Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lab Notebook Digitization

I've got a few posts planned about our Lab Notebook Digitization project.  We recently had to change our lab notebook archiving process.  We had been using a vendor (Carmel Business Systems - CBS) in San Diego, but when we closed our site there, it didn't make much sense to ship them across the country to be digitized and then have to ship them back.  It is too bad as CBS had done a great job.  They worked with us about about 6 years ago to build a digitization process using digital cameras which was much faster and cheaper than the old system of microfilm with scanners filling in for color lab notebook pages.

When reviewing the options, we looked at the state of the state for outsourcing digitization which six years later is much more mature.  Since we are digitizing our archived notebooks (ones archived with the older process), we were also looking for a less expensive option for several thousand lab notebooks.  We were a bit surprised at the cost of outsourcing digitization in our local market.  So surprised in fact (and due to the rather budget-breaking costs), that we looked into more of a DIY approach.

I was very happy to see how far the DIY digitization marketplace has come.  There are now at least two very good digitization vendors in the marketplace with included software for digitizing books (thank you Google Books and Microsoft and Internet Archive and the EU for creating this market).  I looked at several vendors, but the best ones for my needs were Kirtas and Atiz.  As much as I love the concept of an army of digitization robots stoking my dreams of megalomaniacal world domination, I realized the Kirtas digitization robot would not be suitable for lab notebooks which have foldouts, pockets for photographs and all sorts of other creative ways of communicating intellectual property that are impossible for the Kirtas robot to deal with.  Kirtas does have manual stations, but I wasn't as impressed with those compared to the BookDrive series from Atiz.  The LED lights, V cradle and the V glass for holding the books down were features I really liked along with the price.  Price was definitely a selling feature.

Based on the cost of a fully loaded BookdrivePro with excellent 22 megapixel cameras and the staff required to run it, we estimated our digitization costs per notebook to be about 3-4X cheaper than the best estimate we could get from an external digitization vendor.  We expect to increase that ratio to about 5-6X  after Atiz improves their software based on some suggestions a colleague of mine (James McIninch) made.

Google's Birthday Wishes

I was quite pleased today to see Google's Birthday wishes to me.  It's impressive how pervasive personalization can be and how nice it is (though still a bit creepy - I've taken to turning off the monitor now when I'm talking about something sensitive --  just kidding :)