High-tech thrift-store book-picking with a networked barcode scanner

Slate has an article, "Confessions of a Used-Book Salesman," in which a thrift-store book-picker describes his sure-fire scheme for picking out good books for online resale at the local thrift (he uses a barcode scanner to figure out whether the book is priced low enough to be profitable on Amazon). Only one in thirty books he checks is worth buying, and he lists about 1,000 books at a time on Amazon. He has to race to out-scan other people in the same line of work when he's out picking, and he'll accept potential profits as low as one dollar. He ignores old books — no barcode means no scanning means no instant, Amazon Marketplace valuation — even though there are probably large sums to be had there. As it is, he thinks you can make $1000 a week (though he works up to 80 hours a week at this).

I make a living buying and selling used books. I browse the racks of thrift stores and library book sales using an electronic bar-code scanner. I push the button, a red laser hops about, and an LCD screen lights up with the resale values. It feels like being God in his own tiny recreational casino; my judgments are sure and simple, and I always win because I have foreknowledge of all bad bets. The software I use tells me the going price, on Amazon Marketplace, of the title I just scanned, along with the all-important sales rank, so I know the book's prospects immediately. I turn a profit every time.

Confessions of a Used-Book Salesman
(Thanks, JeffinMontreal, via Submitterator!)

(Image: Ted's Used Books, Santa Barbara, CA, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from brewbooks's photostream)