View Full Version : OpticBook 3600 Book Scanner Review - Part I


Bob Russell
02-08-2007, 12:39 AM
Over the past few months, I have been the user of a Plustek OpticBook 3600 (http://www.plustek.com/product/book3600.asp) loaner device for review purposes. The kind folks at Plustek allowed me to use the scanner for a longer period of time so I could get a good feel for what it's really like, instead of just a first impression, and now I am passing that benefit on to each of you.

So why would anyone be interested in a book scanner anyway? The obvious reason is to convert paper books that you would like to store and/or read in electronic form. While there are limits due to copyright law, it is amazing how many books and materials are worthy of conversion that are either personally owned, or in the public domain. And a surprising side benefit of having a scanner around is that it is also very useful for general document scanning. It can be convenient for creating an electronic version of paper documents for record keeping or archiving. Common targets include photo scans, receipts, handwritten notes and many more of the multitude of paper documents that surround us. And it is obviously also capable of being used to make paper copies in conjunction with your computer's printer.

We will focus on the real life experience when using this product right out of the box, as opposed to a sterile analysis of the specifications. I'll leave it to our readers to do any dissection of the specs. Instead, for this review you'll see what it actually takes to set it up, and what it's like to scan a book with it. That sort of hands on information that much harder to come by, and is probably non-existent on the web for this scanner until today. I should also indicate that I am approaching this as a scanning novice. I do not currently own a scanner, and while I have scanned paper documents at times in the past, scanning a book was an entirely new experience for me. Most potential buyers who are considering such a purchase will probably find themselves in a similar circumstance.

But before we move on, we will satisfy the primal thirst for specs, with this fairly comprehensive list:
* USB 2.0
* Color CCD image sensor
* Hardware Resolution = 1200 dpi
* Interpolated Resolution = 24000 dpi
* Scanning Modes
- Color: 48-bit input, 24/48-bit output
- Grayscale: 16-bit input, 8/16-bit output
- B/W: 1-bit
* Max. Flatbed Scanning area
- 216 x 297 mm (8.5" x 11.69", A4/ Letter Size)
* Hardware Action Buttons
* Net Weight Approx. 3900g / 8.5 lbs (scanner only)
* Dimensions(D x W x H) = 453 x 285 x 105 mm (18 x 11 x 4 inches)
* Scan Mode is Single Pass
* Lamp is Cold Cathode
* Power Consumption: 18W (operation), 4.3W (idle)
* Cable Length: 150 cm (59.06")
* System Requirements:
- IBM Compatible PC, with Pentium II or faster CPU
- CD-ROM Driver
- One available USB Port
- 128 MB RAM (256MB recommended)
- 500 MB free HDD space
- High Color graphic card (VGA or higher)
- Microsoft Windows XP, 2000

The OpticBook 3600 is one of a handful of scanners that stands out in the marketplace for fast and simple book scanning at a reasonable price (e.g. currently $299.99 at TigerDirect (http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=2447926&CatId=294) which is one of many retailers listed on the Plustek web site.) This product's "claim to fame" is the ability to scan all the way to the edge of the scanning area, which allows you to easily scan a flat book page without pressing the spine down hard onto the glass as with a typical flatbed scanner. It is described in the product description as "Plustek's patent pending SEE™ (Shadow Elimination Element) Technology includes a specially designed edge and lamp. This revolutionary technology allows half of the book to lay completely flat on the glass with the binding against the corner edge."

One big advantage of edge scanning is that older books can be scanned without damaging the book in the process. This is something that I tested for myself with an old book that is already falling apart, and I would not have been able to safely scan it with a standard flatbed scanner. A much more expensive overhead scanning setup would have been required. You can see how a book can be scanned using this edge scan technology

http://www.mobileread.com/upload/custom/OpticBookSEE.jpg

in contrast to pushing the book down to get a decent scan near the spine.

http://www.mobileread.com/upload/custom/book-on-flatbed.jpg

I should also warn you that we will be taking this review step by step in detail. So for those of you that are looking for the summary results, feel free to scan the screenshots and wait for the a later installment of the review with the summary conclusion. But if you want to see more detail, you can get a feel for the full experience by following along with the journey as I unpack, setup and use the scanner to scan books.

Arrival

As you might expect, I was quite eager to get my hands on the scanner. And most of all, I wanted to get a feel for whether book scanning was even practical with a relatively inexpensive device. We'll consider that in time, but first the impressions when it first arrived.

The box is quite nice, and was smaller than I expected. I was encouraged even before opening it up, but when I unpacked the unit, it was a pleasing size and style which could reasonably be placed on a table or desk without looking too bulky. But if you have a small desk, you will want to consider putting it on another surface like a half-size file cabinet. The scanner has a solid look to it, but has the typical light plastic feel when handled. It seems sturdy enough, so in general appearance, I'd give it a B+. It appears plenty good for most situations.

When you place the unit on a flat surface, the first thing you notice is that it doesn't sit flat because of the locking mechanism on the bottom, which is convenient because in that location you are not likely to miss it. The lock is used during shipping to make sure that fragile parts don't swing around dangerously while it is being handled. So before you connect it and turn it on, you should unlock it. The instructions are a little confusing at first, but basically you want to release the lock in such a way as to let it operate when at rest, but still automatically lock if the unit is lifted up from the table or desk. Alternately, you can either put the lock in a fixed position so that it is always either unlocked or always locked, e.g. for use on a very rough surface or for transport.

Box Contents

Included in the box was the scanner, a USB cable, an AC adapter, and two CD-ROMs with setup and applications. Also included is a folded up poster sized set of instructions in about 5 languages. It doesn't take a lot of information to get going.

CD #1 has:
* Plustek Scanning Software (Driver, OpticTWAIN, Action Express, Book Pilot)
* Ulead Photo Explorer 8.0 SE Basic
* Abbyy FineReader 5.0 Sprint OCR
* NewSoft Presto PageManager 6.0
* Something writtin in Japanese or Chinese that I couldn't read
* Adobe Reader
* Electronic User's Guide

CD2 has:
* Ulead PhotoImpact XL SE

I was relieved to find that there were no fancy attachments to learn how to use. I figure the main effort for setup (once you figured out how the lock works) is simply installing the software. The hardware is just a matter of plugging in the cable and adapter. The instructions seem to indicate that you can use a USB hub that is plugged into the computer, but my available port closest to the scanner was directly into the computer, so that’s what I used. I also used my own cable because the supplied cable was pretty short.

