How Do Book Scanners Work? All Scanners Types Explained


In this article we’re going to discuss how book scanners work, the different types of scanners and how some useful features will make the process of digitizing books much more fun and efficient. 

How do flatbed book scanners work?

Flatbed book scanners are the normal type of scanner you probably have at home or at the office.

Book Scanning Services  

They have a flat bed that is placed over the top of the document or book being scanned and a camera scanning the document from below. This means that the scanner reads each page as a 2D image. These images are then stored in memory for later processing or they go straight into your book scanning software

Scanning a book with a flatbed book scanner is a bit of a struggle because every time you want to switch a page you need to hold the flatbed up, turn the book up-side-down, flip the page and reposition the book. This could be fine if you’re scanning one book, but if you’re planning on scanning bigger quantities this type is not ideal. 

You can read more about the pros and cons of each scanning type in our article about what to consider before buying a book scanner

How do overhead book scanners work?

Overhead book scanners are usually composed of two parts. The first part is a flat or V-shaped cradle to lay the book with its pages pointing up. And the second part is the scanning camera that is connected to a metal rod, above the book and pointing downwards towards the pages of the book. 

How Fast Do You Need To Scan?

These kinds of scanners are ideal for book scanning with speed and ease as flipping the pages can be done efficiently. Some new models even have a ‘Page turning detection’ feature that scans a photo automatically after you flip the page. You don’t even to click any button. 

How Do Flatbed Book Scanners Work?

The scanner camera itself uses a rotating drum (or cylinder) with holes cut into it. As the scanner rotates the cylinder, the light from a lamp shines through the holes onto the pages of the book. The light reflects off the paper and is picked up by a sensor, which converts this reflected light into an electrical signal. This signal is then processed and converted back into digital form.

How do portable handheld scanners work?

Handheld book scanners are like a “scanning stick” and you use them by holding them down on the top of a book page and then pulling them downwards to the bottom (can also be done side-to-side). Once you’re done scanning each page, the scanner will save the scanned image into its inner memory. 

What is OCR?

This type of portable scanners use a similar technology to overhead scanners but instead of using a fixed position scanning device they use a handheld wand. The wand has a small light source at one end and a photocell at the other. When the user moves the wand across the surface of the object being scanned, the light source illuminates the object and the photocell detects the reflected light. This information is then either saved to the inner memory of the device and can later be transferred to the computer with a USB cable. 

In the newer models you can transfer the scanned book pages through WiFi or Bluetooth connection, directly to your computer where it can be saved as a digital file.

How do automatic scanners work?

Automatic book scanners are big, expensive machines that take some technical knowledge to operate and maintain.

Use a Professional Book Scanning Service

For that reason they are mainly used by professional book scanning services or industrial factories. Some state of the art libraries that scan many books also hold them. 

There are a few types of automatic book scanners, the most common one looks a bit similar to a overhead book scanner only a lot bigger, and it has an automatic page turner, an automatic camera and an automatic software that collects all of the scanned pages into a file. Surely these types of scanners also have OCR and a book flattening technology.

How Do Overhead Book Scanners Work?

Other types of industrial scanners generally consist of a conveyor belt that runs underneath a transparent glass plate. On top of this glass plate sits a series of lamps. Each lamp illuminates a specific area on the conveyor belt. If there is anything on the conveyor belt that should not be illuminated, it will reflect back towards the lamps and these reflections will be detected by sensors. Once the sensors detect the reflection, they send a signal to the computer, which processes the data and saves it as a digital file. 

What is an automatic page turner?

An automatic page turner is a feature found on automatic book scanners. This function allows the scanner to automatically flip the pages of a book when scanning them.

How Do Automatic Scanners Work?

This makes scanning very easy as all you need to do is place your document on the scanner and press start. The scanner will scan each page in turn until it reaches the last page, and at this point, it will stop scanning.

This book scanning feature is expensive and complex and as of this writing these words can not be found on regular home scanners but only on industrial book scanners.

What is OCR and which scanners have it?

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is the process of converting text into machine-readable format. Basically it means that the computer can understand the text and the characters and therefore can process and analyze them.

What is OCR and Which Scanners Have it?


It’s important because it allows you to make changes to the text or analyze through your computer. For example if you want to search for a particular word within a document, or you want to change the font of the text, OCR technology allows you to do that. 

Most new models of book scanners, as well as phone apps for scanning books, have OCR scanning technology built-in within their software and if you’re getting a new scanner this is definitely a feature worth paying more for.

Note that if you’re scanning a book in a language that is not very common or in an ancient font of English for example, OCR may not work as smoothly as you would expect. 

What to consider before scanning a book?

If you’re getting a new scanner then some of the features we have already addressed are important ones to look for in a new scanner. Having OCR scanning technology is necessary for making your digitized copies of the books searchable once they are produced. 

What Affects a Book Scanner’s Speed?

If you have never scanned any book and want to get off on the right foot, you should read our guide about how to scan books for beginners.

If you only plan to scan one or two books, consider scanning them using your phone. It’s easy to do and you can gain great results doing so. Only before doing so you should also consider the law in your country regarding book scanning

If you’re scanning an old book, consider reading our guide ‘How to scan old books’ for some valuable tips. 

What affects a book scanner’s speed?

There are a few factors affecting scanning speed. 

First of all, the quality of your scanner and the number of pages it can scan per minute will have a major role in determining how long it will take to scan a book. Newer models usually scan faster than older ones. 

What is an Automatic Page Turner?

Secondly, the book scanning software you use also plays a crucial part in the scanning  speed. OCR for example will increase page scanning time, but as we mentioned above, it’s definitely worth it. 

Moreover the resolution you choose can affect scanning time. A higher resolution often means slower scanning times. High resolutions also require more memory space, so the amount of memory available may limit how many pages you can scan per minute. 

Lastly, how efficient you operate the scanner, the software and the book will largely affect how long it will take to scan a book. If you work efficiently, turn the pages at the right time and minimize the number of mistakes, you can save a great deal of time on each book.  

What book scanning brands are there?

Among the most known brands for digitizing books are as follows: 

  • Czur
  • Iochow
  • Viisan
  • Joyusing
  • Iriscan
  • Ipevo

To learn more about these brands and others read our article about book scanners brands

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