Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Used PDA & Bluetooth Barcode Scanner: Scouting for Books-of-Value

Book Scanning / Scouting [2013]: Finding books of value to be resold for a profit, usually on The equipment includes a smartphone or PDA in combination with a small bar-code scanner, or the onboard phone camera. A database of selling prices and other pertinent data can be stored on an SD card to assess approximate item value in 1/10th of a second. Smartphones can be used in stock form for a slow setup that checks real-time prices using an app. One's chosen equipment is taken to book sales, flea markets, thrift stores, and wherever used books are sold. 

Item prices can be checked for Amazon's other 23 categories if using a smartphone, but for lightning fast book scouting, an outdated PDA is still the tool of the trade. Current smartphone apps are relatively slow, and conducting a price search takes several seconds. Working from a database stored locally on the device is instant. When scanning over 100 books, this makes an enormous difference.

I bought a Dell Axim x51 and a Socket Mobile 7 bluetooth scanner. I subscribed to software that allows me to download new database information to a 2gig SD card. I took it out for a test drive.

August 3, 2013:

I woke up early to go to yard sales and scan books. A light rain fell on items of questionable value at the only yard sale I attended. From there, I went straight to the Lion's Club book barn for some scanning.

Having a recent database of all Amazon book prices is like having invisibility power. When you're a kid and you're having the conversation about superpowers, somebody will always choose invisibility because it allows them to steal money from the bank. At first, that's what it felt like I was doing, but I got over that feeling pretty quickly. It's actual work and it takes some doing.

At first, I was a bit squeamish about being seen doing this. I wasn't breaking any rules, but from what I've read, some mortals have an aversion to it. I'm doing something that they can't and it doesn't seem fair. I've read about others' experiences scanning books [], and they've had people comment negatively on their activities.

I see meaningful benefit for everyone involved. Buying inexpensive items from small local markets and making these items available in larger markets is simply commerce as we've always known it. What's new is that I can be part of this system without a huge capital expenditure or an immediate boss. Additionally, I'm directly recycling the books that people still want to read - impossible without access to a database of what those books are.

Competition when pricing for Amazon makes more information available to more people. The books will be read many more times on average, as they are filtered through a system where demand adds value and market access is universal. This is less wasteful. This is respectful to the Earth, whereas printing a book to sit unread is an affront to the planet. Keeping books expensive and out-of-reach means that only the wealthy have access to information. Like it or not, Amazon is creating an incredibly level playing field. This is an example of how technology can help humans conserve resources. Book scouting creates self-employment opportunities, and it greatly increases the number of books sold at fundraising events like library book sales. It's a win for everybody, but people aren't accustomed to the new paradigm yet.

I got comfortable with the equipment fast. I scanned hundreds of books. I filled a bag with ones that people want. Then I went to the Re-Store in Kennett and scanned some more books. The next step is to prepare the books to be shipped to an Amazon warehouse where they will be added to Amazon's inventory to be shipped by them. I get a weekly deposit in my bank account as my books are sold.

Today, I got a handful of books that should sell for $20 or more. I got twenty or so that will sell between $8 to $20. I paid fifty cents to a dollar each - no more.

So far, this is looking like easy money. There is a capital expenditure for equipment, yes [$225 for used PDA & scanner; $30/mo database.] If I make considerably more than I spend, I'll be happy. That looks like it will be the case.

I can understand why someone wouldn't want to scan a whole bunch of books. It's robotic and monotonous. For me, that works. Though book scouting depends on recent technology, I see it as a return to basic human ways. I'm picking blueberries on a camel.

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