Software Installation

With XP, you turn on the scanner (which launches the New Hardware Wizard) and then put the first CD in the computer. The power switch is a rocker switch on the right hand side near the bottom and towards the back. The Wizard popped up as expected, and I chose “Install the Software Automatically” as per the XP instructions. Well, actually I had to respond “No, not this time” to the prompt about using Windows Update to search for software.

I was a little concerned when a “Found no scanner” dialog box came up, but it disappeared a bit later all on its own. The computer also froze temporarily, causing me a little concern, but that also passed quickly. The new hardware wizard reported that it finished installing the software for OpticBook 3600, so I was happy. I hit “Finish” on that wizard and felt like I had accomplished something. So far so good.

Installation continues with the other software. The main screen for that installation was already conveniently waiting for me to proceed. The instruction sheet said to follow my nose (my paraphrase) until done and then reset. So I did, and here's how it went...

First I clicked “Install the Software”.

http://www.mobileread.com/upload/custom/OpticBook_01.JPG

Personally, I hate all the excess software that comes with cameras or scanners or other gadgets, and it’s not always even clear which are trial versions. So I decided to go with a custom install, figuring that I could add more applications later if I missed one.

http://www.mobileread.com/upload/custom/OpticBook_02.JPG

Turns out that all four programs is not unreasonable, so I probably would have saved myself some trouble if I had just done a typical install instead of doing a non-complete install. The programs to choose from were described by PlusTek as follows:

Ulead Photo Explorer -- Useful Image management software to quickly browse, organize, or enhance images. Create slideshows to share on CD, publish to the web, or a VCD. (I don’t think I need this for simple book scanning and OCR, so it will get skipped.)

Abbyy FineReader -- High Accuracy OCR software featuring 14 language user interface and 176 language recognition. (This is what does the OCR, so I want this for sure.)

NewSoft Presto PageManager -- Powerful document management software for OCR, PDF creation, or format conversion to Microsoft Word or Excel. (Looks like I’ll need this, so it’s in.)

Ulead PhotoImpact -- Powerful image editing software featuring extensive editing tools for working with digital photos, creative graphic e-design, and easy web page creation. (Maybe interesting, but doesn’t look like I need it now, so it's out.)

http://www.mobileread.com/upload/custom/OpticBook_03.JPG

When I got to Abbyy FineReader, of course I chose English only because I only plan to scan English books.

http://www.mobileread.com/upload/custom/OpticBook_04.JPG

Abbyy FineReader installation also came up with this next screen that I wanted no part of, so I changed the default to a “No”. It might be something I want, but I’m pretty gunshy about blanket permissions for stuff like that, so I’ll just have to miss out on the fun.

http://www.mobileread.com/upload/custom/OpticBook_05.JPG

PageManager was installed next. No surprises.

So the whole install process can be done for a novice in about a half hour. That includes all the wasted time figuring out what to do and reading the instruction steps to make sure you aren’t messing anything up.

All in all, I’d say it couldn’t be simpler, and it gives me a lot of confidence going forward. But the real challenge comes later - how hard is it to scan and OCR, and does it even work? Now to the fun part!

Scanning My First Book!

For my first attempt at scanning a book, I tried Orbitsville, by Bob Shaw. Actually, I specifically bought the used book for this purpose as it seems to be out of print and it’s a book that I wouldn’t mind reading anyway. In addition, it’s a relatively ordinary oversized paperbook with not too many pages (187 in my edition). Back to the instruction sheet, this time on the reverse side.

Step #1 of scanning a book is preparation: Put the book on the glass, click on the Book function button on the scanner (to choose Book mode rather than Paper mode), and click on the Book Pilot button on the scanner to launch the Book Pilot software window. Making a guess at how the pages would be oriented even and odd, I set the cover down as if I would be scanning an odd page in the book with the binding on the edge. A nice touch is that the image is previewed automatically. Oddly enough, when the Book Pilot window opened up, it told me to wait for the scanner to warm up. I'm guessing that has something to do with the lamp, but I'm not sure.

http://www.mobileread.com/upload/custom/OpticBook_06.JPG

After the progress bar finished, indicating that the scanner was warmed up, I saw the preview window.

http://www.mobileread.com/upload/custom/OpticBook_07.JPG

Step 2 is to select the settings. (You don’t actually start scanning until step 3.) First off, I selected a new project.

http://www.mobileread.com/upload/custom/OpticBook_08.JPG

After creating the project file, you then adjust the scan frame. I.e drag the dotted line to cover the actual size of the book.

http://www.mobileread.com/upload/custom/OpticBook_09.JPG

I’m a little confused about black and white versus grey scale versus color because I don’t want color except for the cover. So I’ll rule out color for now. I don’t want grey scale either (less resolution), so I want to go with black and white, but the preview looks horrible. Remembering a comment from MoonRaker (http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7293&page=2&pp=15), I decided to go with greyscale after all.

http://www.mobileread.com/upload/custom/OpticBook_10.JPG

Here’s what black and white preview would have looked like:

http://www.mobileread.com/upload/custom/OpticBook_11.JPG

There are also some advanced settings available (strangely enough you click on the button that looks like a big folder to get to the advanced settings). It did look like I could improve on the image. But not knowing what I’m doing yet, I left it at the default grey scale settings.

There is a setting for page rotation, and I chose 180 degree rotation for every even page, figuring that the odd pages would be just like the cover, since I had the binding near the edge.

Last setting before I go to scanning is the destination folder for the scanned images. I created a subfolder from where the project file was stored.

Very oddly, there is no instruction on what image format to use. I left the default BMP thinking that it might be the default for a reason other than due to an alphabetic sort of file types. Also, I thought I remembered it being lossless, whereas JPEG degrades more after being edited. TIF seemed the most logical choice, however, and Moonraker had also mentioned TIF, so I figured I might be sorry about BMP. But that’s probably what a typical new user would have chosen, so I went with BMP.

I wasn’t sure how the file name prefixes would be used by programs down the line, but a note in the instructions suggested that you use a combination of folder, file format and file name prefix. They gave a reason that I couldn’t understand, but I followed obediently and chose “Images_BMP_Orbitsville_” for the image name prefix. It turned out to be a good choice.

