To Scan or Not To Scan…

…is not really a serious question any more. I just unwrapped our second one this morning so we are now a proud 2-scanner household. As usual, when I finally take the step with new technology 1. it’s no longer really “new” and 2. I wonder why I resisted so long.

The one thing our PLA visitors were most interested in was seeing how a scanner device is used. We’ve all seen them used by customers at our public book sales. It seems like a handy gadget, but is it really useful enough to justify the costs? We are very cautious about increasing expenses and the business was small enough to continue with manual sampling and selection for a long time.

Eventually, we wanted to grow the online business and needed to become more systematic and efficient. I looked at the scouting software services available and chose one called ASellerTool. Still being cautious, I liked their rental package which let me try the device without a big investment. The PDA with scanner is about as big as a phone and easy to use, a classic “point and click” device. The pricing information appears on the screen, you make your decision and move on to the next book. My colleague and I found we could now evaluate thousands of books a week instead of a few hundred. Our inventory grew and sales increased; the costs of the scanner are covered by just a few of those new sales.

We’ve had an excellent experience with ASellerTool – equipment, software, and customer support – and highly recommend them. There are some other companies offering competing software products.

I have not worked with Neatoscan but I have heard positive things from some other libraries. It seems to offer a hybrid model between doing it yourself (our model) and giving it all to an outside vendor.

Scanners make sense if you have large numbers of bar coded books to screen. They’re useless for pre-ISBN published books (roughly pre-1970) and perhaps a luxury if you have modest numbers of items to process. It’s perfectly easy to enter an ISBN in the amazon or bookfinder search box to find an item’s value, it just gets a bit tedious to do that hundreds of times. A scanner is a relatively small expense that can greatly ease and increase the efficiency of your work.

I often quote an old friend, usually in tones of sarcastic irony, that “technology is our friend”. But sometimes it’s really true.

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