Book scanning is the most time-consuming method of digitizing paper. Unlike loose pages, which can be scanned using a sheet-fed scanner, book pages must be manually turned for each scan. A specialize book scanner can help to greatly reduce time it takes to make a quality scan. A traditional scanner is impractical for scanning more than a few pages.
I scanned a nine chapters, totalling 154 pages of text, including illustrations, and diagrams, for an average of 4.7 minutes of total time (manual scanning + conversion to PDF + OCR) per chapter. The average per-page processing time is approximately seventeen seconds (rounded up).
Here's the breakdown:
Scan page to TIFF (Manual) 12 seconds
Create PDF from TIFF 1 second
OCR to create PDF+TEXT 4 seconds
Average processing per page: 17 seconds
Is the productivity gain worth the time investment?
Using the above method, my 1024 page legal text would take almost 5 hours to scan, so the question is, is the productivity gain worth the time investment? Possibly. For important materials that are accessed frequently, randomly, and quickly, throughout their use, definitely yes.
Ultimately, it depends on how often the material will be accessed and in what context. In some cases, simply having a digital copy of the table of contents, index, and glossary may be sufficient. In this case, I've found the ability to create summaries and study guides simply by highlighting with a pen quite valuable. Since I'm using this book in digital form on a Tablet PC, the ability to annotate and search for text during the lectures has been a definite advantage - one that offsets the time invested in scanning. I can easily scan while listening to music or a podcast.
Though I'd certainly prefer to purchase the text in digital form in the first place and would gladly pay extra to have both book and a digital copy on CD, I think that, in some circumstances, the benefits gained from a digital copy can easily out weight the paper equivalent, even when one considers the time it takes to scan. This value proposition will certainly improve, once I am able to outsource the book scanning process to low-cost child labor, provided by the Mack children. :-)
In an unexpected way, I've actually found that the process of scanning actually helps acquaint me with the material. The page preview stays on the screen approximately 7-10 seconds between each page scan. This is just long enough to identify a several key pieces of information from the page and create a neural association between page, section, and topic. While I would not argue that this is a major benefit of book scanning, it is a noticeable one.
Paperless challenge update:
My paperless challenge project is going very well; in fact, it's going much better than I would have imagined. I love the fact that each day, for the past three weeks, I've ended the day with less paper than I started with and I can now find information in digital form quickly and easily.
I don't expect that everything I'm doing as part of this challenge will prove to be the most productive, nor do I think that a totally paperless existence is best. I am enjoying the process of discovering what does and does not work for me and I know that this experience will ultimately help me recommend specific technologies to my clients.
Meanwhile, I'll continue to collect my observations in a mind map, possibly for a future blog or podcast.