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Reviews of three book scouting apps

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Imagine a roofer without a hammer.  Or a chef without a skillet.  Without the proper tools, a craftsman will struggle to complete even the most basic of tasks.

My craft is flipping books.  In order to perform this task at the highest level, I rely on a variety of tools – both physical and digital.  In my last post, I shared the physical tools that I use when I’m scouting books.  Today we will take a closer look at some of the digital tools available to help you find quality books quickly and efficiently.

Before we get to the app reviews, it’s important to understand one key shortcoming that all third party applications have to deal with: Amazon’s API.  Apps can only “see” the lowest 20 prices, and if an FBA price isn’t among the lowest 20 offers, then the app won’t show any FBA data.  All apps, with the exception of Amazon’s own app, have this limitation.  For a more detailed explanation of why apps sometimes don’t show an FBA price, check out Peter Valley’s post about this very topic.

Amazon Seller App

IMG_9159IMG_9160Cost:  Free

Pros:

  • It’s free!
  • It’s the only app to reveal the true lowest FBA price every time.

Cons:

  • It’s slow.  Extremely slow.  Since it’s looking up the current data, it takes a second or two to pull in all the data points.
  • It’s cumbersome to use.  It requires numerous additional steps.  You have to click around several times in the app before you can look up the next book.
  • It’s hard to see any FBA price other than the lowest price.  See the image on the right above.  It simply shows all of the prices, not just the FBA prices.  If another seller has priced their FBA listing too low, say around $4.00 (this happens more often than you may think), but the next lowest price is $14.99, there is no easy way to find this information.

Conclusion:  Time is money, and the time you lose by using this app could mean the difference between finding 75 books at a library sale or finding only 25 books.  That lost revenue by using a slow app will actually cost you money in the long run.  If you’re serious about flipping books, invest in yourself and your future by spending money on a true scouting app.

Scoutify, by Inventory Lab

IMG_9161IMG_9162Cost:  $49/month, or $490/year (includes a whole suite of Amazon products at this price, not just a scouting app)

Pros:

  • It is simple to use, yet powerful.  The image on the right shows all of the additional research tools you can use to find out more information about a book once you have scanned it.
  • It allows for unlimited licenses for people within your business.  Simply give out your username and password and anyone else can use this app for scouting purposes.  This comes in quite handy if you’re trying to build a business.
  • You can see more pricing information than just the lowest prices (stock traders refer to this as Level 2 data).  This helps you to identify outliers and ignore irrelevant prices that may exist with some titles.

Cons:

  • It doesn’t always show the lowest FBA price (see the note above about Amazon’s API limitations).
  • It is cumbersome to click around to actually find the lowest FBA price on Amazon by using this app.
  • It’s slow.  It’s not a downloaded database, which means it still requires a cell signal and takes a second or two to pull the book’s details from Amazon.  It’s faster to move between books when scanning with this app than Amazon’s Seller App.

Conclusion:  This is a feature-rich app which allows you to share it with others in your business.  However, it is not a downloaded database and is still slow when compared to other true scouting apps.

Website:  inventorylab.com (affiliate link)

FBAScan, by ASellerTool

IMG_9163 IMG_9164Cost:  $30-40/month, depending on features

Pros:

  • It’s fast.  Lightning fast.  You can scan books as fast as you can pick them up, especially when coupled with a Bluetooth scanner.
  • It works even when there is no cell phone reception, because it’s a downloaded database that exists on your phone, not in the cloud.
  • It is easy to find the true lowest FBA.  Look at the image on the right.  If you click the word “FBA” within the app, it will pull up the information on the right, directly from Amazon.  Now this little feature does require a data connection, but it will save you from making poor purchasing decisions and only costs a second or two with select titles where you may have questions.
  • You can access their data with a smartphone or with a PDA device.

Cons:

  • It still doesn’t reveal the true lowest FBA price, but it does as good of a job as any app I’ve tested.
  • Additional licenses still cost you a few extra bucks a month if you’re looking to build a team.
  • The data is only updated on their end every so often (seems like every few days in my experience).  You will never be working with up-to-the-minute data, but if a book met your purchasing criteria two days ago, odds are it will still be a good buy today.

Conclusion:  This is my preferred scouting app, hands down.  I do not receive any compensation for recommending their software, but I will continue to refer others to their app because of its speed and utility.  Do yourself a favor and check it out today!

Website:  asellertool.com

A video review of these three scouting apps:  For those who are more visual by nature, you can watch a video I put together which showcases these three apps.  Check it out here:

 

 

20 Comments

  1. Was surprised to not see Profit Bandit listed. I think it wins for cost. FBA Scan is by far the best though, I agree.

    Also, FBA scan now gives an averaged sales rank. I think that is a very powerful option. I would much rather see a 30 day average sales rank than the current rank.

    • The averaged sales rank is indeed powerful – I wouldn’t be surprised if other apps started jumping on that bandwagon!

      Profit Bandit is a good app for the cost. I only reviewed the three apps that I use in my own business. FBAScan is used 99% of the time, Scoutify is nice to share with others, and it’s basically free since I use InventoryLab to list my books. Great comments!

  2. FBAscan is my “go to” app, I find the DB essential and I use it in this mode almost exclusively. I have tested Profit Bandit a bit, but I see no advantage over the “live only” version of FBAscan. They are both $10/mo and FBAscan has more useful features and (in my opinion) a better user interface. Also, if I recall, Profit Bandit charges you $50 to have the ability to use a BT scanner with their app, which seems excessive.

