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Old 01-23-2010, 12:18 AM   #1
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You can make ebooks with the darndest things

I didn't think of this until I was at CES, but it turns out that a lot of us have an ebook maker in the office. It's not your computer; I don't know about you but I can't install any software on mine. No, the ebook maker in your office is:

the copy machine.

Bear with me. Do you have a high end copier/printer/scanner/etc? If it was made in the last few years there is a good chance that it can copy and print to a PDF file instead of paper. Admittedly, it's not very useful for anyone with a small screen ebook reader, but there is still some value in it because you can use the PDF with your computer.

I spent a few minutes looking, and it turns out I was wrong about how much the equipment costs. Brother has a couple dozen multi-function devices and all can export a PDF, even the one that retails for $80. Canon's website has hints that some of the cheaper multi-function units can export PDFs, but Canon is doing a very good job of keeping it a secret.

Given how easy it was to find units capable of exporting PDFs, I'd be surprised if any manufacturer released a devie this year that didn't export PDFs.
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Old 01-23-2010, 06:26 AM   #2
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Buy Microsoft Office 2007 or get any version of Open Office for free. Both convert to PDF. And you usually use one or the other while in office anyway.

While using your copier for ironing your shirts is another issue ...
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Old 01-23-2010, 09:04 AM   #3
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I believe Nate's point is that you can use a cheap copier to make an ebook form a book.

I can't do that with OO or Word - my books are too big to fit in the little card slots.
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Old 01-23-2010, 09:19 AM   #4
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It's software, Nate. It's taking a scan and passing it directly to a PDF printer built into the software on your PC, sometimes via bundled OCR software. So yea, I'd be surprised as well if new printers are coming without it, because it is just software - and once you've built the software, the cost of bunding it with all your printers is marginal.

I bought a (£60 RRP, although I got it a lot cheaper) HP multifunction printer recently, and it's software can OCR-process a document and produce a "readable PDF" with OCR'ed text, or just process the text and produce rtf, txt or html.

It's not perfect by a long shot, but it is good at getting the text off letters and other printed text.
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Old 01-23-2010, 11:43 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DawnFalcon View Post
It's software, Nate. It's taking a scan and passing it directly to a PDF printer built into the software on your PC, sometimes via bundled OCR software. So yea, I'd be surprised as well if new printers are coming without it, because it is just software - and once you've built the software, the cost of bunding it with all your printers is marginal.

I bought a (£60 RRP, although I got it a lot cheaper) HP multifunction printer recently, and it's software can OCR-process a document and produce a "readable PDF" with OCR'ed text, or just process the text and produce rtf, txt or html.

It's not perfect by a long shot, but it is good at getting the text off letters and other printed text.
Ah, but the difference is that the software is in the copier itself not in your computer. Take a look at ecopy (http://www.ecopy.com), recently purchased by Nuance. You can use your copier to make eBooks in PDF that are searchable. No need for a computer. Some, like the canon, even have a USB master port on the copier and you can download directly from the copier to your eBook. This makes the office one step closer to paperless. And yes, some pretty cheap devices support this already.

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Old 01-23-2010, 04:47 PM   #6
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My copier at work can also scan double-sided pages with the ADF. My scanner at home can't. I wonder how reliable it is with small pages. It would entail dismantling the book but I don't mind doing that.
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Old 01-24-2010, 02:30 AM   #7
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The library at my university has a book scanner that can do this. Very handy when I just need one article from a bound anthology.
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Old 01-24-2010, 02:39 AM   #8
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probably Abby Finereader full version

I wish I had the $$$ to shell for good OCRware, but in my informal tests of OCR:

Microsoft One Note OCR > OCR PDF from an industrial multipurpose office copier > cheap OCR Abby Finereader lite that came with a desktop Epson Scanner
I also looked into tesseract and some of the other open source stuff.

I like the idea of a DIY Bookscanner as a digital camera is always handy and available.

But in the end, convenience (laziness) wins out and we still just buy books.

This scanning business is good for rare works like time limited reserves or archival library journals. It reminds me of old school days (pre-WWW) when I met a 'professional scanner' who came with sunglasses and could work the university copiers like an orchestrated ballet. His ninja timing was so perfect he knew the flashing scan registers for all the different models.

