Plustek scanners have long been favored by genealogists and others who frequently scan books. Many Plustek scanners have a specially designed edge and lamp that allows "zero edge" scanning (or book edge scanning design). This means the scanning module can scan right up to the edge of the scanner where the book spine is placed. The book can therefore be scanned with the pages completely flat on the glass to avoid the book spine shadow and distorted lines of text that occur when books are scanned on a traditional flatbed scanner.
Now Plustek has created something new: a scanner that reads to you. Just plunk a novel on the platen, punch a button, and away you go: you're relaxing to the dulcet sounds of Jill, a computerized voice, as she reads aloud to you. You still have to turn the pages, but you'll never have to strain your eyes again.
The scanner also produces MP3s or WAV files that you can save and listen to at a later time. Oh yes, it also saves images and even performs OCR (optical character recognition) of the text being scanned.
Using the BookReader is simple: Put a book on it, press a button, and off you go. The buttons and power switch are marked in Braille. You will really only use the scan button most of the time.
The obvious use is for vision-impaired users although it will also work well as a normal scanner. I would think that genealogists with vision problems would love this device as it makes books available to everyone, regardless of vision.
The big drawback is that the Plustek BookReader costs $600.
You can learn more at http://www.plustek.com/bookreader.
You can also watch a video of the Plustek BookReader in operation at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXvaHyg9XBM&feature=player_embedded. However, the video is in Japanese. I simply turned the sound down and watched the video without audio and most everything was obvious. The video shows the "zero edge" scanning in operation.