How Much Do Your Dictionaries Weigh??? — Make Them Digital!

I’ve been on the road for about 6 months now, and there is one thing I can assure you: the longer you travel, the more you notice how much weight your carrying around. When I set out, I was carrying an immense amount of weight. I don’t even recall how much it was, but I know it was a hassle at the airport. That was a red flag, but I managed to get to South America. I new, however, that something would have to change. And in deed, along the way I’ve jettisoned quite a few articles of clothing, and I’ve also sent a couple dictionaries back to the U.S., dictionaries I wasn’t using nearly as much as I had anticipated. However, I still kept one dictionary that has proven useful.

But as is normal, I’ve managed to slowly increase my weight as my travels have continued. I’ve picked up items here and there, and now I’m taking inventory, discarding unnecessary items and, in general, trying to lighten my load again.

This time I’m going to send back my last hard copy dictionary. Yes, the useful one! But FIRST, I’m going to digitize it. Yep. That’s right. In theory, it’s a simple idea. I’ve got my smart phone, and it has a camera. I’m going to take photos of every page and then upload them onto my computer. From there, I’ll turn the jpegs into pdfs and then put them all together in one document. It’s going to be slightly labor intensive, but the benefit will be that I won’t have a 1-2 pound book in my suitcase.

All that weight adds up! You know?

Now it’s time to put the plan in action. So what does this actually entail?

First grab the dictionary and a camera, or a smartphone with a camera. Make sure you’re in a place with decent lighting. Start taking photos! Do your best to get the whole page, and make sure everything is in focus. If you accidentally get other objects (such as the table surface) in the photo, don’t worry; you can crop it out later. That’s what I did. I also adjusted the lighting a bit too. Don’t be surprised if you have to rotate some of your photos either. If you look at the following screen shots, you can see that in iPhoto, you can easily rotate, enhance and crop. Enhance is the function that brightens up the picture. Picture 1 shows the unrotated image. Picture 2 shows that it’s been rotated.

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Now if you look below, I’ve also cropped the image. It looks much nicer now, right?

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Once this step is finish for all the pages, the next step is to change them from image file format (jpg) to Abobe pdf format.

Now if you’ve followed me this far, you’ll know that it took some time to take the photos (I think it took me 60-90 min. total), and it also took time making all the images look better (I think I spent 60-120 min.). The good news is, at least if you use Mac, you don’t have to convert all the files individually. After my images files were to my liking, I exported them to a separate folder on my desktop. Make sure you export them into a new folder on your desktop and not onto the actual desktop, or it’s gonna be a mess. Once exported, you open up the first image file – in this case it would be the first page of the dictionary – by using the Preview function. Then you need to go to View and make sure that the Thumbnails are visible on the sidebar. This is where you add all the other image files (dictionary pages). You just drag and drop them. Then, as you might already suspect, you go to the Print command and save as pdf. And now the great part: it doesn’t save the images as separate pdfs. It saves them as one whole document. Have a look at the photos below.

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And that’s pretty much it. If you’re a translator who likes to work on the go without carrying around tons of dictionaries, or if you’re like me, and you want to work remotely from anywhere in the world for an extended period of time, this can certainly help. When you’re mobile, that weight adds up.