I've gotten a few questions from people in the past about how to digitize textbooks and other materials, and how to make these useful, so I thought I would post a thread about it here. The iPad is a wonderful device for a paperless life. Some of you are headed to school soon and might find this timely advice. It's long, but perhaps helpful (stop carrying around textbooks). If you have any methods, please suggest them! WHAT HARDWARE DO YOU NEED? ============================ 1. a computer 2. a scanning device 3. a tablet reader COMPUTER I have a Macbook Pro 2011 13" with 8GB RAM, but any computer will do. Processing scans requires quite a bit of power, and the more powerful your computer is the better. Ideally, at this point you will settle on one operating system, because the software can start to get expensive if you are buying for two. Obviously, everyone has their own personal preference, but I found the 13" to be the most affordable computer for what I wanted to do: dual core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM costs less than the Macbook Air while providing more power, more RAM, and more HDD memory. There are tradeoffs, of course (resolution, no SSD, etc.), but I value power over portability. The Macbook Pro 15" is considerably more expensive, and supplies far more power than I really need.* SCANNING DEVICE I use three methods. The most inexpensive is a high quality point and shoot camera (I use the Canon SD 1400 IS) + *a tripod. This is also the fastest method to scan materials, but OCR sometimes isn't quite as accurate as it is with regular scanners. Basically, with this method you convert the camera into a scanner by propping up the tripod and pointing the camera at a book. For best results, you'll want lots of even lighting. I prefer a sunlight room, but you could purchase special lamps if you'd like, or if you google online, you can find all sorts of diy enthusiasts who have built fabulous contraptions that work the same way as professional digitizing equipment. Here is a link to a setup I use with just a coathanger, tripod, and camera. http://www.subchaser.org/photographing-documents You could also purchase a scanner. The ScanSnap by Fujitsu is quite strudy, portable, and easy to use. It will apparently even scan, do OCR, and send your notes to Evernote for you. The only drawback to this is that it obviously will not scan books unless you tear off the spines, and large documents (B4) will not fit, so you have to cut those in half. Also, the PDF software version will do basic stuff, but ONLY with the documents scanned by ScanSnap, so it is not a fully functioning program like Adobe Acrobat Pro. You could also use an office quality scanner/copy machine. Most of these have a large variety of settings so that you can create great images of books (lay flat, black and white, 600 dpi, low/no compression) or you can feed paper through the top feeder just as you would with the ScanSnap (except faster). You might be able to gain access to one of these at your workplace, school, or copy center, but I think they are too expensive for regular folks to buy. TABLET READER Reading on the computer is not much fun. Of course, you can, and I do, but only for short durations. I don't know of anyone who regularly reads entire books or articles on it. So, as nice as the Macbook Air or Macbook Pro is, I think to take full advantage of your digital life, you'll need some way to read it. I recommend the iPad. Occasionally, files sometimes cause trouble, because they contain incompatible elements (or perhaps require too much RAM), so if you have Adobe Acrobat Pro, you just optimize the files for an earlier version of Adobe and they work fine. WHAT SOFTWARE DO YOU NEED? ============================ 1. Adobe Acrobat Pro (maybe) 2. A PDF reader (for iPad) ADOBE ACROBAT PRO When you scan materials, you end up with files of some sort that need to be combined, OCR'd (optical character recognition), and occasionally optimized for use with the iPad. I have found Adobe Acrobat Pro to be perfect for the task. It is expensive in the wild, but if you can find one with a student discount, then it is reasonable (under 100). You could conceivably get away with avoiding this purchase if you get the ScanSnap scanner. PDF READER I prefer GoodReader. HOW DOES THIS WORK IN PRACTICE? ========================== 1. take notes by hand with paper and pen (i remember better this way) 2. read on iPad (everything is digitized) 3. write papers on iPad (first drafts and revisions--final drafts usually need to be completed on the computer) Most days I don't carry a backpack. I carry a manly bag (otherwise known as a murse--the Waterfield Vertigo) that holds my iPad, my bluetooth keyboard in its Incase Origami sleeve, my BookGem book stand, and my iPod Touch. And, because everything is digitized in my life, I have my entire personal library and all of my papers accessible anywhere I go. This hardware can work together in several ways, but one I particularly like is to put the iPad on the BookGem stand, the iPod on the Origami stand, and pair the keyboard up with the iPod so that I can take notes/write while reading or looking up information using the iPad. I have often thought about getting an 11" Macbook Air, because that would easily fit in the bag, but to be honest, it is totally unnecessary for me right now. I prefer the iPad because of it's flexibility--consumption (reading) or creation (writing) depending on where I am and what I want to do that day. My goal is to carry as little as possible, while getting as many things done as possible, and at this system seems to be working really well at the moment.