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 FBAPower. FBAPower (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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