Digitizing Notebooks

Keeping a small notebook with you all the time has many advantages. You can take notes, make lists, write out ideas and jot down quotes. I use the pocket size (3.5×5.5 inch) Moleskine Art notebook and currently fill it up every two to three months. I could use a larger notebook or one with more pages, but I like the look of having several notebooks. Plus, a smaller notebook is less of a loss in the event I misplaced it along the way. Fortunately, I have only lost one notebook from the eleven I have used.

Even though I have these notebooks displayed near by desk at home and even though I carefully cover them with book jackets, I also digitize the content for quick reference when I am not near the physical books. For the first notebooks, I scanned selected pages and saved them as PDFs. However, I occasionally found myself wanting to check something that I ended up not scanning. So, I decided to take a photo of every page.

At first I simply held the camera with one hand and held the pages flat with the other. But then I started following the British Library rare manuscripts blog and decided to improve my digitizing process. The British Library and other libraries expended considerable effort to take photos in perfect conditions. These high-resolution images are full of details. Below is a page from the St. Cuthbert Gospel.

With a desire to spend less time digitizing my notebooks, I decided to adopt a simplified form of official digitization used by university and national libraries.

These are my steps to digitize my notebooks.

1. Setup a table near a window (for natural light) and cover with a black cloth (I use a black pillowcase) on the table.

2. Adjust the camera stand and setup the camera.

3. Take a photo of each two-page spread.

4. Check the orientation and adjust as needed.

5. Check automatic sync to Google Photos.

6. Create an album in Google Photos.

Having the digitized version of my notebooks is convenient because I can look something up from anywhere – as long as I can connect to Google Photos.

If you create content in notebooks – whether travel journaling, miscellaneous notes (like me) or art, I encourage you to create digital copies for future reference.

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