Scanners and PDFs

A scanner is a machine that copies the image of a printed text (or even other objects) and allows it to be viewed on an electronic device, in which it could then be edited, shared, or just saved (giving a reader the ability to store multiple files in one space). This scanned image is usually saved in the format of a PDF or Portable Document Format. Without a scanner, it would be less convenient to read a text on an electronic source.

Hayles makes the argument that reading a physical text is a completely different experience than reading another form of the text. This can be seen in the difference between reading a physical book and a PDF of the book on a screen. PDFs can be read on a laptop, tablet, or other electronic device. This is convenient for many people. However, it could also cause someone to receive the message of the text in a completely different way. With technology today, the same devices that someone could read a PDF on could also be connected to the internet. This means the reader is readily available to distractions throughout their entire reading experience. With the touch of a button they could automatically switch over to a conversation on social media, or randomly remember that they needed to check their e-mail. All of these distractions ruin the experience that the author meant for the reader to have, since instead of completely focusing on and thinking about the book, the reader has many other things on their mind.

Due to editing programs being easily available, there is the potential for a PDF to be meddled with. In a book, a word could be crossed out or added to but the reader will see that there has been a change in the text. The PDF however might be misleading if it is gotten from a source that edited the text to say something that the author did not intend to be in it (and the reader might not even realize there was a change).

A book offers the potential for a person to have a more personal connection with the text than a PDF does. A book might be passed down from a grandparent who took notes in the book. This not only offers personalization from grandma’s handwriting (you cannot get this personalization if grandma types up her notes next to the PDF) but also the idea that the book was in the hands of a loved one more often than not makes the reading experience more enjoyable. With some paper that texts are printed on, the book can virtually last forever. However, many electronic devices need to back up information or might just stop working, both of which could potentially lose the PDF. Also, in the future there might be a new system of technology, making the PDF irrelevant and making anything saved in that format impossible to open or use anymore. When looking at it this way, the book is more stable.

A book and the PDF of a book share the same font and images, which helps keep a similar experience between reading a book and reading the PDF. However, there are more roadblocks in keeping the experience stable when reading a PDF. A scanner might fail to fully scan some images or words. Also, the reader doesn’t get the experience of little things, like the texture of a page or the action of flipping the page, all of which make a book more personalized. Even though the words may be the same, reading a book provides a different experience than reading a PDF electronically.

  1. Hayles, Katherine. (2002). Writing Machines. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
  2. Mercer, Billy. (2009). A Physical Book vs A PDF Book – SoFoBoMo. Retrieved from 
  3. Rouse, Margaret. (2010). Scanner. Retrieved from
  4. Rouse, Margaret. (2010). Portable Document Format (PDF). Retrieved from

4 thoughts on “Scanners and PDFs”

  1. How would it be less convenient to read a text on an electronic source? I actually don’t like scanned in pages of a book because the picture is never great and it’s disoriented most of the time. It is definitely easier to be distracted on an electronic copy though, I read something and think oh ya this relates to that and start searching for something else and there goes 20 minutes. I do believe that PDF’s have had a huge change on the book mark though, just for school textbooks e-books are sometimes 5 times cheaper than the print text. However for some reason I do prefer the print text to electronic for some classes because it’s been programed as my medium of choice growing up.


  2. I think that like you pointed out, each medium has pros and cons. PDFs and similar files are obviously more easily replicated and shared, however there is always the opportunity for electronics to fail. With a book, what you see is what you get. I think people like that while it might not be as convenient as a PDF, a book is physical.


  3. Your post goes really well with my post about printers and what I wrote about the importance of having something in physical form. I completely agree that having something in a physical format leads to greater stability and emotional experiences!


  4. This post goes along with the class discussion we had about we tend to associate certain emotions to a particular thing . In this a book to a PDF. Most people can agree if you want to enjoy a book you do not go for a PDF copy, but a book to savor every feeling with it. The texture, the smell, turning a page, etc.. However a PDF has its benefits as well. Personally I would prefer a PDF for a short reading such as “The Medium is the Massage” than the book. Great post


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