Flatbed scanners don’t handle books well. This is a problem for schools and libraries, which certainly don’t want someone to break the book’s binding just so they can copy a page.

A new scanner from Plustek, the OptiBook 4600, is designed to overcome this problem and has been getting rave reviews from users. The first shipment to sold out almost immediately, in fact, despite the relatively steep price of around $800.

The key to the OptiBook’s performance is that the scanning surface comes right to the edge of the unit. A page can thus be scanned right up to the binding. One side of any book can be laid on top of the scanning glass and the other part of the book will simply lie over the edge. It takes only three seconds to scan a page at 300 dpi (dots per inch).

The unit oozes quality and the software handles OCR (Optical Character Recognition) which can translate the scanned page into text that can be edited or a searchable PDF. At 300 DPI we got only one error from scanning a page of 517 words, and that error was a French word in italics. The scanning resolution can be kicked up to 1200 DPI, which is good for photographs and takes only a few seconds longer.

Despite its outstanding features and smooth operation, there are some notable design omissions. For one thing, you cannot plug in a flash drive to store the scans but must transfer all scanned pages to the computer though a USB cable. Another complaint is that the scanner has no sheet feeder, in case you wanted to use it to scan a bunch of pages unattended. You can, of course, still scan them one at a time. All in all, we were impressed with the OptiBook 4600, however, and this should certainly save a lot of books from destruction.

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