Scanning of books, documents etc. by using a digital camera

Swapan Mukherjee, EFIAP, FFIP

Now –a-days, preservation of books and documents in digitised form stored in CD, DVD or other storage media has become popular and essential for many reasons digitisation, in fact, has made microfilming, the universally practised method of duplicating records, obsolete.

Before we go into the details of all these aspects, we shall very briefly describe what digitisation means scanning or digitisation may be defined as optoelectronic capturing of images of documents which may be books, archival records, newspapers or even put-his. The scanned images thus captured are there after edited by using various editing softwares to improve their legibility, presentation etc.

Some advantages of digital archiving over microfilming:

Preserving documents as digital images allows one to prepare any number of copies for keeping at different places without any loss of quality, but preservation of multiple copies of microfilm rolls results in deterioration of quality every time it is copied from the preservation roll. Unlike the process of developing microfilm rolls, there is no wet session in scanning procedure. Digital information can be forwarded to customers or research workers very fast and efficiently. Transfer of digitised images may be effected within seconds to any part of the world.

Equipment for scanning:

There are many scanners capable of good quality scanning of documents of various sizes available in the market, but they are pretty expensive. Some of these scanners are flat bed type and some use the face-up technology of scanning. For scanning books or old documents, face-up type scanners are ideal. Here we may discuss how easily and inexpensively we can digitised our important records, documents or the old books of the libraries of our neighbourhood by using indigenous methods and self-fabricated equipments.

For this, we shall need a conventional copy board or the baseboard and the column of a rejected black and white enlarger machine. The lamp house of the enlarger is to be detached and arrangement is to be made so that a good digital camera may be mounted to it to look downward on the base board. Four lamps (150 watts each and two from each side) are to be fitted in a manner such that they throw light at an angle of 45 degree from both sides of the base board. This ensures that no light directly reflected by the documents reaches the lens of the camera to make the image dull and illegible. When a book or a set of documents is completely recorded in the camera card by using the options available in the camera for producing the best quality, the images are to be transferred to a computer hard disk. Digital editing for improvement of the images are performed in batch and thereafter stored in a suitable storage medium. Any number of copies of these images can easily be made and preserved at different places for use of their bonafide users.

However, in this article, we have discussed only about scanning and digitisation of opaque records. Scanning of other types of materials like X-ray plates, glass negatives, drawings on translucent papers and polyester films, microfilms etc. needs different type of equipment which may be discussed later in future on the next opportunity.