Make Smarter Buying Decisions with Book Scouting Services

If you’re selling books online, a book scouting service can be a great addition to your arsenal but you first need to learn what a book scouting service is and how it can help you as an online bookseller.

What is a book scout?

A book scout is someone that is searching for books typically for resale or for trading in for other books.  A typical book scout is someone that visits book sales, bookstores, yard sales, thrift stores, etc to “scout” for books.  Before the advent of online bookselling, a book scout was someone that would drive around to the local book stores and make deals with the book store owners, trade in some books and take those books to another dealer that was looking for them.  He would upsell the dealer and make some profit in the mean time.  Now, with online bookselling, the book scout has came onto a more generic term as anyone that is going out in search of books to sell either online or offline.  You will notice a book scout at a library sale, for example, with one of those scanners, cell phones or PDAs, scanning books.  They are using book scouting services to find the price of a book online.

What is a book scouting service?

Book scouting services are services that are usually either installed on a cell phone or PDA that houses Amazon’s database of books with prices or is a streamlined website that provides access to Amazon’s database.  It is software that you can use out in the field that lets you either scan a book’s ISBN number or manually type it in to see exactly how much that book is going for on Amazon at the time.  Depending on if the software is offline or online, it can be real time information!  This is invaluable information to know because you will never make a bad decision on what books to buy.

Types of book scouting services

There are two different types of book scouting services.  The first one is an online service.  This type of service gives you a web page to go to that you can either scan in the barcode with your scanner to input the ISBN number or manually type it in.  This kind of book scouting service is real time information directly from Amazon’s database, which is a huge advantage in a competitive landscape like Amazon.  The disadvantage though is because you either have to lug around a laptop to your sales or you have to have a cell phone with an Internet connection wherever you are.  I know I have been in some remote places where I had no Internet connection at all and this definitely did not help me at all!

The second kind of book scouting service is the offline kind.  This usually consists of a website that you go to on your computer at home to download software and install it onto your cell phone or PDA.  It also includes much of Amazon’s database of titles, prices and ISBN numbers.  With this method you can look up books very quickly due to the fact that the information is local to your PDA or cell phone.  The disadvantage to this is the information can sometimes be dated.  It all depends on when you originally downloaded the database onto your computer or how often the service actually refreshes itself from Amazon.

Do you really need a book scouting service for selling books online?

To answer this question an online bookseller will need to weigh the options of cost and potential frequency of use.  A bookscouting service can be invaluable to someone that consistently goes to book sales, used bookstores, thrift stores, yard sales, etc to find new inventory.  A bookscouting service will give the online bookseller excellent pricing information to make informed buying decisions instead of wasting money on deadwood and can easily pay for the few hundred dollars that you pay for the hardware and service in no time.  However, if you’re a more casual online bookseller just trying to make a few bucks as a hobby then the cost of the hardware and service may be too high of a risk if you don’t intend to use it often.

The cost of the equipment alone sometimes scares off the new online bookseller as it can range anywhere from $100 up to $500 or more depending on the type of PDA and scanner you purchase.  You have lots of options such as PDAs with large, beautiful screens, PDAs with on board memory to hold all of that pricing information without the need for a card, scanners that insert into the PDA and scanners that are completely wireless while you keep the PDA in your pocket with headphones attached waiting for the ding of a valuable book.

Once you purchase the hardware, you then have to think about the monthly cost of the service.  All book scouting services have a monthly cost so that you can continually update your PDA with the latest, up to date, pricing information from Amazon.  Risking out of date pricing information could potentially cost you a lot of money in worthless inventory that was valuable 2 months ago.  Keeping your book scouting service up to date (if using an offline method) is key for this to work successfully.

There are a handful of companies offering services such as these.  Companies include scoutpal.com, asellertool.com, neatoscan.com, mediascouter.com and bookhero.com.  If you need any help picking out a service or with getting yourself setup with some hardware, feel free to drop me a line at adam at sellyourbooksonline.com or visit me on my blog at sellyourbooksonline.com.  I’d love to help you in your quest to find that hidden treasure in a mound of books!

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  • Geza

    hi. i just read something you wrote about book scouting online. i have been selling books for 3 years now. i have been using a PDA with a subscription with scoutpal since the beginning of the year.

    here is my question: two different times i had just finished going through all the books in 2 different bookstores with my scanner. both times the same old guy with a scanner came in, after i had finished, and proceeded to scan for books. the old guy was pulling stacks of books out to buy after i had gone through them all. i doubt he is buying worthless books. i have a feeling he knows something i don't. what do you think? he says he doesn't use the same database as every one else. any ideas?

    thanks for your help.

    Geza

  • adbertram

    Each book scout has their own criteria and opinions on what will sell and
    what won't. Unless he's specializing in something, there is one database
    and that is Amazon's. Amazon has the most accurate representation of market
    value because they are the biggest player out there.

  • adbertram

    Each book scout has their own criteria and opinions on what will sell and
    what won't. Unless he's specializing in something, there is one database
    and that is Amazon's. Amazon has the most accurate representation of market
    value because they are the biggest player out there.

