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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