People scanning books with their PDAs, what's going on?!
February 11, 2006 8:53 PM   Subscribe

I was at a massive used booksale in Phoenix, Arizona today. I saw at least ten 20-something people with Treos and/or PocketPCs with barcode scanners scanning in tons of books.. it looked like they were doing real-time queries to some server getting book values and stuff like that. Who / what / where is going on? Is this a massive business or is this a new fad that young punks to now ... or what?
posted by cowmix to Technology (13 answers total)
That's exactly what they were doing. I can't tell you the site, but a lot of people are taking a more assembly line approach to finding bargains at used book sales. Instead of searching manually through the stacks for a good find... and thus undoubtedly missing deals through lack of knowledge or simple oversight... some people scan barcodes to find the market price of a used book. If the price is above a certain threshold, they grab the book and then resell it on ebay or whatever.
posted by Justinian at 9:02 PM on February 11, 2006

Justinian: Does someone sell a kit (with the hardware) or something that hooks you up?
posted by cowmix at 9:32 PM on February 11, 2006

Anybody know anything about the nuts and bolts of how this is done? What hardware, what database, etc?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:32 PM on February 11, 2006

jinx cowmix
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:33 PM on February 11, 2006

See ScoutPal.
posted by jvilter at 9:40 PM on February 11, 2006

jvilter: yeah.. that looks like what I am talking about.. but this company doesn't give any info on where to by the Treo / PocketPC hardware... but the people I saw today were using this or a service just like it.
posted by cowmix at 9:47 PM on February 11, 2006

book arbitrage. crazy!
posted by b1tr0t at 10:13 PM on February 11, 2006

Here's a link to a page which has several links to the scanner devices. Seems like a growing business.
posted by AJ at 10:43 PM on February 11, 2006

Damn. I was totally going to invent and market this myself... Thanks for the info though!
posted by SuperNova at 12:46 AM on February 12, 2006

I have several friends that were making pretty good money doing this. The field might be more crowded these days. They were selling books on Amazon. The thing about selling books on Amazon is that if you know what will turn over you can sell books for a penny and still make a profit on the shipping and handling. Before my friends got their computer system they bought a lot of books that no one wanted, they pretty much filled up a 5 bedroom house with boxes of books. With inventory tracking they managed to bring the clutter down a bit. Of course, the real finds are the first editions.
posted by jefeweiss at 5:37 AM on February 12, 2006

Slight derail...cowmix, I'm in Phoenix. What is this massive sale? I'd love to go.
posted by gokart4xmas at 6:39 AM on February 12, 2006

I used to do this back in 1998/1999 when the Internet was smaller (book arbitrage, not scanning, although I'm sure I have a CueCat around here somewhere). This was when I could buy nearly-new trade paperbacks at the public library sale shelf for TEN CENTS, and sell them online for four or five dollars, plus shipping.

Once I bought an early Dean Koontz paperback at a thrift store for fifteen cents and sold it (on eBay) for $150. That was my biggest score.

Now I have neither the time nor the inclination but I wish I did. It's a big rush to find something valuable in a heap of dross.

I think the gold rush days of book arbitrage are over, though. I've even seen, here in Chicago, used bookstores writing their price inside the back cover and underneath that the best ABEbooks or Alibris price they found.
posted by esperluette at 7:53 PM on February 12, 2006

gokart4xmas: you probably won't get this, but it's the VNSA Book Sale and it is spectacular.

posted by bbrown at 7:21 AM on March 14, 2006

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