For a long time now, scanners have been a great way to make copies of photos and documents. On the other hand, books have always presented a unique problem for scanners. They are not flat, and therefore they do not fit well and always leave a black shadowy area where the binding is. The plustek OpticBook 3600 offers a solution to that problem. With its SEE (Shadow Elimination Element) Technology™ you can get a book scanned without the binding getting in the way.
- Specially designed edge and patented lamp with curved ends
- Quick copying of book pages, great for students and copy rooms
- Clean copies with text aligned on the page and no black border
- Avoid cutting books or damaging book bindings
- Scan or copy text very close to the book spine
- Fast and simple PDF conversion
- Powerful OCR instantly saves to MS Word and Excel
- Automatically rotates and saves page images in correct order
- New Plustek OpticTwain for normal scanning
- Large, multifunction one-touch buttons
Setting up the plustek OpticBook 3600 is not that difficult. In fact, it is just like most other USB devices except it is slightly different. First and foremost you must unlock the scanner. The OpticBook 3600 has 3 states that the lock can be in. Locked, Unlocked and Auto. Auto will lock itself if it is on an uneven surface. Instead of installing the drivers first, they want you to start by plugging in the scanner. Then when windows detects it and asks for drivers you need to insert the disk and tell windows to look for drivers. The drivers will be detected and installed. On the disks are also several pieces of software that will assist you in getting good scans. They include NewSoft Presto! PageManager, Ulead Photo Impact XL SE, Ulead Photo Explorer 8.0 SE and ABBYY FineReader 5.0 Sprint. Most of the software can be installed through the main install program which saves you time by not requiring you to install them one at a time. Each program provides a special function. NewSoft Presto! PageManager provides OCR, PDF creation and conversion to Word or Excel. Ulead Photo Impact XL SE is used for editing images like Adobe Photoshop. Ulead Photo Explorer 8.0 SE can be used to create slide shows and CDs or VCDs. ABBYY FineReader 5.0 Sprint is another OCR software which is required for the OCR function of the scanner to work properly.
This scanner has all the bells and whistles that you would expect on a professional scanner. There are 7 one-touch buttons which provide quick access to all the basic tasks. Most of the buttons have two functions so you get twice as many functions in half the space. The top two buttons are the book and paper buttons. When you press one of the top buttons, a small triangle light appears below it and it activates the corresponding buttons below. If the book button is pressed then the buttons do a Book Pilot, Preview, Color Scan, Grayscale Scan and Text Scan. If the Paper button is pressed then the buttons do a Custom, E-mail, Copy, OCR and Scan. At first, before I read the instructions, it looked like pressing the left side of the button performed one task and the pressing the right would perform the other. plustek could make this more intuitive by connecting the lines on the sides of the buttons with the top buttons that choose the functions. They could have made the buttons more useful by making them programmable. That way you could program the buttons to do what you wanted. I not make them programmable they could have provided at least one custom button that is programmable. Pressing the Book Pilot button opens up some software which helps you get a good scan of a book. It will let you specify the scanning area, the save destination, the image format, and whether you want to auto rotate the pages or not. You can also choose if you want color, grey, or black and white pages. You can save the settings in a profile for quick access later if you need to stop and scan something else and then come back to your books. There are no labels on the fields in the software. Instead there is a small graphic that is suppose to represent the purpose of each field. If you hold your mouse over the graphic then a small text description will show. In order to make this easier to use for newcomers, they should have put the text labels either next to or above the field.
The TWAIN_32 software is, like most others, very functional. You have just about every feature you would need to produce a great scan of your images and documents. This is the preferred way to scan photographs because you have the most control over the scanning process. With this software you can adjust everything that is related to scanning including the brightness, contrast, turning on and off the auto crop,set up batch scans and much more.
The lid of the scanner is removable. This is very useful for when you are scanning large books, like the one I used for my tests, or when you want to be able to swap the pages quickly. On the inside of the lid is a Reflective Document Mat. This is double sided. with white on one side and black on the other. It is best used in conjunction with the Auto crop. In order to get the best results from the auto crop it is highly recommended that you use the black side of the Reflective Document Mat for light images, and books and the white side for dark images and multicolor photographs. This gives the scanner a lot more of a contrast in which to find the edges of whatever you are scanning. It is a little difficult to get it out. You have to tug at it a bit before it comes loose. Behind the Reflective Document Mat you will see another piece of plastic. This is the Image Enhancing Backing which I will talk about a little later.
The OpticBooks biggest difference from other scanners is the SEE Technology design. With this design plustek moved the glass right to the edge of the scanner. They also have a curved lamp which is able to scan right to the edge and give a good scan of the edge of a book. Previous to this, book scanners used to cost thousands of dollars and were large and hard to use. This new technology makes book scanning easy and produces good results.
As you can see from the following images the scanner does a fairly good job. I used a book with over 1000 pages for this test because I knew the book would have a hard time getting really flat. I wanted to see how good it was in compensating for a little bend. As you can see, the edge has a little bit of a shadow, but it is much better then the standard way you scan a book. As you can see from the first image I got a little bit of the next page. This is called “see through.” For this the OpticBook 3600 comes with Image Enhancing Backing, which you can put behind the pages you are scanning so that you do not get see through onto the next page. On the next scan I used the backing, which is just a sheet of semi-hard black plastic, and I did not have any see through. You will have to do a little cropping if your books pages are not a full 8 1/2 x 11, or if you want to copy the pages to an image first you can use the scanners software to specify the area to scan. If you use the Image Enhancing Backing then it can serve a second purpose by blocking all the rest of the pages from a thick book and giving you a cleaner edge to crop to. If you do save the images, then you can use the NewSoft Presto! PageManager software to easily convert them to a pdf for easy viewing and reading.
Now that we know that the scanner does a good job with books, which are mostly black and white, we want to know about color images. Because it supports up to 48-bit color depth and 1200 dpi resolution, you would expect it to produce great color scans. I scanned this color chart to see just how well it does. By just looking at the chart you really cannot tell that there is much difference in the original and the scan. But by using Photoshop’s color picker you can see a little variation in the colors, but most of them are really close. The only one that has a big difference is the blue. I tried this same scan on another scanner and it also seemed to have trouble getting the blue just right.
The scanner is also fast. To scan a full 8 1/2 x 11 black and white image it only takes about 7 seconds. To scan a full 8 1/2 x 11 color page it takes about 9 seconds. This was on the default resolution and as you increase the resolution the scan times will increase. In addition to being fast it is also fairly quiet. It makes its loudest noise when the scanning head is going back to the starting place, and even that is not very loud.
The scanner is really nice. If you are a student or librarian or anyone else that makes a lot of scans or copies of books, then this scanner could save you a lot of time and money. It is small enough to take with you to the library and big enough to copy all but the largest of books. There really are no other scanners to compare this to, but if you look at other consumer scanners they usually range between $50 and $500. This scanner fits nicely right in the middle with a retail price of $250.
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