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I enjoy problem solving (Lifehacking). Recently, someone asked me how I would find a torn page (to repair) in a large book. "Large" is the operative word here. It is inconveniently large — 1500 pages.

This one is simple but not easy:
Start at the first page and turn each page until one appears.

There are thirty (30) copies of this book and a good chance that one or more pages in each one is torn. Of the tears I saw, most are less than a couple of cms. along the bottom of the page near the centre.

Question: "How do I find each torn page in each of several large books by the most efficient (easiest and/or fastest) way?"

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  • With some books, you can turn pages quickly by laying them flat, then using gentle directed airflow to blow the stack over... Not a hair dryer, which will desiccate the pages... This isn't a solution but perhaps a piece of one Nov 8 '21 at 11:23
  • Do you mean to find all the torn pages referred to in every book? Riffle through the pages (a block at time, if a book is very thick). Nov 8 '21 at 12:14
  • @LukeSawczak The heat and fan are separate controls on hair dryers. Not a bad idea; but, comments aren't answers that can be voted upon.
    – Stan
    Nov 8 '21 at 13:26
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    @Stan The heat and fan are separate controls on some hair dryers
    – Chris H
    Nov 22 '21 at 13:13
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    @ChrisH: since OP enjoys being "real Lifehacker", he can just disconnect the heating element(s) of any hairdrier, so no problem there ;) A screwdriver is all that is needed. Worst case, some pliers / wire-cutters too.
    – virolino
    Dec 1 '21 at 18:26
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If you want to find only some torn pages, then just open the books randomly until you find... some torn pages.

If you have to do actual real work, and you really have to find all torn pages, then your only chance is to go one-by-one carefully and inspecting them all.

A trick which is actually quite impossible to implement in real life, is to turn always exactly two pages / sheets. Since a tear would be visible from both sides of the sheet, you do not need to see ever tear twice. But actually always turning exactly 2 sheets every time is just a nice dream in the real world. For a computer algorithm, things would be very simple. But electronic books usually do not have torn pages.

Note: You have to remember that restoration work is usually a highly professional, highly skilled work. Speed is usually not a factor - actually, it is a counter factor. The faster the work is done, the lower the quality, and the higher the chance of destruction, rather than restoration.

A possible trick (not lifehack): if you do not want to turn all those 30 x 1'500 = 45'000 pages, then let someone else do it. Rather than doing it faster, do not do it at all.

Another note: if the books are old (you did not mention anything about it) or in any way damaged (water, mold, fire / heat), and the sheets of paper are brittle-ish, then even the technique of turning the pages matters, not only the speed.


Later edit

If you are into DIY-ing too, you can attempt to build a machine to turn the pages for you.

Principle 1: blowing air. Use a compressor, direct the air jet to the edge of the pages. Adjust distance, angle and air flow to get the desired result. Risk: it might turn too may pages at once and you will miss some defects to be repaired. Difficulty level: quite easy.

Principle 2: vacuum. Use a compressor to create vacuum. The pages will be "sucked" by a moving arm, which has a circular oscillating movement around the binding side of the pages. Sucking stops when the page is turned, and starts again when a new page needs to be "grabbed". Risk: you might damage the pages if the machine is not properly adjusted. You can test it with some non-expensive books first. Level of difficulty: quite advanced. Source of inspiration: the Google's book scanner (I saw a video on the net many years ago). It emulates the turning of the pages done by a human. I expect that it can be done almost without electronics (let alone software, micro-controllers...) - just with some switches and valves for controlling the air flow / suction.

Poor-man's alternative for the compressor in both cases: a hairdrier, after you disconnected the heating elements first.

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  • All this is true, however, I am looking for an answer to my question.
    – Stan
    Dec 2 '21 at 17:19
  • Your question lacks so many details, that one answer cannot cover all the possibilities. Please update your question, and you might get what you need.
    – virolino
    Dec 2 '21 at 18:11
  • +1 for your "Later edit" with actual ideas that could be used to turn pages quite quickly. For the pot of 'gold,' how does one prevent too many pages turning at one time and/or slow down if they turn too fast? There should be some way to stop the page flipping/turning process when the volunteer finds a torn page — to do the repair or to bookmark the location of the torn page(s) to repair later. Good stuff !
    – Stan
    Dec 2 '21 at 20:12
  • "how does one prevent too many pages turning at one time" - that is the main problem of being lazy, and using an old dumb hair blower.
    – virolino
    Dec 2 '21 at 20:23
  • "There should be some way to stop the page flipping/turning process when the volunteer finds a torn page" - are you asking about attaching an electrical switch to the power cord of the hair blower? :O You do not sound like a guy who can find solutions to problems, but rather like the kind of guy who can find problems to solutions.
    – virolino
    Dec 2 '21 at 20:26

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