What is the best book scouting service out there?

Cell Phones 9153 thumb What is the best book scouting service out there?Book scouting is one of the most important topics an online bookseller needs to understand.  Without proper knowledge of the ins and outs of this topic it can mean the death of your business.  Shockingly, most online booksellers still do not have a thorough understanding of book scouting and therefore are simply using whatever is provided to them by the few companies out there.  In this post, I’m going to set the record straight and lay out to you specifically what would be the ultimate book scouting application to give you a glimpse into what may be possible.

As I discuss ad nauseam in my eBook book scouting was started long before we had little Internet-enabled gadgets you could fit in a coat pocket.  The true book scout based all book buying decisions solely on experience and intuition.  Nowadays, anyone that has enough technological know-how can access a database of millions of books in a second without any prior experience.  This is now typically done on on the mobile phone due to it’s portability and Internet capabilities. According to a CBSNews article I’ve read recently the number of cell phones worldwide hit 4.6 billion recently.  This boils down to two things; the first is that as more and more mobile phones are produced the networks that these phones run on will become faster ala 4G and mobile phone manufacturers will provide more storage on the phones to accommodate for things like videos, pictures, emails, etc.  To even mention that a cell phone would have 32GB of storage just a few years ago would make any tech geek roll his eyes in a “yeah, right” fashion.

So what do these statistics mean to book scouting and to our ultimate book scouting app?  It means that mobile book scouting services will begin to take advantage of these new mobile phones and provide features never thought possible in the past.  The new Google Android phones are a great example of this and one company that I know of that has taken full advantage is FBAPowerFBAPower (affiliate link) has a book scouting application called FBAScout that seems to have sprung up from nowhere lately to provide the online bookseller with much more information than your typical mobile application has in the past.  In fact, they recently wrote an article on the FBApower blog that inspired this post.

Even though mobile Internet speeds and storage has improved, book scouting applications will still always have to deal with limitations.  These limitations include a growing database of books on Amazon to query and lack of mobile high speed Internet coverage.  How are companies overcoming these challenges?  They are either giving you real-time Amazon pricing information at the sacrifice of speed or accessibility or giving you instantaneous price lookups at the cost of potentially using out of date information.  I wrote a post that briefly discussed the online vs. offline issue back in August.

Even though I use FBAscout nearly every day and continue to believe it is the best book scouting application out there, they tend to talk like it is the answer to book scouting and to FBA scouting.  To their credit, they are the only ones I know that are able to get FBA competition.  I do believe that it is very good but is not the only answer and may not be the answer at all to everyone’s scouting needs.  The only reason is because they have chosen to provide only one type of service and that is real-time service.  This method is crucial to get up to the minute pricing information from Amazon but also completely prevents a book scout of using the service at all if little or no mobile Internet service exists.  They suggest that this is not a big deal but coming from a bookseller that has visited many rural library sales with no WiFi or in basements where no mobile Internet service exists it happens.

What is the ultimate answer to the supreme book scouting service?  I believe it is a combination of a local database and real-time capabilities to properly address each issue.  Unfortunately, from what I have seen this does not exist yet however I’d love to be corrected if someone knows of one.  If a book scouting service could provide up to the minute prices for books on Amazon at the time of scan yet be instantaneous as a local database on the phone could be this would be it.  Let’s hope a company incorporates the best of each feature sometime soon and is finally able to overcome the mobile limitations that we all have to work with.

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  • Claire

    Scoutpal offers what you are wishing for right now – a live look up via cellphone, and also a local database service, whih can be downloaded and installed on your PDA. It’s only $9.95/month for both, and they’re the oldeset and most stable company in the business. Excellent support, too.

  • Anonymous

    I agree Scoutpal is very good but due to the size restriction on SD cards they can’t even begin to fit the entire Amazon book database onto the phone. That is the ultimate solution.

