Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 – Paperless Workflow (Part 4) – Digitizing old magazines
Living in the digital age, I have always wandered about photography in the early days. Although I probably won’t dive into film photography anytime soon, I have always been fascinated by film and manual SLR cameras. One day I chanced upon a complete and well preserved collection (96 volumes) of “You and Your Camera” magazine selling for A$10 from a flea market. Though some of the pages are beginning to turn brown due to the erosion of time, I still see it as a great buy for 10 bucks. I have enjoyed reading the magazine in its original paper form but it has dawned upon me that it is time to digitize this timeless collection, before the paper deteriorate any further.
Here are the magazines before scanning. The pages are already dissected and trimmed. The entire scanning and post processing process took a bit of time but I think it is time well spent because now I have the entire 96 volumes of out of print magazines fully digitized for long term storage. Talk about nostalgia 🙂
The following details how I did it. Probably not the best way to do it but it works well for me.
Step 1 – Dissect the pages.
Yes. This is a destructive process. But without cutting up the book, there is no way we can feed the pages through the ScanSnap scanner. You might be able to scan the pages using a flat bed scanner but can you imagine doing so page by page and for 96 volumes? This is not an idea of fun in my book. Of course, you can build a book scanning rig like what you see here but I don’t want to invest the kind of time/energy/money into something like this. Of course, cutting up a book only makes sense if this is not a book that you want to preserve as a whole.
To dissect a book properly, you will need a proper cutting tool. There are generally 2 types of paper cutters that I know. A guillotine type and a rotary type.
The guillotine type cost a lot more than a rotary type, obviously. But the guillotine type allows you to cut and remove the spine of a thicker book much easier which is not possible with a simple rotary cutter. A rotary trimmer is more for trimming pieces of paper. If you shop around, you can really go crazy on the features. Some of these cutters have motorized blades, digital laser measurement (for precise cutting), etc. Personally I don’t think it is necessarily to invest too much on a paper cutter but it is important that you don’t get any cheapo ones on ebay because you will end up throwing these away after a few cuts. I have gone for a rotary trimmer manufactured by Fiskar.
This is how my trimmer looks like. Nothing fancy. Cheap and cheerful.
For those of you who don’t already know, Officeworks has a book trimming service ($5 per book). Not necessarily the cheapest price to trim a book but if you have a 1000 pages book to get its spine trimmed, this is a very handy service to have. I have brought quite a few books for them to trim off their spines. The cut is very neat but sometimes the staff may not align the book properly and the cut is therefore not the best so make sure you tell the staff what you want before handing the book to them. I would suggest that you use a pencil to draw a line on the book cover so that this gives them a cutting line reference to play with.
The reason I bought the rotary trimmer is because I tend to have odd pieces of paper that I want to trim and scan….such as newspaper articles, some odd pamphlets, etc. And considering that my usage is pretty light duty, a rotary trimmer works well for me.
How ever way you do it, the bottom line is that you should now end up with all the loose pages so that you can feed them through the scanner.
The other important thing to watch out for is that sometimes the pages do tend to have book glue sticked to them. It is very important to remove these from all the pages that you intend to feed through the ScanSnap scanner to protect its roller mechanism.
Step 2 – Clean the scanner
The ScanSnap is a reliable workhorse, but it is important to clean its rollers and associated scanning mechanism periodically. Otherwise, you may end up with a green line that looks like this. Check your scanner documentation for the cleaning procedure.
Step 3 – Scanning the pages
This is the scansnap settings that I used for the scans. You should experiment to get the best settings best suitable for you.
Step 4 – Post Processing and Optimizing
Okay. This is the part that puzzles me.
The previous versions of Acrobat Professional that I know of always has a PDF optimize feature. For the life of me, I could not find this anywhere in the Acrobat X standard that comes with the ScanSnap.
This is how my Acrobat X looks like when I click the “Save As” menu. Note that there is no “PDF optimize” menu anywhere.
The only thing I can do is to click on “Reduce Size PDF” which make the following dialog box pops up.
And no matter what other menu setting I look at, there is just no way for me to “optimize” the PDF……fortunately I discovered a way.
Go to “View” -> “Show/Hide” -> “Toolbar Items” -> “Quick Tools” as follows (or you can just click the icons on the toolbar that looks like a “gear” if you are lazy).
This dialog box will pop up. Now follow the instructions below and that will put the “Optimize Scanned PDF” icon on the toolbar.
Now this should bring you back to the original PDF file. Click on the “Optimize Scanned PDF” icon. This dialog box will pop up.
The next thing to do is to experiment with the settings. These are the settings I used.
Click the “Edit” button and these are the settings I used.
The original PDF file that I am working with has a file size of 32MB. Running the PDF optimizer will reduce the file size to 12MB. So I am pretty happy with the smaller file size. But how does the optimizing actually do to the text and images? Here is a run down summary.
Quality of Optimization
The original magazine is already turning brown. The original scanned PDF shows this. Not a very pretty sight but fortunately Adobe Acrobat allow us to remove the background somewhat.
Here is how the original page looks like:
This is how the page looks like after image processing. I am sure you will notice some improvement.
Here are larger crops from the other pages. The screenshots on the left are the original scans from ScanSnap. The ones on the right are after optimization by Acrobat.
I think Acrobat has done a good job here. The scanned magazine looks a lot better than its original rundown state. The process is not infallible, however. Here is how one of the image actually looks worse after optimization. So it is important to realize that this process is not foolproof. If the scanned document contains important images/text that you want to preserve, it is a good idea to pay extra attention to review the document again after Acrobat has done its work.
I am happy with the overall quality of the scanned magazine. There are obviously a lot more to what you can optimize here (if you need a higher quality scan) but getting a better quality would mean spending more time to optimize the image. So it is important to get the right balance here.
I hope this post is helpful in any way. Happy scanning 🙂