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Break Your Paper Addiction: The Best in Scanners

The dream for many is to go paperless and thanks to advances in scanner technology, it’s a lot closer to reality now than ever before. I have some recommendations that can help you digitize that mountain of paper that surrounds you.

There’s always something in real life that we want to bring into our digital life and that’s the reason there are scanners – but wait – aren’t scanners just a funny kind of cameras and don’t we already have a camera in the smart phone? So why not just use the smart phone to grab a snapshot of the page or whatever – why bother with a scanner at all?

The human hand. No matter how hard you try you can’t hold it absolutely still. So while the display on your phone may look like a good picture it’s just a sample – the shot you take could have a hundred times more pixels – and that raises the odds that the picture inside has at least a little blur to it. So, yeah, you can use a smart phone as a camera but it’s a good idea to try to snag whatever you’re shooting in at least two or three shots so maybe one of them will be good enough to OCR.

But what if you want to scan more?

The Fujitsi Scansnap IX500 is one of the best solutions out there – slick, fast, color or black and white. It scans both sides of the page at once and you can load a bunch of sheets at a time into its feeder instead of feeding a sheet at a time. You can set it up to work with a PC or a Mac or across the network or from your handset. Stick in what you want to scan, push a button, and depending on how you set it up that’s enough to save your stack as, for example, PDF files. And it’s a great quality for very accurate OCR image-to-text interpretation. Best of all, it can be set to send those digital images directly to a service like Evernote, where it can be stored and organized in notebooks. Automatically. Best price I’ve found is on Amazon, at about $420.

But there are things it can’t scan – like the pages of a book – or a 3-dimensional object.

Here’s where the new the new HoverCam Solo 8 comes in – about $350 – works with PCs or Macs – and it unfolds into a kind of gallows shape to use like an old fashioned copy stand. The camera head is 8 Megapixels for stills but it can also capture videos at close to four times HD resolution – it’s fantastic for Skype. The video may or may not come across as 4K, depending on your computer – a free software update at the end of the year will open that up for more computers and if you want to play with 4K it’s hard to find a camera at even several times its price. But when you throw the book at it – meaning when you want to scan pages in a bound volume – you can do that – there are no sheet-at-a-time feed paths. Its utilities let you shoot both the left and right pages at the same time and save them separately. Or if you have loose sheets it can watch for when you change them and keep shooting a next one and a next one without making you click anything on the computer.

Is it really possible to go paperless? I doubt it. But you can sure cut down the mess on your desk, and use these scanners to digitally save important papers. That’s a pretty good start.



Mike is a veteran journalist whose video "PC Mike" reports have been distributed weekly to all 215 NBC-TV stations since 1994, making him one of the most experienced tech reporters in the country. His tech stories and videos have appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, the Today Show, The New York Times, USA Today and in numerous national newspapers and magazines. In addition to the PC Mike tech blog, he also publishes the RV Travel Blog in which he travels North America in an RV reporting about interesting people and places.