Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Book scanning: Emory Univ. & someone's MPOW

On June 6, Emory University announced that is will be digitizing "about 200,000 of its volumes that are in the public domain and to make the materials available online free or available for purchase as inexpensive print-on-demand volumes through While people would pay for the print-on-demand books, Emory officials said that pricing would be designed just to cover costs, not to earn a profit for the university." (link)

In the actual press release, Martin Halbert, director for digital programs and systems at Emory's Woodruff Library, stated:
We believe that mass digitization and print-on-demand publishing is an important new model for digital scholarship that is going to revolutionize the management of academic materials...Information will no longer be lost in the mists of time when books go out of print. This is a way of opening up the past to the future.
Emory will be using equipment from Kirtas for this project.

Speaking of Kirtas, has a post about the book digitization efforts at his place of work (or as he says "MPOW" or my place of work). He says publicly what many say privately -- the high cost machines are nice, but not for everyone. And some machines aren't for all types of bound materials. For example, he describes the BookDrive by Atiz as a "fully enclosed unit (reminded me of a toaster oven) that turns the pages of the book via an arm with a mild adhesive on it." That's not something you'd use on a priceless book.

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Anonymous said...

50 books per day, with 200,000 books to be digitized. That's nearly 15 years. Assuming 7 day a week operation.

The Kirtas machines can only make sense cost-wise if they are utilized 3 shifts per day for at least 5 days per week. And for that you need a lot of labor.

Alain said...

The Kirtas machines only have a designed lifetime of 10 million pages (5 million page turns):

They say this amounts to 5 years at 1 shift per day. So that's only 2.5 years at 2 shifts per day. To get to the 200,000 books scanned, assuming 300 pages per book on average, that's 60 million pages. Definitely not something the Kirtas machines were designed to do.

Assuming 300,000 shutter cycles before the camera needs to be serviced by the Canon repair depot, and 2,000 pages per hour scanned, you could be looking at a downtime of a couple of days every 300 hours for the APT 2400 and APT 1200. And that's not even taking into account the motors and circuit boards that also die and need to be replaced. Sure it's covered under the maintenance contract, but sometimes downtime is more expensive than just money. What do you do with your machine operators whilst the machine is not working?

It would be interesting to find out what Emory University's expectations of their APT 2400 are. Do they expect to be able to put a book in it, hit Start, and walk away? Or do they realise they need a dedicated operator? It will definitely be an interesting learning experience for them.

Alain said...

Kirtas have some new pictures of their service bureau on their website:

As you can see, each machine has a dedicated operator, you can even see the guy with the blue shirt going in with his hand to flatten the pages after the machine has turned the page.

Tim Zenfendale said...

Alan, today's stepper motors are very reliable.

What I don't understand is that Kirtas calls their machine automatic but yet employs a person.