Monday, May 16, 2011

plustek OpticBook 3600 scanner


Pros:
-lets you scan books without stressing the spine, magazines and comics without popping the staples from the cover
-good image quality, scans at 300 dpi take about 10 seconds
-scan software allows for auto 180-degree re-orientation of image when scanning alternating pages


Cons:
-buggy software and hardware
-platen size of 9 x 11 1/2 inches; books with greater dimensions can't be accommodated
-skimpy on printed  manuals
-tested only on my PC running WinXP; performance with Vista or Windows 7 not evaluated

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Over the past year I have been contemplating getting the plustek OpticBook scanner, which is currently selling for $239 (including shipping) at amazon.com (note that the merchant selling the scanners is J & R Music and Computer World). 

The reviews at amazon.com are mixed; some like the OpticBook, but some feel it's awful. With my 2010 tax return received, I thought I'd invest in one.

My Canon flatbed scanner provides good-quality images, but it's not designed for scanning the pages of books, and I don't want to break the spine of my books in order to get them scanned. Another problem comes with efforts to scan old copies of 'Heavy Metal' and comic books; too much flexing, and the covers can detach from the staples.

The plustek machine features an open-sided platen, so you can edge close enough to the book's binding to get the entire page captured, without necessarily stressing the binding. The scanner has a hinged cover that allows it to accommodate thick books.

I've been testing out the plustek for the past two months. It comes with a modest quantity of printed manuals and guides, and a software CD that installs three programs related to scanning and image analysis:

 
The software installed without any problems, but then I'm running WinXP; some users at amazon.com report problems with Vista and Windows 7.

After installing the software I did have to go into the 'Presto ! Page Manager' software and de-select my Canon scanner as the scanner / twain default source, and instead select the OpticBook as the default; if this is not done the scanner will not be recognized, even if it's plugged in to your USB port.

Scanning is relatively easy. You first select the 'Book' or 'Paper' buttons at the top corner of the scanner's button panel, then lay your book or document on the scanner, and then choose the larger buttons for either for 'color', 'grayscale', or 'text' scans:


A scan will be generated in a few seconds and displayed in a window using the 'book pilot' app, a simple, bare-bones desktop app. (There may be a delay if the scanner needs to warm up). If you are not satisfied with the image, you can select 'preview' and re-scan as needed.

Once you're happy with the scan size and image quality, you can then scan successive pages simply by placing your book on the platen and pressing the color / grayscale / text button on the scanner with each page.

A color scan, 300 dpi pass of a single page takes about 10 sec, a bit faster than on my Canon machine. You can have the imaging software save the succeeding scanned pages from a book into the same common file.

As you proceed with scanning and turn your book from right- to left- hand orientation on the surface of the platen, you can select to have these alternating page scans corrected for odd / even page orientation, so all scanned images in a file have the same orientation.

The following photos give an idea of the size of the OpticBook and what sizes of documents it can accommodate: 



The image quality from scans of pictures is pretty good and I really can't tell the scan image quality apart from the same image generated using my Canon flatbed scanner.

For text pages, depending on the format (color, grayscale, or text / pdf) used to make the scan, things also are reasonably good, as illustrated by these scans of a page from an old (1980) issue of 'Questar' magazine:



One thing I've noticed is that the hardware and software are buggy. Sometimes the bulb fails to light when you turn on the scanner, and I have to resort to re-plugging the power cord in the outlet and turning the device on/off/on again.

Sometimes lifting the scanner cover too high off the platen can cause the bulb to spontaneously go out, too...?! 

Closing the 'book pilot' software app, while leaving the scanner's bulb on, can sometimes make the scanner unresponsive when you decide to do some scans later on; more than once I've had to reboot my PC and the scanner to deal with this problem.

The Verdict ? 

Of course, I've only used the device for around 65 days, so after using it for another 6 months some major problems may come to light. But if you're looking for an affordable (i.e., under thousands of dollars) book scanner, the Optic Book is really your only real option (unless you want to make your own scanner). 

I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to someone who is contemplating scanning an entire book a day, but if you are looking for something that will provide good-quality scans of 10 pages here, 25 pages there, without destroying the binding of your books - particularly older books that are most vulnerable to damage - then it's not a bad option.

1 comment:

Txu said...

Yo compré hará 6 meses el Optikbook 3800 por un precio similar, en Europa, en www.plustekonline.com

En general estoy encantada con él.

Presenta las siguientes diferencias:
Book Edge: 2mm en vez de 6mm. (En mi caso para que ello fuera real tuve que ajustar el scanner con la aplicación "Scanner Utility" que viene de serie)
ABBYY FineReader Sprint: 9.0 en vez de 6.0. Ignoro diferencias entre ambas versiones.
Aplicación de escaneo de libros: "Plustek Book Pavilion" en vez de "Plustek Book Pilot". Desconozco esta última. "Plustek Book Pavilion" es una aplicación de aspecto horrible, con un interface demasiado pequeño pero que "da unos resultados fantásticos". Desde el último verano, puede bajarse de http://plustek.com/es/support/software-application.html (¡ojo! es la web de España, no está en la de USA) "eBookScan" sólo en inglés. "eBookScan" es una aplicación similar pero de mayor interface. "eBookScan"puede ejecutarse a pantalla completa. Yo no he conseguido con "eBookScan" la misma calidad que con "Plustek Book Pavilion", pero apenas la he usado. Eso sí: "eBookScan" no te hace esperar por calentamiento cada vez que la arrancas.

Por lo que veo en las fotos que presentas, ambos scanners tienen el mismo defecto (corregible):
Intenta scannear un libro algo mayor que DIN A4. Imposible: el escalón en tres lados genera sombras y distorsión en los bordes exteriores. Yo lo he corregido con un pequeño gadget de mi invención. Encargué a un amigo vidriero un cristal plano que rellena el hueco (en mi caso de 3mm). Ni me lo cobró. Así puedo scannear libros mayores, despreciando el borde, o el exceso de tamaño de la cubierta. Cuando no lo necesito lo guardo en una vieja carpeta dura junto con las instrucciones. La carpeta dura, para proteger el vidrio cuando no se usa, fue lo que más me costó conseguir ¿las han dejado de fabricar?

El resto de aplicaciones que venían con el scanner o pueden bajarse de plustek.com no me han convencido en absoluto. Las he desinstalado todas salvo "Plustek TIFF Tool" que, sin ser ninguna maravilla, me ha sacado de algún apuro. para el escaso uso que le doy no me vale la pena ponerme a buscar una mejor.