About a month ago, I got a little device that scans printed text into my computer line-by-line. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. The truth is that I got it about a year and a half ago, but when it arrived, I discovered that—despite having seen online that it worked with Macs—it didn’t have a Mac-compatible driver. When I called tech support, they kindly explained to me that there were two different C-Pen 20 products, one branded by Ectaco and another that was not. The non-Ectaco pen was Mac compatible, while this one was not. They did, however, assure me that they were working on a Mac driver so if I held onto it, sometime in late 2009 or in 2010 it would be usable on my Macbook Pro. So I stuck it in a drawer and periodically checked for the driver. Finally, last month, when I checked (as I was starting to pack the scanner to resell), the beta for a driver that would work with my system had been posted!
Excitedly (but ready to be disappointed by poor scan or OCR quality), I got the pen scanner ready, connected it to my computer, and tried it out. All I can say is that this thing is well worth the cost of around $100 for anyone like myself who is in a strongly text-based field. The pen (and the OCR software underlying it) works far better than I had expected. I can scan at about the rate I would highlight, and the text gets scanned right into any text editor or word processor with around 95% accuracy (the mistakes are easily found). It has an easier time with some fonts (and hardbacks, which lend to a flatter scanning surface) than others and does not alter typeface (ignoring bold or italics) but it is outstanding for building a searchable quote library for whatever one is reading. Here are a few examples, scanned directly into WordPress without correction:
First, from Brant Pitre’s Jesus, The Tribulation, and the End of Exile:
Second – and this is crucial – when Wright speaks of the end of “exile,” he is redefining the meaning of “exile” so that it no longer refers to the geographical expulsion and captivity of the Jews. Rather, it refers to the fact that (1) the Jews living in the land were still “in thrall to foreigners” (i.e., Rome) and (2) “Israel’s god had not returned to Zion.” Here Wright openly admits that he is forced to abandon “the normal literal reference” of the word “exile.”124 The reason he chooses to make this curious adaptation is, of course, because he knows full well that the geographical exile of the Jews had in fact ended in 539 B.C., when they began to return from Babylon under the edict of King Cyrus. Hence, ifa his reinterpretation, the “end of exile” no longer refers to the return of the Jews to the land but simply to political deliverance from foreign domination and the spiritual return of YHWH to Zion and the Temple. For Wright, “exile, as He himself admits, “refers to a period of history with certain characteristics, not to a geographical situation.”125
Next, from David Flusser’s Judaism in the Second Temple Period, Vol 1:
But while the discovery of the scrolls has provided answers for most of the questions raised by Josephus’s description of the Essenes, one major issue remains unanswered: is the division of Second Temple Jewish society into three schools a schematic construct invented by Josephus, or a more or less accurate reflection of the historical reality of the day? The publication of the Dead Sea Scroll known as Pesher Nahum indicates that it was not just Josephus who divided Jewish society into three schools — the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes — but the Essenes themselves adhered to this view.
Next, from Jimmy Dunn’s New Perspective on Paul (rev. ed.):
The hermeneutical corollary which follows from this is the danger of an atom istic exegesis.38 In this case Rom. 5.20 taken on its own, or only in the immediate context of 5.12-21, can easily lead to the conclusion that Paul’s attitude to the law was thoroughly hostile, as hostile as his attitude to sin and death. But in a letter as well crafted as Romans it is important to take particular texts in the context of the developing argument and rhetoric of the letter as a whole. And elsewhere it is very obvious that part of Paul’s technique was to state a radical criticism early on, not as his finished conclusion, but as an issue to be dealt with later (particularly 3.1-8). So with 5.20: since it poses an issue which is dealt with only in 7.7-8.4, it cannot be adequately understood except by reference to 7.7-8.4. [This one required a little correction in that it picked up a little of my marginal comment, which I have deleted.]
Next, from Douglas Campbell’s Deliverance of God:
It is also worth noting that it is widely if not universally cone haves in essentially this fashion — quoting the positions of others, often unai nounced — in the rest of his letters. To trace this phenomenon in derail i wc take us too far astray, but the point can be established by noting quickjy cei uncontested instances in 1 Corinthians. These recitations of, and allusions to tne positions of other people are quite abbreviated in 1 Co orimthians but, liJ Galatians, such differences are explicable in terms of the different c that letter. [The scanner has had the most trouble with the font of this book of all the others I’ve tested it upon.]
Finally, from the (heavily italicized) preface of Albert Schweitzer’s Paul and His Interpreters:
The great and still undischarged task which confronts those engaged in the historical study of primitive Christianity is to explain how the teaching of Jesus developed into the early Greek theology, in the form in which it appears in the works of Ignatius, Justin, Tertullian and Irenaeus. How could the doctrinal system of Paul arise on the basis of the life and work of Jesus and the beliefs of the primitive community; and how did the early Greek theology arise out of Paulinism ?
Each of these quotes was scanned with about the same speed I would use if I were using an actual highlighter. The following video is of me scanning the Schweitzer quote:
Remarkable. This little device is changing how I record my research; I have actually devised a system of commenting on the book (or copying an earlier marginal quote) in a different typeface within the document in which I import the scanned text, allowing me instant access to critiques of specific passages or points that might otherwise stay trapped in a book on my shelf. I’d highly recommend this little device for anyone wanting quick access to quotes or wanting to take his/her library research with him/her on his/her computer.
The next step is to get something like this to plug into an iPhone or iPad—that would be a killer product.
[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Whitenton, Jason Staples. Jason Staples said: [blog] just posted my review of the Ectaco C-Pen 20 Handheld Pen Scanner http://bit.ly/cEPNqP […]
i cant comprehend why you would ever do such a thing. this is why you have no extra time. WOW. you could be a millionaire by now if you stopped writing oodles of pages on scanner pens and applied your brilliant mind to stock analysis. youve blown your future. but theres still time to redeem yourself. hehehehheheeheheheheeheheheh just jokes but seriously
Looks like a great product, and one that I will have to add to my arsenal in the near future! Do you know if there are any pen-scanners out there without USB tethering that work equally well? How does the C-Pen fare with greek?
“Do you know if there are any pen-scanners out there without USB tethering that work equally well?”
My thoughts exactly. I only want a handheld scanner to keep track of all my books/CD/DVD’s/. I need something that I can take all ’round the house, scan a shelf or two of books, then connect it to my PC and enter all the information into a Works database, but all the handheld scanners that are portable and have memory all seem to be either out of my modest price range, or too many of the reviewers report problems.
Jay, the best thing for you may be to use a smartphone. There are lots of apps out there for Android or iOS that allow that to be done using a smartphone’s camera.
Have you used the captured data to be saved into a database yet? I am trying to find one that works well with SQLite so I can populate data from reference books into the database to be worked over by Python scipy, numpy, etc. Thanks.
I haven’t tried that, but it would probably work.