Indeed, those caring for antiquated books appreciate this aspect of the technology since it maintains the integrity of the hard copy even as it turns it into digital form, said Heath Rezabek, a self-dubbed futurist and practicing librarian in Austin, Texas. He told us:
In the case of this particular platform, one of the core advantages seems to be the care taken to ensure that items scanned are handled properly, and automatically, by the machinery. Books are a robust technology, and can take a fair bit of use; but if cared for properly, they can last as long as their paper allows. This platform seems well aimed at those concerned with the physical care of the book.
It's likely for the short term, products like the RBS will remain the domain of libraries and archivists that are archiving special-interest or historical material that should remain physically off-limits to people, said Amie Thomas, a master of library science and the public services administrator for Brownsburg Public Library in Indiana. "I can see this being a great resource for academic and special libraries who house collections of rare materials that they want people to be able to access, yet not actually touch," she said.
The technology is currently a bit cost prohibitive outside of that niche market, said Thomas, and copyright concerns to digital media that libraries are facing would also be a barrier to using such a product at the moment. She continued:
Public libraries in general are in a battle of 'wild west' epic proportions right now to access the latest titles in electronic formats and many of the large publishers are placing restrictions on how many times they can go out, whether we get their newest titles, and whether we can even have them. It's a little crazy out there right now.
Of its current customer base, Schramek said 60 percent are large universities and other big archives across the world, while 30 percent are private, specialized digital service providers that also serve market by offering services that leverage Qidenus machines. Ten percent of the company's customers are special industries that want to digitize their own archive of manuals and in-house books, but this is still a nascent market, he said.
By the end of the year, Qidenus will release a scaled down version of the RBS -- which costs customers about 80,000 to 100,000 euros (about $105,000 to $130,000 US) -- at a lower price point to broaden its market and serve this smaller percentage of customers. By 2014, the company will also come out with a consumer book-scanning product through an internal project called ScanGuru, although that product won't have a robotic aspect due to its price point, Schramek said.
Click here to watch a video showing how the technology works.
I love the idea of this technology, especially since it preserves the integrity of the original books. Now imagine having one in your home so you can load up your hard copies on your Kindle or iPad? That technology is not quite ready for prime time and likely will take a bit of licensing of hardware, software and copyrights before it is, but I look forward to it.
Thank you for calling to my attention your company, Markus. It's hard to mention every single competitor to a product when writing a story but now that I know about ScanRobot I will do a bit more research and keep your company in mind for future stories on this topic.
Interesting application of robotics. I am familiar with systems that scan large number of documents such as legal files and corporate documents. Wonder if Google will get a few of these to speed up its process of electronic capture of literature in the public domain, and excerpts of more modern publications.
Having used an e-reader for several years I am well aware of the chaos in the publishing industry as all the involved parties try to get what they consider to be their fair share of the proceeds. If one library digitizes a book, it is unlikely they will be allowed to lend that digitized books to another librarie without charging a fee and giving some of that fee to the publisher. According to some published data, e-books are outselling paper books by a large margin and the large retail sellers of e-books have already had to offer their buyers rebates as a result of class-action lawsuits. The device in the article and others like it are a boon to archivists, researchers and readers but a curse to the publishers.
Turning pages is indeed a challenge. I was involved with some of the same problems with document feeders for copiers many years ago. One of the cleverest, best and most gentle approaches I saw at the time was from 3M. They had a "page picker" that used a "sticky finger". The finger had a special (3M, of course) tape that indexed across its head that was just sticky enough to gently pick up the page but would release it (with no residue) with very gentle pressure. I saw it on one production copier and then never saw it again. It was a great example of "out of the box" thinking and very gentle.
Another invention with a clear benefit to many of us, indeed. BUT it will probably not signal the end of the printed book, but rather the much improved availability. And it is certainly true that turning pages is not a trivial task, not only because some texts are quite frail, but also because in many instances pages stick to each other. That is the second challenge.
A descriptive analysis of this product would be a good topic for an article in an engineering publication such as Design News. Knowing how other folks solved a problem makes the rest of us better design engineers. It really does.
Yes, the trick to turning pages does seem to be in a robotic finger sensitive enough to turn a page without damaging it, especially when it comes to books printed on old or fragile paper. Qidenus seems to have come up with innovative technology for this, and as sensors and technology become even more sophisticated, I'm sure there will be further developments in this space.
William, I agree that the printed book will live on for the time being...but who knows down the road? I myself am an avid reader and literature geek, and while I have an e-reader that I use on my iPad (iBooks)--and find it incredibly handy--I still buy printed books as well. Until all the licesning issues are hammered out (and the generations that grew up without the Internet are still alive), I think there will be printed books. But somewhere in perhaps the not-so-distant future the printed book may go the way of the dinosaur or become the domain of collectors, just like vinyl records, tapes and CDs did when digital music became all the rage.
What I would like to see is an e-reaer that I can drop 5 feet and have it keep on working, and accidently step on it a few times without doing any damage. Possibly some of those built for the military organizations may be that tough, but the prices for the tough ones will probably also be tough. And, are there any waterproof e-readers? Not just splash resistant, but ones that don't fail after sinking to the bottom of the pool?
Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones used to fare quite well in the repairability department, but last year's flagship S5 model took a tumble, scoring a meh-inducing 5/10. Will the newly redesigned S6 lead us back into star-studded territory, or will we sink further into the depths of a repairability black hole?
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