  • Honestonlineselling

    Adam:

    Your concern with FBAScout is the same as my concern. I use Neatoscan’s service. And although they are pricey ($50/month), they do have 3rd-party seller data (not specified ‘FBA’ though) and their database covers virtually all major categories of Amazon.com’s goods (books, vhs, dvd, cd, games, toys, baby products, household goods, electronics,etc.) And yes they are SD-card driven (database), it’s not a celluar-based service.

    Do Great Stuff!

    -J.B. Malik
    Founder, http://www.HonestOnlineSelling.com
    Content Editor, MySilentTeam.com (http://bit.ly/MySilT)

  • Anonymous

    I would hesitate to say Neatoscan has all books from Amazon though. I have confirmed that nearly all SD cards in cell phones/PDAs now can only hold 2GB SD cards and as Chris from FBAPower mentions Amazon’s database of books is MUCH larger than that.

  • cat (dewey decimal))))

    I also use NeatoScan ($50/mo) and experience database limitations due to SD card capabilities. FBAScout is my choice for live scouting. To make it more efficient, it is VERY necessary to use a bluetooth scanner ($250 – 300). FBAScout fully integrates with FBAPower. That’s a huge plus, because I use FBAPower as a listing provider. However, I am not ready to get rid of my database-driven scout device (PDA), because I have landed in no-reception zones many times. Because I purchase products besides books, I often shop in larger stores. Target and Walmart, for examples, are known for falling in “deadzones” as far as cell phone reception. This makes scouting and price comparison for savvy shoppers difficult in these stores. I am going to look into ScoutPal ($10/mo). I used to use them a while back, and if they offer a service comparable to NeatoScan, I’d love to save the $40/mo.

  • Honestonlineselling

    Hi Adam – True there is a 2GB limit, but Neatoscan lets you build in parameters before you download the Amazon catalog. For instance, if you want to ignore all books ranked lower than 200,000 (i.e. 200,001 – >7mil). Also. you can omit entire categories (i.e exclude household items and toys/games). So although you can’t fit the entire catalog, there is flexibility in there for the discriminating buyer).

    - -J.B. Malik
    Founder, http://www.HonestOnlineSelling
    Content Editor, MySilentTeam.com (http://bit.ly/MySilT)

  • Anonymous

    That’s good to know. Thanks, JB.

  • Vince LaMonica

    Asellertool and tons of others use live and database driven results. Using a live only device will result in less books if used at a book sale due to the time it takes to look up the results. Also most areas don’t have super fast connections in the US. Using asellertool in DB mode for first scan and live mode in review when you’re done is what I’ve seen most people do. Until the iPhone came out, that’s what i had been doing for the last few years :)

  • http://twitter.com/couturesnob Andrea Toston

    I’m confused about the 2 GB limit for SD cards on a cell phone. I’m about to buy an 8 GB microSD card for my phone. Is that completely different to what y’all are talking about?

  • Anonymous

    A microSD is different than a larger SD card. I’m not real familiar on the different technologies but I’m sure this limitation will go to the way of the Dodo soon anyway.

  • BookScout

    I like iBookSeller for those who have an iphone.  It gives you the SalesRank, lowest new and used and gets all data live.

  • Barbara

    Hi, I just read two reviews of this product in which one person said the scanner doesn’t work at all.  How did you find using yours?  Thanks, Barbara

  • Barbara

    Solid information, thank you!  I am trailing FBA Scout right now and like it very much.  However, for a newbie, until I can get the experience of spotting a good book, I would love a program for an iPhone that lets you program reference points to buy a book and then beeps to “buy”

  • Barbara

    Solid information, thank you!  I am trailing FBA Scout right now and like it very much.  However, for a newbie, until I can get the experience of spotting a good book, I would love a program for an iPhone that lets you program reference points to buy a book and then beeps to “buy”

  • BookScout

    The scanner works great on my phone.  No problems at all.

  • Bob Mcdonald

    Scout pal gives configurable and brief results for 9.95/mo and includes live for quick internet access. If you are considering to pay 30+ dollars/mo for one of the other services it would be cheaper to get a data plan for you phone and go directly to the online sources like amazon and abes