Digitization of Books: The Ultimate Guide for Scanning Books


Book digitization is the conversion of physical books into digital formats, and can be incredibly convenient for a variety of different reasons. In this article, I will provide you with a detailed overview of the digitization of books.

Why and how do people digitize books? 

There are many reasons why one might want to digitize books. 

What Is There To Consider Before Buying A Book Scanner?
  • Perhaps you’ve got an old book that is too fragile to read and you don’t want to worry about it falling apart?
  • or maybe you don’t want to lug around a heavy book all day in your bag?
  • It could also be that you want to be able to conduct an efficient search in your book like you would on a webpage (Ctrl+F).
  • Or maybe you wrote a book a few years back, you only have a physical copy of it and you decided you want to sell it on kindle? 

Whatever may be the reason to digitize a book there are a few things to consider before you get started like legal copyrights of the book and the type of scanner you need. 

The digitization of books is mostly done through book scanners, which can either be automatic or manual depending on your budget but there are also a few other methods for scanning books.

What is a book scanner? 

A book scanner is a machine that allows you to scan a physical book and create a digital copy of it, such as an electronic book or PDF.

There are a few brands manufacturing book scanners and you can read about the most known ones in our article: Book scanners brands

What are the different types of book scanners? 

The most popular types of book scanners that you need to know about are:

Flat Bed Book Scanners 

Flat bed book scanners typically use a glass plate that you lay your book or document flat against. These scanners are usually used for large format books, such as textbooks and magazines. 

Generally speaking, flat bed book scanners don’t require you to remove the binding of your book, though they tend to be slower to use.

What Is OCR Scanning?

A-shaped book scanners

‘A’ shaped book scanner is basically one where the shape of the scanner is like a rectangle pointing up and you place the book on top of it.

Handheld book scanner

A handheld scanner, as the name suggests, is a scanner you hold in position while it scans each page of the book or document.

Overhead Book Scanner

An overhead book scanner has an overhanging scanning camera and a flat surface to place the book on.

How book scanners work

How a book scanner operates depends on the type of book scanner that you choose and you can read more about it in our article: How book scanners work?

What Is The Easiest Way To Scan An Entire Book Into PDF?

Here’s a simple breakdown of how the process of manual book scanning works:

  • Step One – The book is placed in front of the scanner’s camera.
  • Step Two – Light is shone onto the pages through a lens, which reflects off the text printed on the page.
  • Step Three – Once you have pressed the scan button, the scanning software will take the scan and adjust the images accordingly by cropping and editing them. 
  • Step Four – The data is transmitted to a computer where the scanning software processes the information to produce a high-quality digital copy. After the scanner has cropped the images they are separated, and you can go ahead and turn to the next page. 

What is there to consider before buying a book scanner?

There are a few things you better consider before getting a book scanner and we gathered them all in this article: What to consider before getting A book scanner?

Are There Book Scanning Services?


Does your scanner need to perform more than just scanning? If you require your scanner to perform other functions, such as printing, copying, faxing, as well as scanning, then functionality is an important factor to consider.


Another factor you will need to bear in mind is the camera resolution of your book scanner. A scanner scans at a certain number of dots per inch, also referred to as dpi. 

When it comes to scanning regular documents, you likely won’t need higher than 600dpi. However, when it comes to scanning photos, you may need higher resolution if you don’t want the quality to look somewhat grainy.


Some scanners are faster than others. And if you scan a lot of books each second counts. So knowing the speed of your book scanner before you make a purchase is important. 

Network Connectivity 

Another important factor you will need to consider when choosing a scanner is network connectivity.

Are you going to be using just one computer to connect to your scanner, or will you require the networking capability for multiple computers? 

We talk about all these features and more in our article about the specifications of book scanners.

Are there book scanning services?

The answer to this question is yes! While many people use scanners to digitize their own personal library, some companies offer dedicated book scanning and digitization services.

How to use a phone app to scan a book?

These services are designed to make the whole process of digitizing books much simpler than manually scanning each page yourself at home.

What is OCR scanning?

OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition and refers to a technology that is able to recognize text within a digital image.

In short, OCR scanning is a software feature that can be used to convert a physical document or image into an accessible electronic copy with text.

What type of book scanners are best for libraries?

We believe that overhead book scanners are the most suitable type of book scanners for libraries primarily down to their high productivity and ease of use. 

What Type Of Book Scanner Is Best For Libraries?

Overhead book scanners will get you a quality image, fast, and all you have to do is turn the page and hit ‘Scan’ 

What is the easiest way to scan an entire book into PDF?

The easiest way to scan an entire book into PDF is probably to hire a book scanning service.

Depending on the size of the book, which scanning service you choose, and how many pages the book is, you’ll be looking at around $20 to $50 to scan one book.

If you want to keep the book that you are digitizing, then I highly recommend choosing a service that offers non-destructive scanning. 

If you opt for destructive scanning, the book will be destroyed as they remove the pages to produce high quality PDF files.

