Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review - Barcode Booty by Steve Weber

Short review: Buy crap cheap and sell it for a profit online.

Use a scouting app
Find discounts in real life
And sell them online

Disclosure: I received this book as part of the LibraryThing Member Giveaway program. Some people think this may bias a reviewer so I am making sure to put this information up front. I don't think it biases my reviews, but I'll let others be the judge of that.

Full review: Barcode Booty is a short but informative guide that outlines how to use a variety of price comparison applications available for smart phones like the iPhone and the Droid to scout for material to sell on Amazon, eBay, and similar websites. Though most of the book is dedicated to evaluating, comparing, and explaining these sorts of applications, the book also gives pointers on what to do with the stock one acquires. As the book is fairly short with only 150 pages of text plus an index, the advice is fairly basic, giving little more than an outline of how to set up a home-based online sales business.

The advice contained in the book boiled down to its essential message is simple: find and buy things cheaply that are in high demand on the internet and resell them for a profit. The wrinkle in the book is that it advocates using a variety of smart phone applications like scandit, pic2shop, or RedLaser to scout for products, comparing the price they can be found for at discount retailers with the price they can be potentially sold for online. This methodology, Weber explains, allows the online reseller to be assured that they will be able to make their investment back and turn a profit as well.

The book starts with Weber talking about his own personal experiences as an online reseller, kicking off with an amusing little anecdote about shopping with his son in tow and then explaining how he got started selling used books online and then branched out to other products. Then the book evaluates a number of popular barcode reading applications, explaining their individual attributes and explaining their individual usefulness - one element that becomes clear is that an online reseller who relies upon one of these applications exclusively is probably missing out on useful information and hampering their efforts unnecessarily.

The book proceeds to warn readers about potential scanning pitfalls, including the potential social pitfalls, and then discusses what sorts of other uses these sorts of devices can be put to. The book goes on to describe some more advanced devices and applications that could be of use to the dedicated reseller, evaluating the various resale platforms that are available, how to use options to outsource fulfillment (and when outsourcing your fulfillment would be a good idea), suggestions for where to hunt for inventory, and a basic outline of legal issues that are associated with running a home-based business of this type.

Weber has three other books on the market, all focused on reselling items online: Sell on Amazon, eBay 101, and The Home-Based Bookstore. I have not read any of them but if they are as straightforward as Barcode Booty they should be fairly informative for anyone interested in engaging in internet arbitrage. The only question that this raises in my mind is whether Weber's success is more the result of reselling items on eBay or his ability to sell "how-to" books to people who aspire to resell items on eBay. This does raise one cautionary element though - reselling products online is not a new idea at this point. Books like Weber's are useful to someone interested in the business, but they also serve to increase the volume of competition.

While much of the information contained in this book is probably old hat to anyone who has engaged in reselling products online, for anyone who is interested in trying to get started this is probably as good an introduction as one might find. One thing Weber makes clear is that this is not a "get rich quick" scheme. While there appears to be money to be had, there is clearly considerable work involved. Anyone who is inclined to attempt to engage in online arbitrage should be prepared to spend considerable hours hunting through discount stores, library book sales, and other locations locating bargains to convert into resale opportunities. But for anyone who is willing to put in the work, Barcode Booty clearly and concisely outlines a basic path that should prove to be potentially lucrative.

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