft. They produced something of value (“rare” and “highly sought after”) which is now available to be mass produced without consent or compensation, without benefit to them or the organizations that helped to produce, edit, peer-review, them.

  • dave is a winker


    well done. Once again a apologist standing up for bug corporations and copyright.
    Copyright was introduced to protect authors, but is now abused by big corporations.

    The reason they are out of print, is some mathematical formula has dictated that demand isn’t high enough.

    If they really cared about the authors, publishers would take catalogue and digitise them themselves.

    Then we could pay to print or download any book we liked.

    Even better, stick to copyright’s original idea, and most of the books would be public domain now anyway.

    But hey, as long as the author is getting a $, who gives a fuck about the knowledge that could be lost by the practice of locking up old books.

  • Barry

    There’s no reason for publishers, or even authors, to fear this more than existing technology. Books can already be copied or scanned, and I can’t see how this will make it easier to do so.

    Certainly, if someone uses such technology to distribute or sell e-versions of copyrighted books in a way that goes beyond the normal limits of personal use, they should be fair game for prosecution, but we’re still talking about a technology that is a pain in the arse to use, since you’ve got to do it one page at a time.

    Now, this comment:

    “If they really cared about the authors, publishers would take catalogue and digitise them themselves.”

    … is an uninformed one. First, publishers DO care about their authors. I’ve been in publishing for many years: I’m highly qualified to talk about how much publishers care about their authors. Not all publishers are big corporations — the majority of publishers are small or mid-sized presses.

    (I’m assuming you meant “big” corporations, of course. I don’t know very many bug corporations that publish books. Firefly is the only one that come to mind.)

    But more importantly, you seem totally unaware that publishers are currently digitizing as much of their backlist as their resources allow. One of the stumbling blocks is that, for older titles, publishers generally do not have contracts specifying that they have the right to produce electronic versions, and the process of securing such rights for an entire backlist is long and tedious.

  • Sean Cranbury

    The traditional means of controlling the spread of information (or, egad, content) and also ‘monetizing’ parcels of information – books, songs, magazines, etc… – has been forever altered and we all know that.

    It has been more than 10 years since the whole Napster question arrived on the scene and almost as long since digital files were broken into torrents.

    Anyway – the problem with this article (the original article and the highlight here in the Quill) is that it assumes piracy first and foremost and offers ZERO INSIGHT or creativity for the audience.

    It bangs the ‘fear’ gong.

    For an industry that apparently is capable to reading deeply, of identifying subtext, themes, metaphors in complex texts, many in book publishing are embarrassingly incapable of identifying reality and huge opportunities when it comes to digital adaptation.

    Perhaps it’s too obvious and thus escapes such finely honed vision?

  • Barry

    Sean, why are you lambasting people in publishing for the supposed “fear gong” of two articles? Neither of these articles shows anyone in publishing panicking. I’m certainly not panicking, as per my earlier comment.

    The most “fear” is Carolyn Wood saying “it does raise concerns,” but even she is really just saying it’s something to monitor.

  • Sean Cranbury

    Hi Barry

    Agree that Carolyn Wood offers a sensible response.

    The ‘fear gong’ appears in the first sentence of the Quill piece above:

    Notably: “…ION Audio introduced a device that should strike fear in the hearts of publishers…”

    Should strike fear.

    Anyway, you’re right, we shouldn’t generalize and should note that there are moderate and observant people like Carolyn on the case.

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