So here’s my settings before I selected “Next…”

http://www.mobileread.com/upload/custom/OpticBook_12.JPG

Now that I've got the settings I click on "Next". Oops! That doesn’t seem to be what I should have done! Next is meant to be clicked when you finish scanning, in order to do some batch work with the images. Here's what I got by mistake.

http://www.mobileread.com/upload/custom/OpticBook_13.JPG

So I’ll click on “Back” and hope it behaves well. Yep, back to the previous screen as desired. Unfortunately, now I need to wait a few seconds for the scanner to warm up again.

To be continued in Part II...

Unfortunately, due to the lateness of the hour and the maximum size limit for posts, we will have to end Part I for now. When I have opportunity, I will continue with Part II and a description of the actual scanning process, as well as turning the scanned images into an e-book. If you are interested in book scanning, you won't want to miss it!

Please pardon any spelling or grammatical errors because my focus is getting this information out, not worrying about spelling. While I may go back and proofread this post in the days to come, for now you get it in its raw form. But if you are curious like me about book scanning, and want to get a feel for what it's like to use the OpticBook scanner to scan a book, this information will be both unique and invaluable, and well worth the wait!

Disclaimer: Depending on your books, your location and your circumstances, local law may or may not allow you to "format shift" your books to electronic format. Each individual is responsible for ensuring that use of a book scanner falls within legal constraints, and I am no legal expert. But most emphatically, we vehemently discourage any form of e-book piracy. Such activities only slow the adoption of commercial e-books and feed the ongoing propaganda machine that implies piracy is the primary justification for invasive DRM technologies. This review is not intended in any way to provide a discussion of copyright law, but the topic should be mentioned, and so now it has been.

Liviu_5
02-08-2007, 10:51 AM
For output format I use either jpg or tif, and I found out that it looks better than bmp and easier to manipulate if you do not want to ocr but build yourself a picture book which can be read by anything that reads embedded pictures (Fbreader, Ebk1150...)

For ocr'ing text grayscale does not work well for me, b&w is crisper and ocr's well. For covers or stuff with pictures like documents, diplomas... grayscale is indeed better. Since I have a b&w laser printer only, color is not that useful for me (though sometimes it enhances some documents, but scanning in color is very slow).

Studio717
02-08-2007, 02:43 PM
Very nice review. My biggest complaint is that it's Win only. This would be totally sweet on the Mac, especially with DevonThink Pro Office integration. Unlikely, I know, but I can dream. :)

I've had my 3600 for quite a few months and do like it. One reason I have a Mac Mini on order is that I got tired of hauling out my old Dell laptop just to use this scanner. I tend not to use the OCR (I use Acrobat's instead), but agree with Liviu_5 on using .tif (not .jpg so much for text).

The only thing I've found annoying is that I sometimes get the page rotation thing going wrong. Operator error, I'm sure, but sometimes it works just like I think it's supposed to and other times the opposite. Occasionally, I'll fiddle with it until it's right, but most times I just quickly fix it in Acrobat.

Moonraker
02-08-2007, 03:23 PM
Thanks for an excellent review.

Can't wait for Part 2.

valkyriesound
02-09-2007, 09:21 AM
Very cool... I like all the detail...

I'd like to know how long it really takes to scan a page.... including the preview time and scan time. Do you have to preview each page or can you set the book in the same place and have it just go straight to a scan?

Also... can you try a comic and tell use if you notice anything amiss?

Thanks!

nekokami
02-09-2007, 09:41 AM
Very cool! If only there were an inexpensive way to have it turn the pages as well.... :(

Bob Russell
02-09-2007, 10:01 AM
Very cool... I like all the detail...

I'd like to know how long it really takes to scan a page.... including the preview time and scan time. Do you have to preview each page or can you set the book in the same place and have it just go straight to a scan?

Also... can you try a comic and tell use if you notice anything amiss?

Thanks!The preview is optional and only really gets used when setting up the page size and scan parameters. Once you set it, there's no more need to preview.

One advantage of doing scanning one page at a time with the book hanging over the edge is that you naturally put the book in the same place each time. It almost "has to be" in the same place. (As opposed to a two-page scan on a flatbed, which I assume works more like a copier, and requires you to pay a bit more attention to where the book lays if you want it to be consistent.)

I don't have any comics to try, but I think this would be a great scanner for comic books or manga. Assuming there is still just a little bit of margin near the binding in a comic book or manga, I think this device would be great. From the scans I've seen, I am confident the content would look good. If you want to OCR the comics, though, that would be a different matter and might not work very well.

Studio717
02-09-2007, 02:38 PM
I know Bob's in-depth Part 2 will cover all this is detail, but I'd like to add that one great feature for "speed scanning" is that the 3600 has buttons on the scanner to initiate the scan, a separate one for each of the three scanning modes, B&W, Grayscale, and Color. Once set up*, you can just place the book and press the appropriate button on the scanner. You don't have to reach and click in the software. That really speeds things up.

(*By set up, I mean what Bob talked about in his response above - have the page size adjusted, mode, folder, file prefix, etc., all set up for a particular book, including that pesky (at least to me) page rotate feature (which is quite handy).)

Bob, I'm really looking forward to next installment. If you can figure out what criteria it uses to calculate 'odd' and 'even' on the page rotate feature, I'll be eternally grateful! (It probably doesn't help that I forget to set it until after I've started scanning. :dunce2: )

Bob Russell
02-09-2007, 03:30 PM
Thanks for mentioning the buttons, Studio717, because I really might not really say anything about them. I guess I basically ignored them because they weren't of interest to me.

As far as the page rotate, I think it's not complicated. (Well, me trying to explain it here in words might sound complicated, but the idea is simple.) Here's the working assumption that I've made, and it's been useful for me so far:

When you first start scanning, you are scanning page 1 no matter how the book is aligned or what you are scanning. So the sequence as far as OpticBook is concerned is always ODD, EVEN, ODD, etc

Suppose you know the next scan is going to come out upside down (for example, if you "fool" the scanner by scanning two odd pages in a row, or two even pages in a row, or if you are rescanning the same page for a second time in a row). Then you just change the setting to the opposite value. In other words, if it is rotating odd pages, then set it to rotate even pages. And if it is currently rotating even pages, set it to rotate odd pages. That will get it back on track.