What are destructive and non-destructive scanning methods?

With destructive methods the process involves removing the binding of the book and separating the pages of a book and scanning them through a scanner to develop high quality digital copies.

However, the destructive part comes from the fact that the book is destroyed in the process. While this might be a good option for old books that are already falling apart, it’s less of a smart move when the book has sentimental value to you or you want to keep it regardless of having a digital copy.

Non-destructive scanning, on the other hand, keeps your book intact and preserves the original text while still producing a digital copy.

Whether you opt for destructive or non-destructive scanning, the choice is yours, as there are pros and cons to both.

However, as technology has developed, the quality of non-destructive scanning has improved hugely over the years. As a result, many people would now argue that there’s no reason to unnecessarily destroy the physical copies of books.

What is the best way to scan old books without hurting them?

Old books can be sentimental for so many different reasons. Perhaps you’ve inherited a precious book from your grandparent or parent that you’d like to digitize, or maybe you’ve got an old antique that you would like to preserve.

What Are The Benefits Of Digitizing Books?

Whatever the reason you want to keep the book intact, non-destructive scanning methods are the best way to achieve this.

To scan old books you can either get a home book scanner (preferably with an overhead camera so you will not have to touch it alot) or with a smartphone and a phone app. 

Is scanning books legal?

You might be wondering about the legalities behind scanning books, and you’re smart to wonder, as you don’t want to get in any trouble for digitizing your personal library.

Is Scanning Books Legal?

Scanning books to turn into digital copies is only legal if the digitization is for personal use and involves no distribution. The moment you start to distribute whether this is for money or not is when you could be in breach of copyright laws.

If you’re unsure about copyright laws, then make sure that you do your own research to ease your mind before scanning your personal books.

What are the benefits of digitizing books?

There are a wide variety of benefits associated with digitizing books. These benefits include but are not limited to:

What are Destructive and Non-Destructive Scanning Methods?

Share the book online

If we’re talking about your own book that you own the copyrights to, you can scan it ad than promote it online in services like kindle. You can even promote it for free as a PDF if you just want to spread your ideas. 

Preserve the book

If it’s an old book or a rare book, making a digital copy of it is important for too many reasons. By doing so you’re helping to preserve a part of history that will never be lost. 

Make the book searchable

Scanning the book with an OCR software makes it searchable and readable by computers. That is an amazing book scanning feature to have for your digital copy.

Digitizing Books Saves Space

If your house is overrun with books, and you simply don’t have the space for them, why not consider digitizing your personal library?

Going on a trip or a vacation with more than one book is a hassle, and there’s a reason why people have switched to tablets or Kindles! Having digital copies of your favorite books means that you can keep your books conveniently together in one place.

This makes digitizing a great alternative to lugging multiple books around with you. After all, who wants to be weighed down?

Can you scan a book with your phone?

You can definitely scan a book with your phone and many people do just that instead of getting a book scanner. We have an entire guide dedicated to that: How to scan a book on your phone? 

How to use a phone app to scan a book?

To start you will need a phone app for scanning books. But you should know that both Apple and Android have convenient methods of scanning documents with a smartphone. 

Why and How Do People Digitize Books? 

How To Scan A Book With An iPhone

If you didn’t know already, inside your Notes app on your iPhone there is a free scanner that allows you to digitize a variety of documents.

  • Step One -To get started, open your Notes app and tap the pencil and notepad icon in the bottom right corner in order to create a new note.
  • Step Two – Click the Camera option before selecting “Scan Documents. At this stage, your iPhone camera will open, and you can take an image of the document that you wish to scan.
  • Step Three – Once you have scanned the document, you will need to select “Keep Scan” and it will be saved to your phone.

It really couldn’t be easier!

How To Scan A Book With An Android Smartphone

If you have an Android smartphone, then downloading the Google Drive app is one of the easiest ways to scan documents.

  • Step One – Firstly, you will need to open the Google Drive app. Tap the plus symbol in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. This opens up the “Create new” menu with multiple options to choose from.
  • Step Two – Select “Scan” and the camera will launch, allowing you to take an image of the document in question.
  • Step Three – Once you have taken the image, you’ll be able to crop it then save it as a PDF in your Google Drive folder.

It’s also worth mentioning that you can set up a shortcut to your home screen to make it easier to scan documents. 

What Is The Best Way To Scan Old Books Without Hurting Them?

To do this, simply follow these steps.

  • Step One – Open your phone’s widgets.
  • Step Two – Look for the ‘Drive Scan’ widget before holding it down.
  • Step Three – Drag the widget onto your home screen.
  • Step Four – Choose a folder where your scanned documents will be saved. If you choose to create a new folder, you can always click “New folder.”
  • Step Five – Click “Select” and the folder name will be visible in the widget.

In Summary 

When it comes to choosing a scanner for personal use, make sure that you do your research and carefully consider what you want from one.

Alternatively, you could find a scanning service local to you that might be more convenient than purchasing your own scanner.

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