  • Tim

    If you have an Android phone checkout: You can scan ISBN barcodes with your phones camera to get price quotes

    http://www.cash4books.net/sell-used-books-android-mobile-application/

  • Tim Bliss

    I would like to download a database into my computer is this possable. Just want to sample a store . I dont want to purchase a phone and service for it yet without trying it first ..Iknow this will take a little more time …. Iknow if it works I will get the scoutingbug and go all out pda scanner glasses . So for now can you direct me to a computer downloadable database.
    Thanks a Million
    Tim

  • adbertram

    Hi Tim,

    Scoutpal among many others, as part of their service, downloads
    Amazon's database to your computer first. After this, you normally
    hook up your PDA to your computer and then sync that database to the
    PDA.

    However, you would not be able to look up prices on the computer until
    the database gets onto the PDA. If you truly just want an offline
    database like that to look up prices on your computer then you could
    try Neatoscan Inventory Evaluator. It is meant to evaluate bulk lots
    of ISBNs all at once but you could also put in one ISBN and look it
    up. If you could want to look up prices on your computer you could try
    Scoutpal's LIVE option that allows you to go to a webpage and look up
    prices and other information.

    If you sign up for Scoutpal, you'd go to ie.scoutpal.com and put in
    your username and password.

  • adbertram

    Scoutpal is $10/month, Neatoscan is $50/month I believe and MediaScouter is
    very similar.

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  • Robert

    I've been selling books on amazon for over three years now – have purchased and sold thousands of books. I typically get my inventory from book sales, library sales, garage sales, private collections etc. While at these sales, I too have seen these guys with their little hand held scanners and I thought perhaps I should look into this as well to expand my business. But after doing some research and reading all the information above, I'm not sure I understand what's the purpose to paying for a book scout and spending all this money on a scanner when it seems like you just need a smart phone with an internet connection and just go to amazon and do your own book search yourself (these scanners only work with books that have isbn numbers of course – it's useless with older books that do not have an isbn number). Am I missing something here??

  • adbertram

    The primary reason for these services is instantaneous lookups and not
    needing to depend on having Wifi service or even cell coverage.

  • Lady gaga

    :) – nice article, I have been a book scout for 10 yrs ,before technology caught up…
    my friends who upgraded to book scanning device told me I dont need it..Many times I search books with 3 people with scanners, I use my deep knowledge and quick business gut helps. I seen many scanner trained people , grab the books that may seem see, and I would for everyone to get what the want..the books I got are the money maker. What happened? Quick business intuition, its very fast, either you have it you dont. Simple. Every book is diffirent,ever topic,year,who uses it, how much profit for how long…so many questions you ask yourself for every book you encounter…you get good at it very fast …book device is a tool to help you but cant you have to use your brain. If u do it for the money, 3 yrs and your out looking for another job.But if you love it, the money will follow..Once in a while I use a pda for quick price if the book is $3.00,my rule is keep cost low. What ever you do, keep cost low low low…, no need to go over the top with big promises of fortune…remember to learn this business is to loose money as well so keep it low cost as you can..

  • Lady gaga

    :) – nice article, I have been a book scout for 10 yrs ,before technology caught up…
    my friends who upgraded to book scanning device told me I dont need it..Many times I search books with 3 people with scanners, I use my deep knowledge and quick business gut helps. I seen many scanner trained people , grab the books that may seem see, and I would for everyone to get what the want..the books I got are the money maker. What happened? Quick business intuition, its very fast, either you have it you dont. Simple. Every book is diffirent,ever topic,year,who uses it, how much profit for how long…so many questions you ask yourself for every book you encounter…you get good at it very fast …book device is a tool to help you but cant you have to use your brain. If u do it for the money, 3 yrs and your out looking for another job.But if you love it, the money will follow..Once in a while I use a pda for quick price if the book is $3.00,my rule is keep cost low. What ever you do, keep cost low low low…, no need to go over the top with big promises of fortune…remember to learn this business is to loose money as well so keep it low cost as you can..

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  • lala

    Good day Adam , thanks for your website, blog and youtube video .. was able to learn some things. I have a couple for questions for you as I am thinking of starting the book scouting.

    Hey Adam, thanks for your blog.

    - I am not a tech-person at all or do I have the patience for it. What would you recommend to be a reliable scanner to use. I have checked Asellertools.com and the new whereby you pay a monthly subscription to update book database is very expensive for me at the moment? However I wanted to ask if its worth it– do you have an experience using any of their scanner?

    - If I buy an old scanner (like that of Aseller which has a 90day Warranty, can I download update using other websites or is this a hassle)?
    - What about cell-phone use? If I can start with this, what would you recommend? Is this worth the time?
    - Can one post the same books on multiple sites at one-time?
    - What important equipments are needed to start?

    Thanks much.

  • Anonymous

    I will admit I’m not the person to ask for book scanners. I haven’t been book scouting in years. I would weigh your options between asellertool, scoutpal, mediascouter or fbapower and see what they recommend to be the best one. When I was book scouting, you had to have a Windows Mobile phone but I’m not sure nowadays. You can post the same book on multiple sites but you have to subscribe to a server to keep your inventory in sync. Services like Fillz, Monsoon, Art of Books, etc can do this.