November 13 update: Here.
Hundreds of my books from decades ago are stashed away in a storage locker elsewhere in my apartment complex. They might as well not exist for me. My wife and I just lack space. But what if I could scan a 300-page book in only five minutes for reading on cell phones and tablets? So I’ve just plunked down $199, plus $35 shipping, for a “smart scanner” said to allow the above. Imagine—a DIY digital library from my own paper books.
The $199 is the current price of Czur scanner on Indiegogo, a big savings from the future one of $399 and taxes and shipping. Yes, the Czur is a gamble. But if I’m wrong, I’ll err in plenty of company. Check out the Tech Crunch write-up, for example, and watch the Czur video. Shipping is to start in January.
The Czur’s creators at CzurTek describe their baby as “the world’s first true smart scanner… Czur can scan books easily and connect to WiFi. Czur is faster than any scanner in the world, and also is a video projector.” A 32-bit MIPS CPU and fast software for scanning and correction allow you to do the job at a clip of a page a second or so, aided by a foot pedal included with the scanner. Yes, there’s supposed to be first-rate OCR. The Czur also stands out because of the WiFi capabilities you can use to create a book cloud for tablet, e-reader or cell phone, as well as for the visual presentation capabilities, complete with an HDMI port for direct connection to a projector.
Imagine the benefits not only for booklovers but also for special needs people such as those with dyslexia, who could feed the text into iPads and use such software as Voice Dream Reader. Even at the $400 expected retail price, a truly smart scanner could be a natural for schools and libraries and volunteers for groups such as Project Gutenberg and Distributed Proofreaders. I assume that PG, DP, the Digital Public Library of America and the Internet Archive know about the Czur, but just in case not, I’ll email all four organizations about it. Perhaps they and others could team up on mass purchases and arrange for discounts for volunteers. Needless to say, since the Czur will work with many kinds of documents, not just books, it could be of use in other areas ranging from medicine to law enforcement.
From $400, the price might eventually drop to a fraction of that, and large book publishers should take note. In an era when paper books will cost next to nothing to scan, just how much more piracy-proof will they be compared to e-books—with or without DRM. Will we see a technology war between content providers and scanner makers? Will the Big Five try to release books in scan-proof ink? And what do five-minute book scans on an affordable machine mean legally and legislatively?
Related: The DPLA’s guidance for librarians and others digitizing historical documents and the rest is here.
Update, Nov. 7: Welcome, Slashdotters! And in response to the skeptics, yes, we need to see the scanner in operation. But do watch the video, and you’ll see why this could be very special if the claims true. Scanning speed is apparently several times faster than a somewhat similar $600 model from Fujitsu. And if you’re working through a lot of books, that could make a big difference.