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.