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The IOBA Standard is the journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association and covers the book world, with a special focus on the online used, out-of-print, and collectible bookselling markets.


Frustrating Image Processing Roundtable


Compiled and Edited by Jean McKenna

In the past I have used a scanner (inexpensive $100.00 scanner) to upload Pictures to eBay, and a web site. I found it slow and cumbersome, but adequate for what I was doing. I then purchased a Sony Mavica digital camera, and I love it. Pictures are taken easily and uploaded from floppy disk to Micrografx Picture Publisher. I size and save them, and can then upload to eBay, a web site, send to a customer, etc. It is very quick and easy to use for a computer-challenged person like myself.

Here is some very good information/discussion regarding imaging processing as offered by other, more knowledgeable booksellers, which first appeared on that great bookseller newsgroup – Bibliophile.


Madlyn, of Center Aisle Books, started off the discussion:

Bibs: For any or all of you who are considering adding images to your listings please note that it isn’t as easy as others make it sound! Here is a brief recap of the process:

1. Spend about a year researching the digital camera. Every time you get close to making a decision a new feature will become important enough to make you question your decision.

2. Comparing prices of models will slow down the decision making process.

3. Point and shoot and decide which drug store to drop off the film for developing is no longer the process. Now you have to become your own expert in these areas: Get the photos into the computer, find the file names, get them into your photo editing program, do some basic resizing/rotation.

4. Next, try to figure out what the file names SHOULD be to put into your data base program. Example Dsc001.jpg is NOT the name of the book or the file in any db. You have to know the book #. But how?

5. Now that you have spent days figuring out the file names of the first 50 books you took pictures of (before you knew you had to write down the names/#s of the books in order that you shot them), you have to go back and rename each of the images. Of course some don’t match because that would be way too easy. Goddess save you if you have images of 5 different editions of Little Black Sambo without db #s or the list is out of order (cause for divorces).

6. Now copy the …images into your db. Then get them to your web page.

7. Now figure out how to get the images online – let’s say ABE. Just try.

8. A few days later when you have the energy to go back to it, see if the images are showing up at ABE yet.

9. Go take some additional pictures and start again. DON’T FORGET – some of the images are in about 3 files now, some aren’t identified, some are ‘in process’ (named, not reformatted or visa versa) and you can’t figure out which images are where unless you flip back and forth between at least 3 programs.

10. Print off a number of pictures on one of those expensive sheets of photo paper to put up on display of “other books available” at the antique mall or book fair. Go ahead, just try to print multiple images on one page. Find the directions for that one in Paint Shop Pro!

Otherwise, I’m really enjoying my new Sony CyberShot . Anyone want to see my photos? I have to get them off the computer or I’ll be out of space.



Forrest Proper of Joslin Hall kindly offered the following information:

The process of taking pictures of books, altering them for web use and posting them to the web seems fairly straightforward. However, as we found out from our own experience, and have heard from others, it can be very frustrating and tedious if you have not worked out a system first. We spent several months doing this when we first began working with our digital camera, and perhaps my experiences can help someone else.

First and most, most, most important- I always catalog the book before taking the picture. At the time of cataloging each book is given a unique, sequential inventory number, 04415, 04416, 04417, 04418, etc. This is written in the book in pencil (along with the cost code, price and whatever else you make note of there).

When I have a pile of 15-50 books I get the camera out and take pictures. I use a five-year old Agfa without many bells and whistles. I have a small flat table-top surface cleared for the purpose, and two large sheets of poster board, one black, one white, to use for backgrounds. I mount the camera on a lightweight Slik camera tripod, and have two 60-watt lamps set up, one to the left and one to the right. I lay the books flat on the poster board.

To make the process even quicker, I sort the books by size beforehand, all the 5×8’s and 6×9’s in one pile, the 8.5×11’s and 9×12’s in another pile, etc, so I will not have to move the camera up and down for each book as I take each picture. I can photograph a dozen books of the same size in under a minute using this system.

After taking the pictures, the pics are downloaded into a temporary file in my photo program named for the day’s date. At this point each photo has some sort of temporary name like July072002-01 or something, but this does not matter too much, as I will rename them within a few minutes.

I carry the pile/s of books, in the same order I photographed them, back to my computer and set them down beside me.

I open the photo program and look quickly at the pics, making sure that the light is correct, no fuzzy pics, etc. I do small corrections such as lightening or darkening, sharpening the image and resizing in my Photo program, but you could also do it in Paint Shop Pro (more on that in a minute).

I resize the images to about 175 pixels high, or 250 pixels wide if it is a horizontal shot. This means that each pic. will be about 4-8k in file size after I convert them to be jpgs. I then crop them the way I want them to look -I usually crop leaving a small band of either black or white (the background posterboard) around the edges of the book, and cut the image out and paste it into Paint Shop Pro.

