I have a:

  • dSLR camera (Canon EOS) + no tripod
  • latest commercial version of Adobe Acrobat
  • a computer with internet
  • frugal character

I also own a physically printed and bound book of over 600 pages I would like to convert to PDF.

What are methods/technologies/software features I can use to accomplish this

  1. without buying any new hardware (no extra physical tools one wouldn't have lying around the house)
  2. without destroying the book
  3. with as little time and effort as possible

Additional info (rather: clarifications) from reactions I've gotten:

  • It's my book. I'm not going to sell or give away the copy. Not planning anything illegal.

  • Having the end result pleasantly readable on digital screens is the striving.

  • The point is to make heavy/clunky books portable. Nobody wants to open (nor carry) 600-page books onto planes.

  • OCR is not a requisite -- even if it was, I can do that with Adobe Acrobat.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this question is about creating a text ebook, not a photograph. (If you'd like to create a photograph of the book as an object, questions about how to do that would be topical). – mattdm Jul 8 '16 at 21:59
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    @mattdm Dear Matt, the question requires extensive knowledge on photography. Furthermore, I don't even want a text version (OCR). It needs ideas on: (a) best way to set up a book considering its downsides to be photographed flat (b) lighting: to make sure it's evenly lit, no glare, etc. (more advanced photography than any amateur can give you) (c) hidden settings that could greatly benefit the goal (d) what software can help what (lens skewing has been a big problem so far), etc. With all due respect, this forum seems like the only one that can answer, and I think I should've come here first. – Frudell D. Jul 8 '16 at 22:20
  • I voted to close as off-topic, but also getting the pages flat enough to create an acceptable copy would destroy the book. – James Snell Jul 8 '16 at 22:49
  • @JamesSnell Not if you lit it well and batch skewed it -- if there's even that much info on that utmost inside edge. Why are you voting to close it and the continue to think about solutions or obstacles to overcome? Sounds like the kind of reaction you'd have to a good question to me. – Frudell D. Jul 9 '16 at 1:18
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    @FrudellD. not really, I can think that what you're trying to do is interesting without it having to be on-topic here. The problem is that the bulk of what you want/need to do is either an engineering challenge that is way off-topic, or a technical/processing one for which arming someone with the tools/skills to complete would be far too broad for the QA format of StackExchange. – James Snell Jul 9 '16 at 11:10

Your question might be better suited on ebooks.SE. Maybe. Although they mostly deal with wrestling things into epub/mobi formats and various ebook store submission hoops. :) But they do also handle book-as-PDF questions.

But to my mind, points 1, 2, and 3 are all antithetical. You either get a specialized book scanner, destroy the book (slice the pages off the spine to feed through a sheet scanner, or break the spine and weight the pages to make the book lie flat for photos), or you take a lot of time/care or use specialized (expensive) software to massage the images. There really are no other choices.

It's not like you won't be spending forever on fixing scannos, anyway. The number of folks making ebooks who think that spellchecking is the same as copyediting are legion. (spit)

Everyone would like cheap, simple solutions to complex problems, but they're not often to be found.

BTW, just because you own a copy of a book doesn't mean you own the copyright of the book. Digitizing means you are are still making a copy. You may be heading into illegality if the copyright is clearly owned and active by someone else. This is why Project Gutenberg requires proof the book is out of copyright before you digitize it for them as a volunteer.

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    About your suggestion for the ebooks forum: As strongly implied in the final line of my post, I'm not looking to convert them into text. Epub and mobi are thus no good, they destroy the book's formatting. I'm looking to create great photographs of a book limited by the tools listed. That is why this question is in this forum. – Frudell D. Jul 8 '16 at 22:37
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    If you are actually intending to "create great photographs", that seems at odds with "The point is to make heavy/clunky books portable." With most books, this is best achieved with heavy processing entirely unlike that used for "great photographs". – mattdm Jul 8 '16 at 23:06
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    @FrudellD. This is not a great question for Photo.SE. That's not to say it isn't interesting (I think it is, and I've played around with DIY book scanning like you're talking about). It just isn't a great fit for this site. – scottbb Jul 9 '16 at 1:38
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    @FrudellD. I understand where you're coming from, and your frustration. Please understand that not all uses of cameras are considered on-topic here. For example, use of cameras for scientific measurement, photogrammetry, digital signal processing, etc., are not automatically on-topic just because a camera is involved. The line is not hard and clear, but in general, if the question is about the art of photography, and the art and science of the tools of photography, it's on-topic here. – scottbb Jul 9 '16 at 1:51
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    @FrudellD I'll happily vote for this question to be reopened if you can clarify where the "great photography" comes in. As far as I can see, the best answer is: Prop up your book and use your smartphone to take pictures as you flip pages. You don't need a DSLR or any fancy anything. Feed the results into the software that's designed to automatically process for best effect. Done. Photography is almost incidental; a way to prop up the book is 50× more important, and the software (which is not general photography software) is 10,000×. – mattdm Jul 9 '16 at 20:00

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