SYN/HAK: Book Scanning by Jeff Nielson

Jeff Nielson's Book Scanner
Jeff Nielson’s Book Scanner






My experience of this amazing night of my life:

I left work, and after stopping at Highland Square for dinner at Chipotle, I stopped by at Tiny Circuits to meet with owner Ken Burns and learned about the extension of their office space, and discussed how I can help the company locally.


Ken was kind enough to introduce me to Jeff Taylor (Member of DIYDrones and Owner of Event38 that recently entered Startup Chile).

Jeff was busy working on a camera assisted styrofoam airplane that I was mighty impressed to see in person! Sadly I didn’t snap a picture 😦



After visiting Tiny Circuits, I arrived (a bit late, sadly) at Jeff Nielson’s talk at SYN/HAK about book scanning.

It was really amazing to see the handcrafted Book Scanner that Jeff built by himself, after taking some inspiration from

Book scanning, I learned during the talk, is the process of converting a physical book that has no digital counterpart, into digital media like images or pdf or word files using a wooden frame and a camera to take pictures.

Jeff went through the entire process of building the book scanner, then introduced the attendees to some of the software involved for using the artifacts from a book scanner.. namely images.

Jeff shared a grid (which I will be uploading here later ; attached) that makes it easy for one to understand which software to choose from.

Jeff Nielsen - Popular OCR Software Tools
Jeff Nielsen – Popular OCR Software Tools

He later demonstrated a live book scanning session which included scanning the book Good Night Arizona into images using the cameras, that were operated by a switch. The switch would enable two cameras to take a photo of each respective page at the same time. Also, after the images were stored on the memory stick, Jeff was able to take the photos to his computer and was able to demonstrate some of the softwares like Bulk Rename, ABBYY etc.

By this time Jeff had earned rock star status in my mind.. I got motivated enough to take a photo with him, so I could remember what a great time it was to see so many different ideas combine to enable one to scan things that don’t exist in the digital domain.

Jeff and G
Jeff and G


I used to dream about scanning books in India when I used to visit my Mom’s hometown of Rampur.

See, they have a world class library called the Raza library that has great manuscripts from 1700-1900. I used to think during my visits that I’d like to work at that library, translating all the literary works from that time to English.

After hearing Jeff’s passionate talk on the matter.. I might just have to build a book scanner and act on it sooner than later!

Here’s me publicly thanking everyone for a great night!

ps: Another title for this post could be “A tale of two Jeff’s” 😛