It’s been a while since I’ve posted a new blog article – mostly because I’ve been busy working on my new Sell Books Fast Online eBook series (the 3rd book, How to Make Money on Amazon with Great Customer Service Skills will be out very soon – be sure to check back for a special deal!)
In the meantime, however, I’d like to share my thoughts on the different types of equipment you can use to find books to sell on Amazon.
As you’ve probably seen, book scouts use a wide range of devices – from smart phones to PDAs to tablets and scanners, as well as a wide variety of programs and services – to find the books they want to sell. Each of these tools has its own advantages and disadvantages, and before you decide which one you want to use, you should know what each option gives you.
Bookscouter and Scanner
Let’s start with our favorite free website for selling books online, Bookscouter.
Most of you know Bookscouter as a website that lets you compare offers between different buyback company price quotes that you can use to determine which companies will make you the most money if you want to flip books quickly.
However, Bookscouter can also be used to check out real-time Amazon prices you can list your books for, which gives you even more options for selling your books.
If you go to Bookscouter and enter an ISBN in its search bar, you’ll see some publication information for the book listed above the buyback price quotes. At the very bottom of this list, you’ll find the current Amazon Sales Rank (an indication of how popular the book is on Amazon), the number of Amazon sellers selling their copies of the book right now, and the lowest listed price:
This information, along with the current offered buyback price quotes, should let you decide if you want to sell the book on Amazon or not. In the example above, the book has a good Amazon Sales Rank, not a lot of competition among sellers, and can be listed for a fairly high price. Unless you find a comparable price quote from one of the buyback companies, you’d make more money selling this book on Amazon.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Bookscouter to Find Books for Amazon
There are some great advantages to using Bookscouter to find books to sell on Amazon.
The most obvious is that Bookscouter is a free website. You don’t have to invest any money in a special service. You also don’t have to pay for any extra equipment as long as you have a cell phone or tablet with good Internet reception.
(That said, it’s still a good idea to invest in a Bluetooth scanner that will let you scan ISBN barcodes quickly and allow you to find more books in a short amount of time).
Moreover, while you only see the lowest Amazon price on Bookscouter, you can easily go to the book’s Amazon page by clicking the “View on Amazon” link where you can get a more in-depth look at the different prices being offered for the book.
(In fact, I encourage you to double-check all Amazon prices on the actual Amazon.com website – Bookscouter doesn’t always show the most up-to-date price and often doesn’t differentiate between new and used copies).
On top of this, since Bookscouter also shows you the price quotes offered by buyback companies, you actually gain a better picture about all the places you can sell your books (you’ll want to sign up for and use a free Bookscouter account if you want to see all the buyback companies you can sell to).
The main disadvantage of using a website like Bookscouter to find books to sell on Amazon is that requires a good Internet connection, especially when you’re looking for books in basements or in isolated areas where you don’t get a strong signal.
To get around this limitation, I suggest you use Verizon as your Internet service provider. I’ve used data plans from many different companies, and Verizon has consistently provided me with the best coverage.
PDA and Paid Scouting Service
Most book scouts use this type of equipment when they’re looking for books to sell on Amazon.
Basically, they purchase three things – a PDA, a CF Card, and a Socket Compact Flash Scan Card. (All of these items can be bought on Amazon for reasonable prices).
They then purchase a monthly subscription to a paid bookscouting service like ScoutPal or ASellerTool. The amount they pay can vary from $10 a month to $30 or more, and can include additional services offered by the companies.
Once they get access to their paid service, they can download a copy of Amazon’s database into their CF Card – basically copying thousands of listings for books into the card. They then insert the CF Card into their PDA, giving it access to the database.
Since prices change constantly on Amazon as sellers add and re-price their books, a book scout will have to regularly update that copy of Amazon’s database. How often they can do this depends on the service they use – some scouting services offer an updated database once a week while others offer an update every few days.
By inserting the CF Card into their PDA and scanning book ISBN barcodes with their Socket Compact Flash Scan Card, a book scout can find information on thousands of books, including their Amazon Sales Ranks, the copies for sale, and listed prices.
Advantages and Disadvantages to Using a PDA and Paid Service
The main advantage of using a PDA and paid bookscouting service is that you don’t have to worry about weak or nonexistent Internet connections since you’re getting your information from a downloaded database. As long as you remember to charge your PDA’s battery (and carry a spare) you’ll be able to search for hours virtually anywhere.
Most Socket Compact Flash Scan Cards can also read ISBN barcodes very quickly and are more affordable than Bluetooth scanners.
Most downloaded databases (particularly those purchased from ASellerTool) will give a lot of information about Amazon’s listed prices. For instance, you’ll be able to see what the difference in price between new and used copies of the books. You’ll also see a range of prices (often the three lowest prices on a book) which can give you a better idea of how much you can list your copy for if you decide to sell it on Amazon.
On the other hand, getting information from a database doesn’t give you the most up-to-date information on books – especially popular books with rapid price fluctuations. For this reason, many book scouts use their cell phones to double check the real-time prices on certain books.
Another disadvantage is that you won’t get price quotes from buyback companies like you can with Bookscouter – which can cause you to overlook some very profitable books.
Finally, PDAs can break easily if you drop them (I learned this the hard way) and the Socket Compact Flash Scan Card can eventually burn out after so many uses (the SP2100 I use is much more durable and reliable). Thus, you’ll want to be careful and attach a tether to the PDA to avoid such accidents.
When I first started selling books online, I used a PDA and scan card then graduated to a cell phone (with Bookscouter) and bluetooth scanner. These days I use a tablet (with Bookscouter) and an SP2100 scanner.
One of the reasons I prefer using Bookscouter over paid scouting services and apps is that I can see a wider range of places to sell my books (buyback companies and Amazon), which gives me an advantage over other book scouts who limit themselves to just a PDA.
Price-wise, I’d say the cost of using Bookscouter with a tablet or phone is comparable to a scouting service – while Bookscouter is free, I still pay about $30 a month for my tablet’s Verizon data plan. My Verizon tablet also has a fairly strong battery (and can be recharged while I scan) so power shortages aren’t really a problem.
That being said, a PDA still offers advantages that Bookscouter does not yet offer – particularly a faster way to see a range of Amazon prices and immunity to Internet dead zones. Thus, if you’re only interested in selling your books on Amazon, a PDA and a scouting service might still be the way to go.
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