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Page Preservation

DW staff (als)October 20, 2007

The Bavarian State Library now has its own book drone: a robot that is to scan around 37,000 antique works in the next two years.

The pages of a book
The scanning robot is gentle on the priceless pages

While the Internet may have changed the way we both read and search for information, some data is still only to be found in traditional book and libraries.

Munich's Bavarian State Library -- one of the largest in the German-speaking world -- wants to make more books digitally available.

The library has now employed a robot to scan more than 7.5 million pages by the year 2009. The collection of 37,000 works will then be made available to any online reader.

All of the books to be scanned are works from the 16th century -- from 1518 to 1600.

Protection from damage

A book placed in a stand and the scanner in action
The scanner sucks two pages towards itself, then captures the words and images digitallyImage: picture-alliance / dpa

While more contemporary-minded readers may find the works a bit bland, the scanning is essential to preserve the fragile, unique works from damage through reader handling.

The Bavarian library has already enabled users to "borrow" thousands of different books by accessing them online.

The library is also collaborating with the US search engine Google to digitalize more contemporary books from its collection.

Up to 1,500 pages per hour

For the current scanning project, an Austrian firm developed the "ScanRobot," which uses gentle suction and air flows to turn and then scan the pages. The robot can scan up to 1,500 pages an hour. Similar robots are used in the United States.

The project is being sponsored by the German Research Foundation.