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Atiz turns books digital without help from Google

March 6, 2009 |  2:58 pm
An Atiz book scanner
An Atiz book-scanning device. Credit: Atiz.

Digitizing books is all the rage these days, with the Kindle 2 being pimped on the "Daily Show," Amazon allowing its e-books to be read on the iPhone and Barnes & Noble getting deeper into the digital book market. Google can now scan out-of-print and rare books and put them online, after it settled a lawsuit with book publishers in October, and a volunteer effort called Project Gutenberg is trying to turn hundreds of cultural works into 1s and 0s.

What if you don't want Google or Project Gutenberg to get their paws on your library, but still would like to scan your material onto hard drives so it isn't lost forever, like the books in the Royal Library of Alexandria, when fires come? Enter Atiz, a Los Angeles company that will create digital copies of your books without sharing them with anybody -- all for just $1,595 and up.

"It's an inexpensive solution that allows everyone to digitize their content and preserve it for prosperity," said Atiz President Nick Warnock, who, incidentally, was a contestant on the first season of The Apprentice

It may make sense for some publishers to make digital copies of books without giving access to Google or Project Gutenberg. For example, Warnock said, the Conjuring Arts Research Center in New York turned down Google's request to scan its collection because its magician’s library is filled with trade secrets. If Google were to scan those books and puts them online, people anywhere could pull rabbits out of hats and turn each other into newts. That simply wouldn't do. So the research center bought a book scanner from Atiz to create its own private digital collection.

To scan books using the Atiz system, you ...

... place them on a V-shaped device with a Canon camera poised above it. This doesn't break the binding or injure the book, Warnock says. Then, a very patient individual sits and flips the pages as the camera takes pictures of each page. (If you're a magician, maybe you can figure out how to flip them with your magic wand). It's possible to scan about 700 pages an hour.

Los Angeles organizations such as the J. Paul Getty Museum, the UCLA humanities department, the LA Public Library and Whittier College have used Atiz. Many academic libraries want to scan their materials but still keep them private, Warnock said.

Atiz offers different versions of the scanner. If you're thinking of using Atiz to digitize your great American novel that hasn't yet found a publisher, you could go with the $1,595 BookSnap, a small, compact model, or the $6,995 Book Drive DIY, recommended for small libraries. If you have a whole university library of great American novels that haven't yet been published, you could splurge on the Book Drive Pro, which costs $12,995.

For that device, you'll also need a Canon SLR, which is a pretty high-tech camera. If that's the case, maybe you should just give up writing novels and try to make it as a great American photographer.

-- Alana Semuels

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