If you approach it that way, I think you'll find it's less confusing, and you really don't have to know anything about how it calculates things internally. Just remember that OpticBook doesn't know which way you are laying the book down, so you can't determine much by whether the "real" page being scanned is an even or odd number in the book.

One more note... if I remember correctly (maybe someone can help me out on this), the preview doesn't show the rotation (does it?). If that's true, then if you get lost, you can't really tell ahead of time whether that next scan will be upside down or not, without some mental gymnastics. In that case, I simply scan it and look to see what happens. If it's upside down, delete the scan and rescan it. It will be right side up next time, and then you can proceed. No change of settings is necessary.

Wizard-mag
02-11-2007, 01:48 PM
Thanks for the review. I am eager to read the second part. :)



So why would anyone be interested in a book scanner anyway? The obvious reason is to convert paper books that you would like to store and/or read in electronic form. While there are limits due to copyright law, it is amazing how many books and materials are worthy of conversion that are either personally owned, or in the public domain. And a surprising side benefit of having a scanner around is that it is also very useful for general document scanning. It can be convenient for creating an electronic version of paper documents for record keeping or archiving. Common targets include photo scans, receipts, handwritten notes and many more of the multitude of paper documents that surround us. And it is obviously also capable of being used to make paper copies in conjunction with your computer's printer.



Only to note - if you would like to get an electronic version of a document and you do not have a scanner, a good sollution is to use your digital camera.

It looks ugly at first, but it is not as bad as it looks. If you take it with the largest focal length you can have (maximum zoom), you end up with a rather good result with most of today's cameras - even the simple point-n-shoots.

We have only Minolta Dimage X50, which is an ultra-compact, and I have been using it to archive various important documents in electronic version until now and I am quite satisfied.

Of course, at least for now, there can't be any talk of OCR, but in the years to come - who knows. :)

Bob Russell
02-11-2007, 02:07 PM
Great observation Wizard-mag. I think overhead mounts for digital cameras is the way we will all be scanning books in the future. But it may be some time until that method can compete with OpticBook for the general book scanning user. I'd love to see some products appearing that are simply an overhead mount for good standard compact digital cams (like the Canon SD600 that I just got for $200). People are already buying them and the overhead mount can't be too expensive. Make it a bundle with overhead mount and OCR/Scanning software and it might be a very nice way to scan books... if there's no hidden "gotchas" to that approach.

Thanks also to everyone for the interest in Part 2. It is coming, but please be patient as my schedule is a little crazy right now! I look forward to getting it ready.

nekokami
02-11-2007, 03:41 PM
I'd love to see some products appearing that are simply an overhead mount for good standard compact digital cams (like the Canon SD600 that I just got for $200). People are already buying them and the overhead mount can't be too expensive. Make it a bundle with overhead mount and OCR/Scanning software and it might be a very nice way to scan books... if there's no hidden "gotchas" to that approach.
Then you just need one of these (http://www.newlaunches.com/archives/book_time_5000_automatic_manga_reader.php) and you're all set!

RWood
02-11-2007, 04:11 PM
Well, the Book Time 5000 is slower than the Sony Reader at flipping pages....

Maybe we should take up a collection for Bob to buy a comic to test for Part 3 of the review.

nekokami
02-11-2007, 05:40 PM
My point about the Book Time was just that you could set it up with the camera and go do something else while the pages are photographed and OCR'd. (Assuming it doesn't jam up.) I have an awful lot going on right now and I'm not sure I'd be able to squeeze in scanning my books a page at a time. Yet I'd *really* like to get my whole library digitized. Before I :shudder: move again.... :shocked:

sea2stars
02-12-2007, 02:56 AM
*grin* Nekokami, here you go!

How to Make a Full Auto Book Scanner (http://www.geocities.jp/takascience/lego/fabs_en.html)

nekokami
02-12-2007, 03:26 PM
*grin* Nekokami, here you go!

How to Make a Full Auto Book Scanner (http://www.geocities.jp/takascience/lego/fabs_en.html)
Whoa! :smart: That is SO COOL! And GEEKY! :D

I have an old slimscan C3 that might work for this....

(neko goes into mad scientist mode, and wanders off, chortling and mumbling in a rather unbalanced way....)

Bob Russell
02-12-2007, 03:52 PM
Here's a "real" solution for the rich...
http://www.i4u.com/article5131.html

nekokami
02-12-2007, 04:10 PM
Well, at $35k, it's a bit too rich for my blood. Maybe I could talk my university into buying one.

My mad scientist plans came to an end when I realized that the LEGO solution will only work for books that can lie flat, which leaves out most of my fiction collection (though it could work well for some textbooks). I just need to find something interesting to do while I operate the scanner, I guess. Listen to language learning CDs, maybe.

NatCh
02-12-2007, 04:49 PM
I just need to find something interesting to do while I operate the scanner, I guess.You can never be bored when you have Lego. :grin:

RWood
02-12-2007, 05:26 PM
*grin* Nekokami, here you go!

How to Make a Full Auto Book Scanner (http://www.geocities.jp/takascience/lego/fabs_en.html) Thanks sea2stars, I had seen that wlsewhere some time ago and was looking in the archive section of another site for the reference. Amazing what you can do with Lego blocks.

sea2stars
02-12-2007, 05:48 PM
Heh. Glad to help. Yeah.. thankfully these Legos were used to promote the forces of good.

Hrmm.. any reason why this couldn't be adapted into something similar to the Atiz BookDrive DIY? For $3,499 you'd think it would turn the pages itself.

RWood
02-12-2007, 05:59 PM
Heh. Glad to help. Yeah.. thankfully these Legos were used to promote the forces of good.

Hrmm.. any reason why this couldn't be adapted into something similar to the Atiz BookDrive DIY? For $3,499 you'd think it would turn the pages itself. The Atiz now goes for $5,595 to $8,995 for the DIY series and the one with automatic page turning is priced on request only.

They do have a product called Snapter (trial version only, final version not yet released) that promises to turn your digital camera into a scanner and flatten out the curved pages in the picture. I just may try it.

