Click on the image to the left to see a larger picture. There is also a video at the end of this article that shows the Qidenus Robotic Book Scanner in operation.
The Qidenus Robotic Book Scanner is an automated book scanner with a built-in computer. It is free-standing; you do not need to connect it to any other computer device. Simply place a book to be scanned inside the device, press a few buttons, and then walk away. When you return a few minutes later, the book will have been scanned and stored in black-and-white or in color in any number of different file formats (JPG, TIFF, PNG, GIF, BMP, RAW, PDF). It will also perform OCR (optical character recognition) with the resulting output available as searchable TXT, RTF, or DOC files. The same scanner works well on both books and magazines. The scanner will scan a maximum of 2,500 pages per hour in fully automatic mode although you might plan on an average of 1,500 pages per hour for a mix of different sizes of books and magazines.
Qidenus produces two versions of the Robotic Book Scanner: the tabletop RBS Pro TT and a free-standing RBS Pro. The two models are very similar to each other although the floor-mounted model is faster than the table-top version (maximum speeds of 2,500 pages/hour versus 2,000 pages/hour).
Qidenus claims that one person can operate up to four of these devices simultaneously. With an average scanning rate of 1,500 pages per hour for each scanner, that works out to 6,000 pages per hour per operator. Compare that to manual scanners where one person can only operate one scanner effectively, scanning perhaps a maximum 400 pages per hour. Inexpensive flatbed scanners, such as those purchased at local computer stores, would be even slower. While the Qidenus Robotic Book Scanner is expensive, if a paid employee does the scanning, the labor savings alone should pay for the more expensive scanner.
I had a chance to view a Qidenus Robotic Book Scanner in operation at the American Library Association conference held a few weeks ago in Boston. I must admit this is an impressive device. It appears to be very ruggedly built. I would call it "industrial grade." Unlike the inexpensive flatbed scanners typically sold at computer stores, this device looks like it should last through the scanning of millions of pages. The Qidenus Robotic Book Scanner is manufactured in Austria.
I was especially intrigued by how gentle the page turning hardware is on the book being scanned. Fragile books are treated gently in this device. The pages are turned by a gentle vacuum in the tip of what the company calls a "bionic finger." This finger touches the page, applies a bit of vacuum through a hole in the tip of the finger, and then gently pulls the page over to expose the next two pages.
The robotic scanner contains a "cradle" that holds the book open at a 70 to 90 degree angle. Pages are held open by a large glass prism lying across the whole page area, which cures the problems with pages "curling." The book pages may be as small as 3.15 by 6 inches (8 by 15 cm), ranging up to a maximum of 13.8 by 17.7 inches (35 by 45 cm). Most books are within that size, but some of the larger "oversize books" will not fit into this scanner. The robotic arm flips the pages after images are made of each odd and even numbered page.
The images are made by two digital cameras, mounted with one permanently aimed at the left page and the other aimed at the right page. The use of digital cameras allows for high speeds when compared to traditional flatbed scanners that typically require two to perhaps ten seconds to scan a single page. Cameras can create equivalent images in a fraction of a second.
Unfortunately, the Qidenus Robotic Book Scanner isn't cheap. The exact price will vary, depending upon the options selected and the maintenance contract of choice. However, plan on spending a "ballpark" figure of $175,000 (125,000 Euros) per scanner. I am afraid that only corporations and larger libraries can afford the Qidenus Robotic Book Scanner. Over a period of time, the purchase expense probably can be justified by the fact that one operator can scan thousands of pages per hour, versus perhaps 400 pages per hour when using inexpensive flatbed scanners.
The Qidenus Robotic Book Scanner looks a lot like the Kirtas Robotic Book Scanner that I wrote about some months ago at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2009/07/kirtas-offers-digitized-books.html. Both units also have similar pricing. You can also see some pictures that I took of the Kirtas unit in that article.
For more information about the Qidenus Robotic Book Scanner, look at the manufacturer's web site at: http://www.roboticbookscan.com. You might want to watch the video shown below.