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Scanning Solutions for Booksellers

Part I: Using Your iPhone (or Droid) for Real-Time ScoutPal Scanning
by Craig Stark

Part II: Product Review for the Opticon Bluetooth Scanner: OPN 2002
by Karin Bergsagel

#148 27 September 2010



Recently, I've recommended an application for iPhone users called pic2shop, which "scans" bar codes via your phone's camera and returns data from an array of different venues. Bar code recognition is near instantaneous, and results come up more or less quickly at a speed that depends, to a large extent, on your local connection. If you have an iPhone 4 (with its now significantly faster processor) and are in a Wi-Fi hot spot, performance at least approaches what can be obtained with a dedicated PDA/socket-scanner unit accessing uploaded data. And 3G is not far behind.

If there's a downside to pic2shop, it's that it's not overly bookseller friendly. First returned results are prices for new items only, not used, and to access, for example, Amazon Marketplace copies, you have to scroll down slightly, click a "Search Amazon" button and wait for a second set of results, and even then you get only the lowest price - unless you want to scroll and click a third time.

However, pic2shop's developer, Vision Smarts, has recently launched a user-configurable pro version of pic2shop (currently priced at $9.99) that enables us to access data from the data source of our choosing - including ScoutPal, which delivers much more detailed, real-time results in one step

Configuration couldn't be simpler. After installing pic2shop PRO on your iPhone, use Safari to browse to, enter your ScoutPal ID and password, click the button, then click the link that comes up next. When asked to confirm configuration, click "Okay," and you're ready to scan.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks go out to Dave Anderson at ScoutPal for setting up the configuration procedure.]

To scan a second item, simply click the camera icon at the bottom, or, as always, you may enter an ISBN or LCCN in the ScoutPal box at the top of the screen - or 411 to title-search Abebooks.

Droid users can access ScoutPal data similarly by installing ZXing Barcode Scanner and using the procedure detailed at this link.

If you aren't a ScoutPal subscriber, at $9.95 monthly it's as reasonable as always. Click the top banner on BookThink's forum or this link to subscribe.

Click here for more information on pic2shop PRO.

Part II: Product Review for the Opticon Bluetooth Scanner: OPN 2002

By Karin Bergsagel

In my eyes, the tiny OPN 2002 programmable barcode reader is an example of Clarke's Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Once paired via Bluetooth to an iPhone or iPad, it will instantly scan and read a barcode into any program or web browser. The high quality laser works well even in difficult bright light conditions.

The best way to give an idea of the scale is to show it next to my iPhone.s

When scouting, I wear it on a thin lanyard around my neck. Point it at a barcode - Zap! - real-time ScoutPal data comes up - instantly.

This link gives technical specs.

And this one explains how to pair it - trust me, it is easier to do than to read the instructions - you just scan some barcodes to tell it what to do:

The only real con to this scouting solution is that, since it is an input device, it pairs as a keyboard, and that means that the onscreen keyboard is disabled. So, as long as you have Bluetooth enabled, you are limited to scanned input only. Of course, it is foolish to limit scouting to scannable barcodes - perish the thought! - so I usually turn off the Bluetooth and manually enter ISBNs if I want ScoutPal data. Or, if I want richer data, I will use my iPad, and manually enter information. That way I can access my favorite metasearch site,, and actually read the screen.

Yes, it's a bit of a juggling act - iPhone in left hand; OPN 2002 around neck; iPad held under arm; right hand to pick up books - but I find it quite manageable. I like using the scanner to enter barcodes - it is faster, more accurate, and less tedious than manual entry. Of course, I am still nowhere near as fast as a scanner-wielding bot using headphones and preset buy criteria, and that's just fine with me; they will miss plenty of books that I'll spot for one reason or another.

The other drawback is cost - the best price that I found was right at $300.

By now some of my peers, who believe that no "real" bookseller worth their salt needs a machine to tell them what to buy, are probably shaking their heads in sorrow at my misguided ways. For them, let me close by saying that since I use a computer and the internet to research books at home, I see no reason not to use the same sources in the field. An iPhone, an iPad, a barcode reader - they are all just tools, and what really matters is the skill and knowledge of the user.

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