Edit: At Atiz the download will not download and the notify section doesn't work.

nekokami
02-12-2007, 08:39 PM
You can never be bored when you have Lego. :grin:
Oh, I'm rarely bored. :D But when I have to use my hands and eyes for something tedious (and hence can't be playing with Legos, browsing the net, reading a book, etc.) I do need to cast about a bit more to avoid boredom.

kenbaldwin
02-20-2007, 04:57 PM
Did I miss Part II?

NatCh
02-20-2007, 05:50 PM
I don't think Bob's done it yet....

Bob Russell
02-20-2007, 07:44 PM
Sorry, that's been on hold for a bit. My apologies for the delay. Life is getting in the way at the moment. ;-) I do still intend to get back to it fairly soon, but in the meantime here's a peek at another alternative...
http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9780

OpticBook is great if you want to keep the book pristine and have flatbed scanning options. With it, you should be able to do just about any book, but it takes some work. Snapscan looks great if you can break (destroy) your books into clean cut free pages.

kenbaldwin
02-21-2007, 09:12 PM
Does anyone know what the difference is between the OpticBook 3600 and the OpticBook 3600 Plus (other than $40 or so)? Thanks

Ken

stxopher
02-22-2007, 09:08 AM
I believe the difference is just the included software. Hard to tell from their site. It's...not very helpful. Opticbook comparison matrix. (http://www.plustek.com/product/book_compare.asp)

Gameboy70
03-25-2007, 01:59 PM
Is Part II still in the works? I was unsure that I wanted to purchase this scanner because of (a) the possibility that Plustek would not have the resources to distribute an updated, signed driver for Vista (which can be quite expensive for smaller hardware manufacturers), and (b) because I have yet to hear anyone's experiences using this product in conjunction with the Sony Reader. Plustek has since released OpticBook drivers for Vista, and Bob is the one reviewer I know of who's in the position of having the OpticBook and the Sony Reader, so I'm anxious for a complete testimonial.

Bob Russell
03-27-2007, 02:07 PM
Gameboy,

Thanks for the nice comment. Yes, part II is coming. I seem to be perpetually just on the verge! Might also make a comment or two about it in relation to the Canon all-in-one (which includes software-based duplex scanning and OCR) I got recently also.

But as far as the Sony Reader, I'd have to say that my solution is to OCR the book and then load it up as an RTF using the "famous" Word macro for formatting. Probably similar results to any other scanning solution.

The OpticBook is fantastic if you want to basically be able to scan any book easily, one page at a time. If you are willing to put in a lot of effort and experimentation, other solutions might get you results a little faster (scan two pages at a time, or pull apart a book and use an auto feed scanner, or flat scan two pages at a time and deal with the spine), but I don't think most people will want to deal with those problems. For most people, it's probably easier to take the extra time with the OpticBook and be able to do any book, and not have to worry about the details.

Just remember that while the OpticBook is great (and I do recommend it as long as people understand its market niche and the tradeoffs), you do have to invest quite a bit of time an energy to scan a large book. Unless you have the extra time, it's probably only something you'll do for books you REALLY want to have in e-book form, or that you need to convert for some reason.

Gameboy70
03-28-2007, 09:24 PM
Thanks for the update. Take your time and do it right. I'm just happy to know that it's in processe.

Maybe my experience will be different when I actually start scanning books for myself, but as far as large books are concerned, I think my policy will be to scan any book whose total scanning time is <20% of the total time I would anticipate necessary to read the book.

Bob Russell
05-28-2007, 11:00 AM
Well, I'm afraid there has been a change of plans. I finally sat down this morning, intending to wrap up the second part of the review this Memorial Day, and have sadly discovered that both my draft and the associated screen shots are missing. As quite a bit of time has passed since I wrote that draft, I don't have a lot left in my memory. With no time to restart it, I'm going to have to just cut my losses and call it quits.

But I did want to make a few closing observations, with some of the things that did stick in my memory.

First of all, the OpticBook scanner is definitely the device I would recommend to the novice to book scanning. With my instructions and the OpticBook, it should be relatively straightforward and painless, and is certainly very reasonably priced. It does take a number of hours to get through a typical book, but as others have said, you can get used to the process enough to watch tv while you do it, and then you will spend much more than a few hours actually reading the book, so for some of us it will be worth the effort for certain books.

To put it in context, there are other alternatives also. For example a dedicated two-sided sheet scanner with automatic feed would be a faster way of scanning a book that you are willing to dismember before scanning. This approach would also be about the same price range. In that case, the work really boils down to breaking apart the book. Then the sheet feeder and software pretty much handles the rest. You can search the MR forums and will find one that is mentioned fairly often with respect to scanning.

Another option is to buy an all-in-one scanner/printer/fax/copier type device. I have the Canon Pixma MP530, which claims an auto sheet feeder and two sided copying/scanning/printing. Unfortunately, it does two-sided activities by using the paper path to rescan or reprint as necessary. So on the negative side, I think that the sheet feeder only holds something like 25 or 30 pages, and it's not real quiet nor small. Also, there seems to be an issue between the Canon scanning software and the OpticBook software conflicting, so it may not be possible to use both for book scanning on the same computer. And the Canon printer, while great as an all-in-one, is definitely not as nice a choice as the OpticBook for flatbed book scanning, nor is it especially easy for sheet scanning of disassembled books. On the positive side, it does get the job done if you are willing to do it the "hard way", it works great in the functions it's intended to do, and I think I got mine for about $150 or so, which was unbeatable as I needed a printer anyway. So I basically got the book scanning for free. But I would still think that a lot of people might want an OpticBook even if they already have an all-in-one printer/scanner.

There are also some more expensive overhead scanners, one or two with automatic page turning. If you are doing commercial scanning, this would probably be a better option, but be prepared to pay $10,000 and up. In the future, I hope to see good overhead scanners appear with prices less than $500. Camera prices and quality seem already good enough to fit into a scanning solution at that price point.

As far as the process, it's pretty straightforward. You start the software and set up the project and parameters as I have described. You put the book flat on the scanner and hit the scan button. Then you see the page on the screen as you rotate (and flip the page if needed) and repeat. If you mess up a scan you can delete the image and rescan.

When you finish the scans, the software will assemble the results into a pdf file, and can also do ocr on it to produce an rtf file. Or maybe a Word file that you can save as rtf from Word - I don't remember the details. The only problem I ran into on my older PC was that if you have an extremely long book (i.e. pages in the high hundreds), you probably need more than the 750meg ram that I was using or it may never finish the conversion.