    In any case, I have used NeatoScan and I like it as well, but it has no real advantage over FBAscan and it’s $10/month more. It is possible they update thier DB more aggressively, but the app itself is not as intuitive.

    I do like how you pointed out the licensing for Scoutify. Most decent apps require a separate licence for each phone/user, but with Scoutify, you could have 15 people out there using it and for the same fixed price.

    Scoutpal is also an alternative for a DB based app, but only for the PDA. They have an Android app, but it’s only live. It look fairly primitive, but it is also inexpensive. at only $9.95 for both live and DB functions. I have never used it, but I plan to experiment with it when time permits.

    Thanks, as always for posting great content.

    • Great analysis on some of the other products on the market, Robert! A downloaded database is definitely essential for speed. Lots of free licenses for your team could be helpful, but only if they are “recreational scanners” and not in competitive situations often.

  3. Caleb, I could use some advice: I currently use Profit Bandit but am thinking about switching to FBAScan based on your recommendation. Profit Bandit isn’t bad when I have time to ponder the buying decision a but, bit like in an uncrowded thrift store, as you’ve said, in sales with a lot of other buyers (library sales, estate sales, large book sales), a quick price check is important and I do a lot of buying in thrift stores in rural areas with poor cell signals.

    What I’m not sure about:

    When I use Profit Bandit, I plug in the sales price (or Buy Price), i.e., what I will pay for the book. Profit Bandit uses that and whether the book is Used or New to calculate the profit and whether I’m selling on FBA to calculate what my profit will be.

    Looking at the online FBAScan tutorial, it looks like there is no way to enter a Buy Price – do you just have to mentally deduct the Buy Price for the book from the profit FBAScan estimates? Or am I missing something?

    Also, FBAScan says the system is “compatible” with Profit Bandit – does that mean you can use the FBAScan downloadable database to check prices with Profit Bandit or other seller tools?

    • late reply, but YES you can enter the buy price on FBAscan as well as your inbound shipping rate. Just tap the profit indicator on the main screen and you can enter the info from here. Once you do that you can tap any competing price on the display and it will calculate your profit based on that competing price you selected.

      I do not rely on this heavily because often FBA used prices are missing, and I already have my numbers in my head.

      • See – someone jumped in and saved the day! Thanks, Robert. That’s a useful feature, but I’m with you… I don’t want to spend the time clicking through when I’m sourcing.

    • Mike,

      I don’t think you will regret moving to a downloadable database, especially if you do one or two large sales a month.

      I haven’t found a way to put buy prices in for the books on FBAScan. Honestly, I do a lot of mental math to make purchasing decisions on the spot 🙂 Perhaps one of my other readers may know more about this topic – if so, feel free to chime in!

      I have no idea what they mean by “compatible” with Profit Bandit… feel free to drop them a line or use the chat feature on their website – they are usually quick to reply!

  4. I’m curious. Do you also use Inventory Lab in addition to FBAScan? Are there other services comparable to IL or no? Thanks for a great blog full of amazing, useful information!

    • Scanpower is probably the closest comparable service to Inventory labs. It offers “live” listing as well as profit analysis among other services like repricing.

    • I use Inventory Lab for listing and also for pulling my sales data once or twice a month to import into my accounting spreadsheet. IL has improved their accounting functions over time, but I still prefer my own spreadsheets and charts that I have created on my own. If I could find a better way to list books and still track sources and what not, I’d drop IL in a heartbeat. I don’t use their scouting app, unless I’m trying to look at items other than media (which is rare).

      What are you trying to get out of IL? It’s a great software overall, I just don’t use it to its fullest potential based on my own record keeping and what not 🙂

  5. Caleb,
    Which level of FBA Scan do you use? Thanks!

    • I use the limited version. If the book’s not in their database, it’s not that big of a deal. If I have a “feeling” about a title, I’ll look it up on the Amazon or Amazon Seller app.

  6. I was at a book sale today and got discouraged. Other booksellers were bypassing me, scanning so fast and making their buying decisions without the help of an app and throwing book after book into their carts to purchase. I, on the other hand, was scanning, looking at rank, # of sellers and FBA prices going at snail’s pace with my KDC200i. Do you know what type of scanners they were using without the help of an app and how did they know what was a profitable purchase without an app? Thanks! I like your site and your interview with Steve!

    • Howdy! Some people leave their phone in their pocket and use a bluetooth scanner along with a bluetooth earpiece to hear audio alerts when their criteria are met for buying books. This is extremely inaccurate if you’re trying to sell FBA, but if you are selling MF or have a high threshold for FBA, it’s a decent way to simply fly through inventory!

    • WakeFan, don’t be discouraged by those type of buyers. Odds are, most of the books they’re buying up so fast are just going to sit in Amazon warehouses for years on end. A more medium sized, carefully-built inventory, consisting of books that actually sell, is much better than just “feeding the beast” with anything and everything. I only have right now a little over 700 books in my inventory, but am consistently selling more than 100 per month, about as fast as my sourcing availability will allow me to replace them.

  7. Is FBAscan only used for books?

  8. I am looking for a thorough and slow tutorial on how to read FBAScan screens. I just got it and am having a hard time learning how to use it compared to the Amazon Seller app I am used to. I scan mostly used books if that helps. Thank you and I hope you can point me in the right direction!

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