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IRIScan Book 2 mobile scanner: Review and giveaway

Although I tend to use my iPhone 4S and Readdle's Scanner Pro (US$6.99) or JotNot Scanner Pro ($1.99) apps to do most of my scanning, there are still documents that need a regular scanner of some sort. For that, I have an old Epson 4490 Photo scanner, but it has issues handling anything that isn't flat. For example, I've been trying to scan some sections of some really old books into a digital format, but due to the thickness of the book the section nearest the spine of the book is unreadable on a scan. The new IRIScan Book 2 (US$129.00) mobile scanner is a lightweight scanner that can handle a number of document types easily.

Design

When it comes to portability, the IRIScan Book 2 is almost as easy to carry as an iPhone. It's a tiny 10" long, 1-1/8" wide wand that averages a little over 1" in height. It's entirely self-contained: the scanner contains a pair of AA batteries (included) and uses a micro-SD card (2 GB card included) to hold your scans until you're ready to process them. There's also a micro-USB port and included cable for dumping your scans to a computer for processing.

It's an attractive little scanner, with a metallic blue finish and a carrying bag to protect it while in transit. Some addition value and power comes with the software that's included with the IRIScan Book 2 -- Readiris Pro 12 is an older version of the OCR and scan management software that is sold by I.R.I.S. Note that there is an iPad version of Readiris ($37.99) on the App Store; it is not included with the scanning hardware.

Functionality

The IRIScan Book 2 works like a flatbed scanner, only you provide the motion of the scanning head over the item to be scanned. There's a large and clearly labeled scan and power button; pushing it for two seconds turns the device on (or off), and a quick push starts or ends the scanning process.

I decided to test the device without reading the instructions, so I grabbed a catalog for a local community college where I teach and started scanning away. Although the original catalog was printed on newsprint and had been folded for mailing, the scans were still extremely clear and legible. I also like the idea that you don't have to scan from top to bottom on a page; it's also possible to scan from side to side, which works best with books.

Another pair of buttons provides an easy way to switch between color and grayscale scanning, or change the resolution of your scan from 300 to 600 dpi. There's a tiny LCD to show you how many scans you've made, what mode your currently in, and to help you set the time on the device.

Let's talk for a minute about Readiris Pro 12, the scanning and OCR software that comes with this little scanner. To be honest with you, I'm not a big fan of scanning software. OCR software, which I've used since the early days of scanners, always has the same problem -- it works great for scanning one-column text, but start throwing a lot of columns, tables, and graphics at one and you end up doing a tremendous amount of manual labor to try to extract text from your scan.

That's not to say that Readiris Pro 12 doesn't work well -- it does. As an example, I scanned a page from a book with wide margins and the text was saved into an RTF file that was completely accurate. It's just that the number of situations in which you're going to get this type of OCR accuracy are relatively few.

When I scan documents, I prefer to just keep them in a PDF format without doing any OCR. In other words, the documents are an image of a document rather than the textual information. Sure, that makes for larger file sizes, but at least I'm not fighting OCR software to try to get readable text.

As for the scans, take a look at this gallery. The first two images show one scan from a book, the other from a tabloid-sized course catalog, both "scanned" with Scanner Pro. The next two images are the same types of pages scanned with the IRIScan Book 2, and the final two images are using JotNot Scanner Pro.

The scans from JotNot Scanner Pro and PDF Scan are both curved somewhat due to the curvature of the book's page, but they're both quite legible. The IRIScan Book 2 scanned the curved page nicely, but note that if you're scanning a book with very narrow margins, you'll have problems.

Looking at the catalog page, you'll notice that the page is cut off in the IRIScan Book 2. That's because the scanner only scans documents up to 8.5" wide. The scans from the iPhone applications were both full-width; I felt that JotNot Scanner Pro worked better for this page.

Conclusion

Before you invest in a document scanner, think about your end goals. Are you planning on scanning every document you receive in order to achieve a paperless life? If so, maybe a sheet-fed scanner would work better for you. Are you thinking about just scanning receipts while traveling? If you already have an iPhone or iPad, then perhaps scanning software will work better for you. But if you often need to scan articles from magazines or if OCR is a necessity, then the IRIScan Book 2 is a reasonably-priced and definitely portable scanner for you.

Pros

  • Compact size makes it travel-friendly
  • Does not need to be attached to a computer in order to scan
  • Attractive design
  • Comes with OCR software package
  • Absolutely quiet in operation
  • Uses widely available AA batteries

Cons

  • Is not rechargeable
  • Limited to 8.5" wide scans

Who is it for?

  • Best suited for those who need a small, portable scanner that is capable of scanning articles and converting them to editable text.

Giveaway

You know how we love to give away review items here at TUAW, and sure enough we have a full IRIScan Book 2 package complete with Readiris Pro 12 software, the 2 GB memory card (installed), and more. Here are the rules for the giveaway:

  • Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
  • To enter, fill out the form below completely and click or tap the Submit button.
  • The entry must be made before August 10, 2012 11:59PM Eastern Daylight Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • One winner will be selected and will receive an IRIScan Book 2 scanner and software valued at $129.00.
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.