I can't emphasize enough that this is a great solution if you have no experience scanning and you want a straightforward approach that will work on any typical book without damaging it, and you aren't the type to come up with all kinds of clever workarounds.

Bottom line - If you plan to scan a lot of books, I'd stick with the OpticBook if you want an easy solution and don't want to destroy your books. The "near edge" scanning is a huge benefit, and it's nice to have a dedicated book scanner which won't require books to be broken apart. But I'd consider a fast two-sided sheet feeder scanner (like the Fujitsu ScanSnap) if you consider the book destruction both acceptable and not too much of a pain in the neck.

My apologies once again for this quick wrap up, but I guess a full write-up just wasn't in the cards. If anyone else out there with an OpticBook wants to supplement this info by sharing their thoughts on the scanning process itself, we'd love to hear from you!

budtech
01-20-2008, 01:30 PM
Hi Bob

Thanks for the very detailed reviews, they are helpful. Are the differences in the plustek 3600 scanner and the plustek 3600 plus scanner substantial? When purchasing which one would make a better buy? Also, I've heard that the software that comes with it is very unreliable, is it possible to use other software without a problem and if so, could you recommend some?

Studio717
01-20-2008, 07:05 PM
Hi, budtech,

I'm not Bob, but I do own an Opticbook 3600 (not the plus) and have used it for a few years now. It works very well, especially in conjunction with the included software. Note that the non-plus version does not come with the scan-to-PDF software so I can't speak to that, but the software that is included with the standard 3600 works very well. I've had no problems at all that weren't operator error. :rolleyes:

Since I prefer to do my own compiling, I scan to .tiff, then use Acrobat to put it all together and OCR it. That's just my work-flow and I'm happy with it.

I believe the differences between the models of 3600 are what software is included. The machines themselves all look the same to me, but that's opinion, not hard fact. There may be more indepth information on Plustek's website.

budtech
01-31-2008, 12:07 AM
Thank you Studio 717.

TallMomof2
01-31-2008, 04:46 PM
Compusa.com and TigerDirect.com have the 3600 for $189.99 which is very tempting.

yvanleterrible
06-14-2008, 03:46 PM
I'm kind of late to this thread but I'm contemplating the possibility of scanning one of my childhood favorite series.

When scanning in book mode with the 3600, how much time would it take for a 150 page book?
What is the optimal setup to use the OCR, and how precise is it?

Is the scanner efficient with lightweight paper backs without adding additional weights to the cover?

Studio717
06-17-2008, 08:48 AM
It's not a particularly fast scanner, but most of the 'scan' time is taken up with manually placing the book on the platen / glass. You get into a rhythm and you end up scanning more pages than you thought you would. With the software that comes with it, you can use the buttons on the scanner itself to initiate each page scan, which surprisingly saves quite a bit of time. (No reaching for the mouse to click or the return key to press.)

As long as the spine of your book was in fairly good shape, it shouldn't take too long. On old heavy books, it takes me about an hour to do around fifty pages.

The software is Win-only, but seems to work well, especially once you have the settings right for your particular book (when to rotate pages, folder to scan to, filename prefix, etc.). To be honest, I haven't tried the OCR part of things. I scan to tiff then assemble in Acrobat and do my OCR there, but that's because I'm scanning for research, not to reformat for other devices like the Sony Reader.

Ralph Sir Edward
06-17-2008, 09:57 AM
I'm kind of late to this thread but I'm contemplating the possibility of scanning one of my childhood favorite series.

When scanning in book mode with the 3600, how much time would it take for a 150 page book?
What is the optimal setup to use the OCR, and how precise is it?

Is the scanner efficient with lightweight paper backs without adding additional weights to the cover?


There are two issues here.

First, scanning time. If the book is small enough for a flat double page scan, I find it take around 30 seconds a double page scan. This depends on how fast you lift/turn page, and how certain you are ar getting the next pair of pages (you can accidentally skip page pairs if you aren't careful). At 150 pages, I'd recommend scanning in two blocks and later adding them together.

Second, OCR. Hardback OCR is roughly 99.5 percent accurate. This averages about 1 defect per page. It varies depending on the font and the cleanness of the page. Remember, you still have to go in and remove page numbers and page headings (if any), correct all OCR misreads and any incorrect paragraph breaks before you're done. This take 4-8 hours for 150 pages.

Forget paperback sources. They scan at 85-90 OCR accuracy, which means you might as well type them in. If you must use a paperback source, try blowing them up to 11/17 (double page) at a commercial photocopy shop and scan the photocopies (one page folded per scan). It provides a larger size font and better contrast, increasing the OCR accuracy. So I have found.

nekokami
06-17-2008, 01:28 PM
My OCR software lets me define page areas and exclude page numbering... just another tip.

scanner
08-20-2008, 09:31 PM
first thanks you took the time to review this
second, I don't like the review much
for example, where is the time it takes to scan in greyscale 300dpi?
where is the Finereader statistics about the OCR?
where is the comparison with other flatbeds?

the fact that you are a novice scanner user is bad for the review, an experienced scanner user should make this review (esp, a user that have experienced all the failures of book scanning of other scanners)

last, where is the second part? (hoping my questions will be answered there)

HarryT
08-21-2008, 04:17 AM
If you find the original review so inadequate, the best thing to do would be for you to do a review yourself.

scanner
08-22-2008, 01:39 PM
why you are so negative to criticism?

Studio717
08-25-2008, 04:01 PM
I used my Opticbook yesterday for an afternoon of scanning. It went surprisingly quickly. (~300-page book.)

This was an old book (early 20th c) that had been well-used, so the spine was torn (though not entirely detached) and the binding was quite loose. One reason I choose the Opticbook over my Epson Perfection 3200 was that with the Opticbook I don't have to open the book flat. The Epson software is great because when I can open a book flat, I can set it up to scan each page into a separate file with one scan pass. Very nice.

In this case, however, I didn't want to open it flat for fear of damaging the book further. The Opticbook's design let me scan the entire book without any problems.

As I've mentioned before, I scan to .tiff files then pull them into Acrobat (I currently have ver. 8) and run OCR on the resulting PDF. One of the great benefits of this is that I can do searches to locate the information I'm looking for. A big time-saver over having to look it up in the physical book (even with a good index).

