page turner

front view

sketch of project

first sketch

sketch of levers

sketch of levers

back of book

back with wires


wooden stand

top view

top view detail

phone control

phone controls movement

top view

future page turners

Page Turner

Page Turner is a motorized device consisting of a series of fabric pages wrapped in tinfoil that simulates pages turning in a book.


I have become obsessed with the physical form of the book, as we begin to consume books and texts on different size screens on many different devices. A physical book has a front cover, a back cover and a bunch of pages with some content on them in between the covers. Pages get turned, covers open and shut. That's about it.

I have been making sewn books for a while, and this summer I decided to make a motorized book while at ITP summer camp. I love working with servo motors and servo-motors/pages-that-turn seemed a natural fit. (Those new to servos- they have a shaft that can be easily set to a specified position, they often have 180 degrees of motion, kind of like the pages of a book.)


I drew a few sketches of how I would like this to look. I decided to use 8 motors. My original plan was to make the prototype book and a stand to attach the servos out of cardboard.

Luckily I found I had a box of servo motors left over from an old project. I had very little experience using the Arduino prototyping platform, but I had used a number of other microcontrollers. The stability and flexibility of the platform made it a pleasure to learn.

There's not really a lot to say about the programming, I used the Arduino Servo Library. First I created a loop that turned the motor shafts to replicate the movement of opening the book, turning each page, then closing all pages.

I planned to attach the pages to the motors through levers of some sort. I considered using metal or wood, tested them out, decided on wood, then decided to make the levers curved, since I had access to the ITP shop and bandsaw.


When I attached all the levers to my motors and attached the motors to the stand, I decided that I wanted to use a potentiometer with a knob to turn the pages. My cardboard book didn't really work with this design anymore. I adjusted the programming, and I also started to think about what type of material I would like to use for the book.

I made the book out of tinfoil and fabric, layering the materials together. I embroidered and appliqued the pages of the book, then sewed up the pages into the cover.  The tinfoil gave a little structure to the book, the fabric made it more flexible. I got a little carried away with the embroidery, overdoing seemed necessary to integrate the look of the thing. I also made little tabs to hang from the levers. After the whole thing was sewn together, I made a little wire framework for the back.

The next step was to make a wooden stand to replace the one I had made out of cardboard. I built it with a removable back so I could place the Arduino inside it. After building the stand, I primed it and then covered it in copper leaf. I primed and silver leafed the levers attached to the motors. I also made a little box for the potentiometer.

Future Plans

I plan to make more Page Turners, using various fabrics and materials, changing sizes of motors, speed of turns, length and width of pages. I would like to create at least one that has many more motors, 32 seems like a good number.

Other plans- control by a phone or other mobile device, from a remote location. I would like to incorporate multiple small screens, video and animation content could be controlled remotely. Also, I plan to create embroidered flat books that incorporate LEDs and small motors within the pages, related to the flat vinyl cutout books I have made.

I have used quite a few conductive materials (tinfoil, copper, gold and silver leaf), but they have not been used as switches or sensors of any kind- this is something else I would like to explore in further iterations.


Feel free to contact me at Check out the Page Turner flickr set.

book closed

side view

sketch side view

sketch from side


motors attached to stand

detail sewing

detail sewing

back of stand

back of stand

detail sewing

detail sewing


screens in book

embroidered book

embroidered book