The keystone is this whole interaction is a smartphone app that can quickly and clearly give you the information you need to make an informed purchase. There are several apps available, and in this blog post we will look at iBookSeller, from Shick Web Design, LLC.
iBookSeller (version 2.2) is one of the most complete iPhone apps for scanning books. Once you scan a barcode (or manually enter the ISBN), it gives you a lot of information on a single page. Some of that more useful than others. The info I'm looking at is the Sales Rank (crucial), the New or Used Price (essential), and the number of copies currently listed for sale New and Used (in parenthesis after the price). I'm not as concerned about EAN and List Price, but those are there as well.
It also gives you an image of the book cover, which is convenient to confirm that you are, indeed, getting the proper info for the right book. I say this is convenient because several times the iBookSeller has given me info for the wrong book.
Let's take a look at a screenshot from my iPhone:
So there we have it. The above book has a decent Sales Rank, but a used copy is selling for only 55 cents, and there are more then 30 available. I would not pick this book. Someone with a tolerance for lower profit margins, who has more patience for this book to eventually sell at a decent price, or a who is a large seller that makes most of their profit from shipping charges might consider this book a buy. To each his own, but the app has given us all the critical info to make the call. Let's scan another:
Now that's more like it. A robust Sales Rank coming in at under 500k and a solid lowest available used price at $12.18. If I can purchase this book for a buck or two, you better believe I'm picking it.
Another useful feature on iBookSeller is a "Good Buy" settings system, where you can adjust the parameters of what you consider a book worth picking (Sales Rank, Price, Total Offers), and it will give you a quick green Thumbs Up or red Thumbs Down icon with every booked scan. This can really help if you need to scan a lot of books... You don't even have to interpret the data, just look for the thumbs up.
The phone's camera will activate your phone's LED light when the image is too dark to scan the barcode. This might be useful for when you are scanning books in a dank basement during an estate sale or something.
And a easily overlooked feature I really like is that a numerical keypad pops up when you are manually entering ISBN numbers. This is much more convenient that hitting the tiny numbers on the alphabetical pad. Although you do have to return to the alphabet keyboard screen to hit the "Go" button to get the data.
Other sometimes useful tidbits are a button to quickly punch-up the book's listing on Amazon's mobile website and a History page that allows you to see the titles you've already scanned. That's a lot of useful stuff coming from one quick scan.
iBookSeller comes with a 4-page eBook titled "Make Money with Amazon.com Marketplace". Not a bad primer on picking and selling books, but there is no information in here that you wouldn't already know before you purchased the app.
And speaking of purchasing the app... you need to purchase the app, because it isn't free. It originally cost me 99 cents, plus an addition $1.99 to use the scanner. However, as of this blog post, is costs $4.99, plus another $1.99 for the scanner. You'll need to buy the scanner, and it's a good scanner, but it is a 'hidden cost'. All said and done, the iBookSeller app will cost you $7! Pretty steep, as far as apps go.
Other than the cost, about the only other shortcoming of this app is the inability to give you a Amazon Trade-In values. The only app I know that does that is the Amazon Student app (which is free).
In summary, iBookSeller isn't perfect, but is probably the best book picking app available at the moment. If you have used this app, or others, let me hear your opinion in the comments.