One of the best tech purchases I've made. :2thumbsup

Ralph Sir Edward
08-25-2008, 05:23 PM
first thanks you took the time to review this
second, I don't like the review much
for example, where is the time it takes to scan in greyscale 300dpi?
where is the Finereader statistics about the OCR?
where is the comparison with other flatbeds?

the fact that you are a novice scanner user is bad for the review, an experienced scanner user should make this review (esp, a user that have experienced all the failures of book scanning of other scanners)

last, where is the second part? (hoping my questions will be answered there)


I'll try to answer at your questions as best I can.

OPTISCAN 3600 does one pass and 2 pass scans. The time length does not depend on the d.p.i. setting (at least as far as my testing goes). One pass scans take around 10-11 seconds from button push to completion. The resulting file is usually fed straight into ABBYY Finescan automatically when done. Two pass scans takes around 25-30 seconds per scan, with the output being some form of graphics file. Mine is set for Tiff (because that's what Project Gutenberg US prefers), but the resulting image in dropped into a graphics mod program (I forget the name off the top of my head, it was included with the scanner.), where I can crop and save in various formats (Tiff, GIF, JPEG, BMP, ect.).

I looked once at the Finereader stats but found them meaningless for what I was doing. Finereader can and does make OCR mistakes that it does not realize as mistakes. The only way to accurately correct the OCR is manually inspect the results.

As to comparisons with other scanners, I've used a couple of cheap all-in-one printer scanners (an Epson and a Canon MP460). They did significantly worse on the OCR of text with the provided OCR software. However, they did better on scanning of images. I bought the OPTISCAN 3600 as a dedicated hardware/software OCR solution, not as a testbed item. Such commercial reviews as I read at the time made me feel that it would do the job I wanted at a price I could afford. Your mileage may differ....

Speaking of commercial reviews - this forum is a volunteer posting forum. What hardware people review here are items they bought and paid for, and have taken the time to write about. Nobody gets any freebie equipment to test. None of us get paid for any of our contributions, so what you get is always a mixed bag. Please allow us to be the imperfect selves we are....

pepak
08-28-2008, 11:06 AM
When scanning in book mode with the 3600, how much time would it take for a 150 page book?
Generally, I do 100 pages in 20 minutes.

What is the optimal setup to use the OCR, and how precise is it?
I use 300 DPI grayscale and it works fine enough.

Is the scanner efficient with lightweight paper backs without adding additional weights to the cover?
Yes.

Forget paperback sources. They scan at 85-90 OCR accuracy, which means you might as well type them in.
I can't agree. I use Abbyy Finereader and the accuracy is excellent on all books. I am very demanding about the books I create and I still only get an average of one error (counting errors such as a single quote instead of a double quote or a space where it shouldn't be) every two or three pages.

-----

Regarding the scanner: I am very impressed by this thing. What I like the most is that the manufacturer really thought about how would one go about scanning books, and made the operation as smooth as possible. Basically, I just set the thing up and then it is only a matter of turning the book around and pressing one button. The only thing that could be improved is the reaction to incorrectly scanned page (if I delete it, it won't influence the page count so automatic rotation becomes messed up), but that is easily fixed by re-scanning a page twice.

Ralph Sir Edward
08-28-2008, 12:55 PM
Generally, I do 100 pages in 20 minutes.


I use 300 DPI grayscale and it works fine enough.


Yes.


I can't agree. I use Abbyy Finereader and the accuracy is excellent on all books. I am very demanding about the books I create and I still only get an average of one error (counting errors such as a single quote instead of a double quote or a space where it shouldn't be) every two or three pages.

-----

Regarding the scanner: I am very impressed by this thing. What I like the most is that the manufacturer really thought about how would one go about scanning books, and made the operation as smooth as possible. Basically, I just set the thing up and then it is only a matter of turning the book around and pressing one button. The only thing that could be improved is the reaction to incorrectly scanned page (if I delete it, it won't influence the page count so automatic rotation becomes messed up), but that is easily fixed by re-scanning a page twice.

What version of Finereader software are you using? I was using version 5.0 that came with the 3600 when I bought it. If later versions of software do better on paperbacks, I will definitely upgrade...

pepak
08-28-2008, 04:23 PM
Version 9. It's the latest one, I believe.

scanner
08-29-2008, 01:44 AM
can the top of the 3600 (lid) be removed?
also, I would like to see a scan of a above 500 pages book with soft cover (a page in the middle)

I want to see how deep it can go near the binding and how good it scans text (without shadows, crisp, bright, high contrast image of the text)

please post a sample

thanks

pepak
08-29-2008, 08:31 AM
can the top of the 3600 (lid) be removed?
Yes. Actually, I only scan with the lid removed.

I want to see how deep it can go near the binding and how good it scans text (without shadows, crisp, bright, high contrast image of the text)
It starts scanning at about 5-6 milimeters from the binding. 8 milimeters is enough to make it comfortable.

Studio717
08-29-2008, 09:36 PM
It all depends on how tightly bound the spine is. Loose spines make the book easy to place against the edge while tightly-bound spines can make it nearly impossible, though with the 3600's design, if you can open the book maybe a tad wider than 90 degrees, it should fit.

It also depends on how wide the margin is. You can still grab a page of text if the marge is wide enough even if the spine is tight.

I usually scan with the lid up (but not off) since once I've defined the page size in the software, only the book page gets scanned anyway. The only time I take the cover off is when I have a very large book, which doesn't happen very often.

scanner
09-17-2008, 06:33 PM
I got a plustek 3600 scanner

my first impression is that it is overall a nice scanner:
- fast but not that fast (like some scanners that scan in 2-3 seconds)
- image quality seems minimaly superior to other scanners I used (eg, Canon Lide 25), but there are still character that Abby Reader cannot read them well, but certainly less than with other scanners
- it does what it is supposed to do: it scans well near the binding (although its plastic base goes out and makes the book to be more opened than it should, but it's minimal), no other scanner can do this afaik (apart from some Microtek scanners, eg Scanmaker s450 etc, which I have not tested and Avision scanners)

overall I am satisfied, however:
- I needed the book to be less opened in a smaller angle (this would require a super slim scanner)
- I needed more accurate results (maybe Finereader needs improvement), but shadow elimination and scanning artifacts on the image are obvious (not sure if the glass causes them, the sensor, the dust on the book, the shadow from the typed characters on the opposite page, etc)

it CERTAINLY does NOT justify its original high price (250-300 USD), they simply take advantage that you need a book spine scanner, and they charge this, without any advantage in image quality, speed, etc, but what can you do to scan those books you need and there is no competition for book spine scanners?

as I mentioned, one looking for other alternatives should look for Microtek scanners (affordable but not tested) and Avision scanners (those being expensive but of industrial quality and speed)

Studio717
09-18-2008, 02:59 AM
If you're having trouble with letters showing through thin paper from the back of the page, try putting a piece of black construction paper behind the page you're scanning. That may darken the page from white to gray, but it will mask the black letters from showing through.