Humans, still good fer sumpthin
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Old 01-24-2010, 10:53 PM   #9
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My Canon Pixia (about $29 at Wal-mart) supports multipage PDF format. Not sure if there's a limit to the number of pages supported. Although I haven't created eBooks this way, I have used it a lot for things like multipage legal documents. Scanning is a LOT faster than it was a couple of generations ago and the output is pretty much readable.

I'm not sure how worthwhile it would be to create eBooks from paper books this way, but it does point out how ubiquitous the eBook is becoming...in all of its multiple formats.

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Old 01-24-2010, 11:44 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by huari View Post
Microsoft One Note OCR > OCR PDF from an industrial multipurpose office copier > cheap OCR Abby Finereader lite that came with a desktop Epson Scanner
I also looked into tesseract and some of the other open source stuff.
I had always, in the past, when I tried dabbling with OCRing something used some version or other of Omnipage Pro (dating back deep into the single digit versions) and never considered it "good enough for prime time." Then recently I had a mediocre scanned PDF of a somewhat expensive OOP book that I wanted to OCR so that I could read it on my Reader. The Abbyy lite version that came with my most recent scanner was crippled so as to not do PDFs. So I tried Omnipage Pro 17, which did a lousy job. Then I tried Abbyy 9 full version, and dayn-- almost perfect job before any tweaking from me. I had always thought that Omnipage was the top OCR software, but Abby blows it out of the water. So good that now I'm itching to get a good book scanner and digitize some of my hard or expensive to replace books.

This looks like the closest I'll get to an inexpensive book scanner:

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applicati...7BBTkwCjCECjCE

http://www.plustek.com/product/book_compare.asp
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Old 01-25-2010, 12:06 AM   #11
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My new Lexmark multipurpose printer came with ABBYY. $80 from Walmart last week. No idea if ABBYY works, not in the mood to learn a new skill. PDF is the default, which is what I need for business, excellent results.
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Old 01-25-2010, 09:36 AM   #12
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Done it many times, it works, but not perfect

Well, I have over 15 years practice using scanners and OCR software. Things have improved a bit over the years, but not so much as to offer 100% reliable results.

First of all, a lot depends on the input. I have just scanned two books published roughly at the same time, in the early 1990-ties, both paperbacks. I am currently using a very efficient HP scanner, with ADF and very good brightness/contrast control. One of the books scanned nearly perfectly, which means fewer than 1 typo per page, the other was a disaster, sometimes as much as 20 typos per page. The reason was that probably the publisher (OUP!) had made a wrong choice about the font/paper/ink, which resulted in rather "thick" print - in many places there's absolutely no white space between characters.

Secondly, what you get when you export to PDF is not necessarily what you think you get. HP exports to PDF through some crippled Iris OCR software, but the results you get seem perfect. Only on a deeper look inside you realize that it is done by hiding the text behind the image of each page, so you actually see an image which is a dot-to-dot copy of the original page, but when you search the PDF, the text behind the image gets searched.

Full versions of OCR software work much better, but - as I said - the results vary a lot. I am using both ABBYY Finereader and Omnipage and sometimes one, sometimes the other works a bit better (depending on the input), but generally they're both great products.

Automated PDF generation has one disadvantage: if there's any problem (like, for example some pages are misfed through ADF), you have little chance of correcting it and you get faulty output. And editing PDFs is certainly not a task for weak-hearted
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Old 01-25-2010, 12:00 PM   #13
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By "crippled so as to not do PDFs", I meant that the "light" version of Abbyy can't open and scan PDFs, not that it can't create them.

Obviously, I can't post the whole book I OCRed, but here's a sample from the original scan I found, the Omnipage Pro 17 OCR, and the Abbyy OCR:
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Future Evolution scan sample.pdf (658.8 KB, 163 views)
File Type: pdf Future Evolution omnipage sample.pdf (432.7 KB, 133 views)
File Type: pdf Future Evolution ABBYY sample.pdf (40.9 KB, 166 views)

Last edited by ardeegee; 01-25-2010 at 12:03 PM.
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