Once it is pasted into Paint Shop Pro I hit the “Save As” button. I choose to save my pic files as .jpgs because jpegs offer the best compromise between resolution and file size. I then take the book that the photo is of off the pile beside me, look at the item number, and type it in as the name of the picture file I am creating, prefaced by the letters “th”.

So the pic. file is now saved as (for instance) th-04417.jpg.

Why “th”? Well, that’s my early code for “thumbnail”. You could as easily preface them with “pic”, “ph” or even “trog” -whatever you like. The point of doing this is to make all the pics come up on the same place in your directory, instantly identifiable as photos. In the years to come you will be very happy for this small convenience.

When I finish all the pics I upload the files via ftp. to the web. Since the numbers are sequential, I simply do a block upload, which is pretty fast. At this point everything matches -book number written in the book matches the book number on my inventory list, which matches the number of the photo.

If I have more than one photo of a book I simple label the second one th-04417-a.jpg, th-04417-b.jpg, etc.

That’s all there is. Everything matches, everything is sequential. I go and catalog my next batch of books…

In summary, our advice is-

-Always catalog the book before you take the picture, and give each book a unique sequential inventory number.

-Name the picture file using that unique inventory number.

-Take pictures in batches, group books by size, and invest a small amount in such supplies as a few sheets of poster boards for backgrounds and a tripod for your camera.

So far this has worked fairly well.

Knock on… synthetic wood-like desk surface.


————————————————————————— And Susan, of Ravenroost Books comments:


Thank you, and Madyln, for focusing on this tormenting process. And for offering the streamlining tips. Do you stick to a given size, or size range, for each jpeg?

Trying to get motivated to revamp, and eventually ftp, my jpeg files…it has been my favorite “procrastination project”!


—————————————————————————- And Forrest responds with:

We found that a .jpg 175 pixels high works best. This can vary up to 250, or even larger if I have an expensive book I want to use the space for, but of course the larger the image, the longer the download to view it.

A 175 pixel height is large enough to have detail and look good, but small enough to load quickly. For horizontal pics we use about a 250 pixel width.

Of course, what you really need to worry about is the size of the picture file itself, especially if you use multiple images on a page. Our individual picture files are almost all between 4000-8000 bytes (4 to 8 k) each, which loads pretty quickly on most systems, even dial-ups such as we still use.



Jim Havraneck also wrote:

Here’s the ACDsee site focused on the program I use.

I have the Power Pack that does not include the Foto Slate plugin. The Foto Slate plugin gives some decent options for printing multiple images on one sheet but has to be purchased separately or in a package deal if they are offered.

I also have a neat thing from them called pica view that that let’s you right click files and it will show the image or play music files.

They also have a Mac version but I don’t think it has all the same features as the Windows program.

(Jim also adds that a few people suggested saving their images lower than the 640 pixel width he uses. He further states “I do not know how long the images take to load at dial up speed. The nice thing with ACDsee is that I can resize the images again and reduce size further and re-upload, but I’d check to see how much resolution is lost doing that again.)

Jim Havranek


And finally, this from G’Jim (Jim Arner):

I use an older Sony Mavica for my book images, no need to have the latest and greatest for this process. It isn’t necessary to have really glitzy images, just enough so that the customer can recognize whether this is the book that they really want. And, yes, images DO SELL books! I especially found this to be true when I listed on zShops. Many times I would get an order, and comparing, found that my copy was not the highest, nor lowest, priced copy – but it was the ONLY one with an attached image.

The ABE image hosting is a pain in the anatomy, just one of the reasons that I no longer utilize their services. Any listing service should allow you to host your own images and provide the links to those images in your listings.

I use a fairly simple setup for my photos – two lamps at low angles (to prevent glare), some old pillowcases for backgrounds. See:

The resulting photo (after some editing):

I crop fairly close, but I leave some of the background so that the customer can see all the book front cover. I adjust each image so that the long edge is 250 pixels and let the short edge fall where it may.

Images are named for the record number in my database. Thus, book #2334 has an image named 2334.JPG – this is stored on my web site as:

During editing, I also add the ‘watermark’ at a 45-degree angle, to discourage ‘borrowing’ of my images.

I use an older version of PhotoImpact ( but the software that Jim Havranek uses sounds very interesting. Perhaps he will post the web site link for ordering the ACDsee software.

G’Jim Wyoming Mercantile – The Book Ranch Thanks to Forrest, Madlyn, Susan, Jim, and G’Jim for enlightening all of us.

Jean S. McKenna, Chairman, Education Committee.

Editor’s Note: I also “watermark” all my images, as G’Jim does. It was (and may still be) a real problem on online auctions and book databases with unscrupulous sellers using other people’s images to represent their own books—misleading the buyers, of course. I recommend watermarking to everyone (but do put a note about it in your terms–I’ve had more than one prospective buyer ask if I mark my A&A logo on the book, itself). :>)





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