I've found it easier to use if I cut the construction paper to just a tad larger than the book page. If I don't do that, it gets awkward trying to keep everything in order.

scanner
09-18-2008, 04:30 AM
nope, it's not about thin paper, it's about book page (the half of the book is at the back of the page I scan)

maybe trying to adjust the light that the scanner sheds in order to scan, and make it lower (lower brightness), it may fix this (but there will be lower contrast)

as for the artifacts (small black dots outside the letters area), maybe changing the glass to a better one would improve this

also a better software that will clear these artifacts is needed
finereader doesn't seem to work well on this part (increasing contrast in photoshop, increases dramaticaly the OCR success, finereader is supposed to increase contrast automaticaly, but it doesn't do it well enough)

scanner
09-18-2008, 08:38 PM
I did some tests and I need confirmation either by your tests or the available technical knowledge

1. TIFF seems superior to BMP (optimum filetype?)
2. 300dpi seems superior to 450dpi (which is the optimum dpi, really? sure it depends on the letter size, but it's over all not that different in most books)
3. brightness set at 5 and contrast set at 5 increased dramaticaly OCR success, from 35/3,500 to 15/3,500, but setting them to 10 each, decreases the success (which are the optimum? and I really don't need to scan photos, I only need best OCR success)
4. optimum gamma correction anyone?

also, scanning in a dark room or a light room would be better?
last, how do I prevent previewing before I open settings?

thanks

=X=
09-19-2008, 01:57 PM
1. TIFF seems superior to BMP (optimum filetype?)

Same, both TIFF and BMP use a loss less compression. TIFF can use RLE/LZH and BMP only uses RLE. The graphics industry seems to preferr TIFF.


2. 300dpi seems superior to 450dpi

This question depends on your scanner. Most scanners are 300/600 DPI and they interpolate the other DPI.


4. optimum gamma correction anyone?

This is a value that can change on a per scan basis. Typically 1.5 or 1.6 is the standard for printed media. But your gamma can change if the image you are scanning differs in brightness.

=X=

scanner
09-25-2008, 10:21 PM
FYI, if you plan to buy this device so that you won't damage the spines of your books, think twice:

having to lift the book in order to turn page will damage the book, it can even tear a book if it is really old (consider you will be lifting it for hundreds of times in order to scan it)

the only solution is scanners that scan the book in the exact position as you read it, at your desk

just letting you know....

DDHarriman
09-26-2008, 04:26 PM
Correct.

This is a cheap, outstanding... but no "old book" solution.

For that you need a planetarium scanner, and that would cost you thousands ou euros.

scanner
09-27-2008, 03:11 AM
it can make a book look old after scanning it, lol :D
seriously, you can tear apart any book with not very good binding, as you lift it for numerous times in order to scan each page

yekim54
09-27-2008, 01:49 PM
Has anyone come across a review of the Microtek ScanMaker s450 that discusses its scanning speed? I was wondering how fast it can scan a book page compared to the OpticBook 3600.

scanner
09-28-2008, 03:29 AM
I asked them by email and they answered a little more than 20 seconds for an A4 300dpi greyscale, disappointing...

but I don't trust that they understood my question well lol

scanner
09-28-2008, 05:36 AM
also I asked them for a sample but they don't respond

dcalder
10-05-2008, 01:58 AM
nope, it's not about thin paper, it's about book page (the half of the book is at the back of the page I scan)



This is bleed-through from the pages behind the one that you're scanning, and/or from the reverse side of the page itself.

The Opticbook 3600 comes with a thin sheet of black plastic (stored behind the white background on the lid). In order to improve the scan quality on pages with a lot of bleed-through, you need to insert that sheet of black plastic between the page-to-be-scanned and the pages following it. Because it's solid black, it will counteract most if not all of the bleed-through. That will produce a cleaner, crisper scan with letters that are more easily recognized by the OCR software, plus it will reduce or eliminate the presence of the "black dot" artifacts that you mentioned.

When scanning manga printed on either finer or cheaper paper, for example, using the black sheet for backing is often essential to getting an acceptable scan. The same holds true for scanning text content from, for example, fanzines, which are often printed on thinner, cheaper paper, and, in the case of older publications, may have even been originally produced by a dot matrix printer and then photocopied. Using the black plastic sheet slows down the scanning process considerably, as it means adding an extra step to move the sheet between scans, but it's time well spent.

RogOhio
01-12-2009, 08:05 PM
I have one of these. Thought it was pretty good after doing about 50 -60 pages as a set-up test.:)
The project got sidelined till a few weeks ago. Tried to start again but the bulb would not light completely.:angry:
So far plustek has not seen fit to respond.
Google this unit and you will find that others have also had problems with ultra short bulb life.:eek:

If I ever get plustek to stand behind their product I will post here.

DDHarriman
01-13-2009, 11:21 AM
Thanks. Keep us posted.
Good luck with Plustek.

PieOPah
01-28-2009, 05:51 PM
Problem posted sorted...

ctkierst
01-22-2011, 11:05 AM
Does anybody know of a comparable product that works with a Mac? I don't really want to buy a Windows machine just for scanning, and I'm dubious about using the virtual machine software.

DDHarriman
01-23-2011, 04:00 PM
Hello

I do not have a Mac myself (and never used one), but Plustek have a “beta” driver for the Opticbook 3600… one can (per example) get it here: http://plustek.com/oeu/products/opticbook-series/opticbook-3600/downloads.html

Best regards,

ctkierst
01-28-2011, 10:17 AM
Thanks, I'll have to check that out!