From atoms to bits: Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500

11 06 2010

A few years ago, I moved from Davisville and Yonge to my current place, and was shocked by the amount of stuff I had accumulated in the 6 years living there. This is a pic from that day, and it only shows a small fraction of our moving bins:

Lots of atoms

Prior to that, my diggings consisted of a very small bachelor unit. Back then I had to often choose between useless things or having some walking space at home. Most of the time, walking space won 😛

My current place is considerably bigger than the previous one, so the accumulation process continued, and – with a pre-schooler around – it just went into overdrive mode. I started dreading the day when I would have to move again.

About a month ago, when a new batch of comic books arrived via mail, it became crystal clear that something had to change. I am basically paying rent for keeping atoms around. Lots of atoms. The next day, I went to TigerDirect and bought the last Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 unit they had. It was very expensive for a scanner – about CAD$ 500, the Adobe Acrobat license accounting for most of it – but it was worth every cent paid. This is the beauty:

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500

The product page at the Fujitsu website summarizes the S1500 features as follows:

Simply put the pages into the automatic feeder and ScanSnap will:

  • Scan both sides of the page
  • Detect the size of the page
  • Detect colour, grayscale or black & white
  • Detect blank pages
  • Detect page orientation
  • Straighten skewed images
  • Create a PDF or JPEG file

All at the speed of 40 images per minute (20 double sided pages).

My first ScanSnap “project” was to digitize all the school material from my MBA days. I did it while watching the NBA playoffs – it actually helped going through those endless time-outs and commercial breaks. The result ended up being better than the original documents, as the content is now searchable (after running Acrobat’s OCR), and I created a Table of Content to facilitate browsing through the materials.

So, in a few scanning sessions, 3 shelves full of binders and books:

Were transformed into a Stanza folder in my iPad, totaling about 1 GB of storage:

In other words, 27 sets of MBA course materials can now easily fit a data DVD or small USB memory key! By my calculations, a 2 TB external drive can store all my VCR tapes, music, photos, books and comics. Maybe it’s time to start looking for a smaller place to live, after all.

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10 responses

3 09 2010

Hi. I just found your site. Like you, I’m an avid comic book fan sick of dealing with the physical copies. I want to scan my own comics for my own use (I would never download pirated comics) and am trying to find the right scanner for that. I’ve tried a flat bed scanner, but it is far too time consuming! Have you tried the ScanSnap for that yet? If so, how has it worked?



30 12 2010

First of all, please accept my apologies for replying late to these comments. For some reason, I have missed the notification of when they came, and just noticed that this morning, as a new comment arrived.

I did not try with comics, but I did try with my guitar books, which are approximately the same size and have a similar paper type. The main challenge with comics (especially old ones) is that the paper is a bit too thin, and can easily get jammed in the scanner.

The ScanSnap comes with a carrier sheet (see: that works well for scanning those. Having said that, you may be a bit disappointed with the results as some pages won’t be squaredly (is that a word?) aligned.

If good enough is good for you, go for it. If you need a more accurate replica of your paper copy, you may need to go for professional services or buy those directly from the publishers.

21 09 2010

Great article! The scansnap is by far the best scanner you can buy. I especially love how you can combine it with evernote. With evernote you can scan directly to your account on and then access it from your PC, the web and your mobile phone! I’ve got a video of how it works over at my review site. Enjoy!

30 12 2010

Thanks for the tip. I’m not currently using Evernote, but should definitely give it a try. EN is sitting on my iPad collecting dust.

30 12 2010


I came across your site looking for reviews of this scanner. I was just wondering if you ever got around to scanning your comics and whether this scanner did a good job of it. I’m looking at getting one to digitise all the magazines and comics I have, but a lot of the reviews are more business oriented. I’d be interested in hearing how well this would work for that. Thanks.

30 12 2010

Please see my answer to Glen above. I’d say that the main benefit from the ScanSnap is the ability to scan lots of pages quickly. With comic books, you’ll have to do it page by page using the carrier sheets (unless the paper is thick as laser printer stationary – some deluxe graphic novels are like that but regular issues are typically printed on a much thinner paper).

30 12 2010

I did end up getting the ScanSnap. It is great! I have used it to scan a variety of items. I have scanned a bunch of comics and trades, and found it works pretty well for that. Magazine articles are too thin and slick I think, but I haven’t tried the carrier sheet yet. I have only occasionally had a misfeed due to the thinness of the paper on the comics, and it was usually because there was some glue or ink holding pages together that I had missed. I think comics from before they started making them so slick would work even better, but like I said, so far so good. I’m scanning and throwing in the recycler tons of stuff that was cluttering up my house.

I have to emphasize again that these are my scans for my personal use, not distribution. No one should download comics without paying for them. But as a digital solution to a cluttered house, this is a great scanner.

My wife got me an iPad for Christmas, and the scanned comics look great on that. I also use the various digital apps the comic publishers have (which look much better on the iPad than they did on my phone) but most of the stuff I want to scan and read is not yet available on the apps.

9 01 2011

Glen, I tried to scan some comic-book-like material today, but spent too much time splitting each scanned physical page in two actual book pages, and then re-ordering the whole thing manually. I was wondering if you figured out any better way to do that.

18 01 2011

Hi Aaron,

Sorry for the delay.

Depends on whether you are scanning comics or trades. For comics, at least ones that aren’t too thick (i.e., regular issues, not anniversary issues) I bought a $14 paper slicer at an office supply store. I pull out the staples, open the comic to the middle and lay it face down (so both the front and back covers are facing up, and both pages of the middle are facing down) so that the spine runs along the cutting edge of the slicer and then just slice it and put the two halves back together. Takes a few seconds at most. Then I drop the whole thing face down into the scanner and let it go. Very fast.

For thicker books, I’ll divy the book into an outer (the first and last pages) and inner (the middle pages) section, and lay each flat again on the slicer and run the slicer through each and stick them back together. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, as long as I don’t get mixed up on which is inner and outer when I’m putting it back together.

Trades are harder because most of them are glued together. Mostly I use an exacto knife and peel the pages one at a time, occasionally stopping to cut back the glue. I think use the paper slicer to trim the edges to look more neat. I’ve heard places like Kinko’s may cut the bindings off of books, so I may look into that and see how much it costs. It would be easier than my method, that’s for sure.

But for the regular comics, the paper slicer is a very fast and cost effective solution.

Hope this helps.


20 01 2011
Aaron Kim

Got it, Glen, thanks! I’ll give the slicer a try.

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