We recently covered a networked scanner for serious business, able to whip through stacks of documents at a rate of 30 a minute, or just pound through endless heavy-duty office service. At $2,500, it's not the sort of thing that consumers buy.
You can, however, get sooooort of close by making your own. After the jump, BBG reader Zuzu describes how he created a similar rig for under $700 a few years ago. As of 2009, all you need is a hackable router with USB host capability, the balls to install third-party firmware on it, and any sheetfed model compatible with SANE, an application that sprinkles magical fairy dust on scanners.
Several years ago I bought a used Fujitsu ScanSnap fi-5110C on eBay
for $600, which is kinda stupid overpriced (but was still *way*
cheaper than the competition), and it has real ISIS and TWAIN support,
as well as being "good" supported according to The SANE Project itself at the
time. SANE is a fickle bitch, in my experience, so strong developer
community support is very important if you want the thing to actually
Originally I set this up with a Buffalo LinkStation running Gentoo,
which I also wanted to put Google's OCR software on, but that became
an administration nightmare. Later I got an Asus WL-500g Premium
(version 1; the version 2 came out awhile later, and has differing
DD-WRT support) and that includes two USB ports. One USB port can be
used to expand the storage capacity of the router. (I like the 8GB
Imation Atom because it's very small and is only $25 on Amazon.)
The other USB port is for the duplex scanner.
IIRC, the beta versions of DD-WRT v24 for the Asus WL-500gP included SANEd with the other USB drivers (e.g. mass-storage), but I think v24
Final no longer includes it. So, you'll have to get ipkg installed
and add SANEd yourself.
This will add SANE devices (including those shared over a network
using SANEd) to the list of TWAIN scanner devices that show up in
Image Capture.app etc.
Now, given that SANEd is open-source, and that some companies such as
Brother even explicitly support SANE, none of the multifunction
"all-in-one" printers include an embedded Linux (ala DD-WRT or Gentoo
on the Linkstation NAS) for network sharing of both the printer *and*
the scanner. That seems like such a facepalm to me.
OSX also has a scanner sharing protocol, but I don't think it's SANE;
not sure what it is, but I'd also think that'd be "mainstream" enough
to support, just as most networked printers today support mDNS /
ZeroConf / Rendezvous / Bonjour. Then again, Apple themselves fail to
support scanner sharing over the network for their printer sharing
devices such as Airport Express.