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Barcode Scanners And iPhone Apps Are Part of Online Bookselling

Updated on November 17, 2015

I buy most of my inventory from retail stores that are open to the public. Other sellers have other sources, but there are plenty of people who do it that way I do it. Believe me. I see them every time I’m out.

I use a barcode scanner with a database to determine whether I want to buy a book or not. Although some sellers mistakenly think stores are hostile to those of us who use scanners or would rather we not use them, nothing could be further from the truth.

Stores Will Welcome You

Most stores welcome anyone willing to buy their stale inventory, and that’s what I do. Managers and employees usually don’t care that I am electronically assisted. (Customers sometimes express curiosity, but I simply tell them I don’t take questions or that I’m shopping for books, then I turn away from them and continue.)

Sellers who run into hostile employees should report them to the manager or the corporate headquarters of the chain and resolve it as they would any other consumer complaint. If the manager or corporate spokesperson tells you to take a hike, take a hike. There is no shortage of books in the world.

I use an iPAQ PDA with a Socket Class 1 laser scanner (plugged into the CF slot, not bluetooth) that I bought from the online book scouting service ScoutPal. (Both are terribly outdated now, but they still work fine.) I still use ScoutPal even though some of its competitors have additional features.

I’ve also set up scanners for two other people. Used PDAs from eBay or usedhandhelds.com work great. For one that I set up, I used a class 2 laser scanner which I’m convinced can see right through the books. The light beam is much more intense than necessary. I set up another with an LED scanner from Socket, but it doesn’t work nearly as well as the Class 1 laser scanner.

Best Practices In Barcode Scanning

I want to emphasize that my scanner is attached to my PDA, not Bluetooth. The problem with those Bluetooth scanners that work with Blackberrys or iPhones (or anything without a card slot to accommodate a scanner) is that if you hold the scanner in your hand and a book in the other, which hand do you hold the PDA in? That’s why people put the PDA in a bag or purse and use those silly earphones. But if you don’t hear a positive beep, you don’t pull out the screen and look at it -- and you don’t know that the book you scanned is only slightly outside the criteria you have set up and might be something you want.

Several sellers around here use Bluetooth scanners, and I’m always glad to see them. I frequently visit a shelf soon after a person with a Bluetooth scanner (who can therefore not see prices but only hear a sound when a criteria is met) and pick out sellable items.

It’s common to set these devices for sound notifications only when books are worth more than $10 and have an Amazon sales rank greater than 500,000. But what about the $95 book with a sales rank of 500,001? Or the $9.99 book with a sales rank of 12? Those using Bluetooth scanners miss both, and I’ll gladly take them.

Online bookselling is part art and part science. I’m happy to use some electronic assistance when I get it; that’s science. Deciding for myself whether to take my electronic device’s advice is art.

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