Scanning books to read on iPad Pro

I have a bunch of textbooks to read for class and I would much prefer to read them on the iPad. It just works better for me for some reason and I can do highlighting and note-taking as well.

But these textbooks do not come in an e-book format so I have to scan them myself. I have a copier/scanner at work and I’m contemplating spending an evening just copying and then scanning all the books I have to read. Then I just need to perform OCR and import them to Apple Books or Kindle.

Does anyone have any experience or advice for scanning physical books and reading them on the iPad?

You may find the time needed to scan is better spent by sending the books to a scanning service.

You may find the time needed to do OCR is better spent by testing and paying for a good quality PDF reader + markup app on the iPad.


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I’m based in Copenhagen, Denmark. I’m not sure if we have any companies that scan books for a living. Do you have any experience with having such a service carried out?

I use PDFEXPERT by Readdle which I really like, but I use it most for marking up pdfs and doing other work to it and not reading. I much prefer to read in the Apple Books or Kindle apps for iPad, but to be honest I haven’t given PDFEXPERT a chance when it comes to reading. Is it much better in your opinion?

If you have (or have access) to a band saw, and don’t mind molesting the book, saw the spine off and feed the sheets into a sheet feeder of a document scanner in as large or logical (e.g., separated by chapter/section etc.) a section as you can.


You can hack your own scanner setup with a tethered DSLR, even lighting, a platen, a cradle for the book, custom scanning software freely downloadable with a Linux distro (or a Raspberry Pi), and time.

Or you can pay $14 or so per book.


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I’ll probably do the last part. I don’t mind cashing out on it.

But I just got an email from a danish company saying that it’s illegal for them to help me do it unless the book is in public domain.

I have an overhead book scanner which works very well (Snapscan SV-55) which is pretty much the fanciest solution you can get as a consumer. Well, I can tell you that the time spent scanning, correcting perspective and OCR’ing is really not worth it. I’ve pretty much given up on the whole idea of scanning books like that, even though that would help me a TON (I’m a writer and spend a lot of time on the road). I currently don’t see a workflow that would really work for this, unfortunately.


Copyright allows you to have a copy in any format for your personal use. The general or publisher-specific nuances may not allow you to have a version in hard copy and one in e-format without paying for both. Copying stores may also have to be certified to follow regulations to copy books (promising to destroy the copy immediately on penalty of some kind for example). You Danes are probably more atune to all of this than our copy shops in strip malls here are.

Reading is a personal preference, and I understand why Kindle or Books can be preferred. In any case, I thought that either of these two also accept PDFs.


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“Copyright,” you say.
In every country in the world? :face_with_monocle:

If you’re talking about the USA you’re definitely incorrect. Look up limitations due to Title 17. Or do a quick Google search…

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I won’t claim to be legal to the letter of the law in all seven continents. I will claim to appreciate the spirit and intent of the law in the US. The nuances you mention are what I meant in my disclaimer.


Fact is, you can’t legally copy an entire copywritten book in the US. Period. ‘Spirit’ or not. Never could. It isn’t a nuance.

My answer to the OP was how to do it, not whether it was legal.

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Yes. I read only the first reference. My short attention span got in my way.

I stand enlightened. Nuance it is absolutely not.

Thank you.


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Same in Denmark. Its not legal to create a pdf out of a purchase book or any book even for personal use due to copyright, I’ve discovered. I can copy parts of a book but not in its entirety.

On another but still related matter: does anyone know how to make an e-book out of a pdf?

That huge effort for a textbook?

I’d either:

  • buy the electronic version
  • cut off the back (I have a proper paper cutter at work) and run it through a document scanner. I have a Canon whatever at work and an iX500 at home. Did this to every textbook or similar stuff I only need for reference.

Calibre can do that. It is not the prettiest app but has great functionality. It is multi-platform and free. I used it to manage all of my ebooks and Kindle. It will do conversion with PDFs, mobi, epub, etc. formats.

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But not on the iPad. :wink: Calibre is the ugliest looking interface hiding the most powerful tool for eBooks.

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Yeah I’m still trying to do go away from the Mac, so Calibre would probably not do it for me I’m afraid sadly

I just found this app on the App Store:

Book Scanner Pro fra ABBYY:

Link to app:

It allows me to scan a book to either pdf or EPUB, which is I wanted. But its $74,99…

Does anyone have experience with it? I guess I could try it out and if it doesn’t do the job or its too slow of a process, then I could request a refund through Apple right?

Oops, I missed that. Yes, no iPad version.

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Not a lawyer here, and not attempting any offer of legal advice. Location: USA.

I have taken older textbooks that I wanted to keep but did not want to dedicate the shelf space to, generally books printed well before the era of e-books, and had the binding cut off and then scanned the pages to a pdf. I generally go to a Kinkos/Fedex where they cut the binding for typically <$2.

I was told, although I cannot recall where / by whom, that places like Kinkos will only cut the binding if you “certify” that you do not intend to sell or reuse the paper once scanned, under the principle that the book purchase authorizes you to have only one copy and you cannot resell the book IF you are keeping a copy for yourself (which is in contrast to the legality of selling a book you purchased to someone else if you have NOT made a copy first).

I do not have any idea if this is actually true or not, and I have never been asked at Kinkos to make any sort of certification. Since my whole point is to keep an electronic copy and not keep the paper, I just tossed the paper.

My limited understanding of the copyright issue in the US leaves me confused, since I have also seen debates about whether it is legal to rip a CD or DVD that you have purchased so that you can listen to the music or watch the movie on your computer or MP3 player or whatever, with some arguing that you are making an illegal copy and others arguing that if you make that copy for your own personal use, copyright does not restrict HOW you listen to the music that you have purchased. Again, not being a lawyer, I cannot comment intelligently on what the courts might find should a case be brought.

Bottom line is that you can likely find a service that will cut the bindings off for you, at which point you can scan the book to PDF with the document scanner of your choice. Obviously something with an automatic document feeder and reasonably fast scan speed is needed; setting up a rig with a camera (or the Fujitsu book scanner product) seem to me to be way more time and effort than it is worth for a book for a text of any size. You can also, as suggested, use a band saw to cut off the binding if you have access to one and the proper skills. Whether this is legal in your jurisdiction is not is for others to say.

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