[Update] BookScouter Issues

Following Friday’s performance issues, we’ve continued to receive complaints regarding several Amazon-related services. To ensure we’re transparent with our users, I’ve outlined below a list of reported issues and their status. This is meant to keep you informed so as to not encumber our customer support team with redundant messages. However, if you have any issues not listed below, I encourage you to notify us so we can add it to the list of things needing resolved.

  • ISBN search is delayed or non-responsive – ResolvedA temporary fix was rolled out Friday afternoon. Searches may still be delayed to no longer than 10 seconds, but this is better than the 120 second timeout it had previously. A more permanent fix is in the works.
  • ISBN search returns only $0.00 results – IntermittentWe’re attempting to isolate this problem and discover why it occurs intermittently. Try your search again if this occurs and you might receive more (or fewer) offers the second time.
  • Book images not appearing – ResolvedA fix for this was deployed Saturday. Users might have to clear their browser cache and/or login and logout for this to take effect.
  • Amazon data not populating – ResolvedWe’ve been able to restore the book data, but have not yet been able to restore the “Lowest Price on Amazon” just yet.
  • SellBackYourBook pricing discrepancies – ResolvedWe notified SellBackYourBook and they were able to address a few bugs that will not correctly display prices from BookScouter.com to their site.
  • Amazon penny listings include shipping prices – InvestigatingWe have disabled this feature to allow for the other Amazon data to be pulled in while we work to restore this to function the way it previously did – without shipping prices.

All the above issues are considered top priority and we’re working nearly around-the-clock to return BookScouter services to normal. As a result, minor services such as feedback moderation have been put on hold to give our full attention to these priorities.

I wish to thank you for your patience while we work to resolve these in a timely manner. What we’re trying to avoid is deploying a quick fix that potentially disrupts another part of the BookScouter service.

Again, if you have any items to add to this list, please do so via the contact form. Otherwise, I’ll continue to update this page with changes statuses when available.

Dustin Checketts

Performance Issues Reported – 4/17/15

We received several reports early this morning of intermittent and delayed service on bookscouter.com. Reports ranged from simply “site is down” to “are you performing maintenance?” to “it takes about 2 minutes to pull up a book, and even then, there is no book image, Amazon Sales Rank, Author, Published Date, or Description, and all prices are listed as $0.00″.

Of course, the latter is the most helpful to us, and this particular user was right on the money. BookScouter.com hits Amazon’s API for book images, Author, Sales Rank, Published Date, Description, and how many of a particular book is listed on Amazon at that very moment. This tip directed our troubleshooting efforts toward our handling of Amazon’s API.

Shortly thereafter, we discovered one of our servers that handles this particular piece of an elaborate and complex system had failed. Within an hour we had deployed some code to return service until we can determine a more permanent solution.

I appreciate our vigilant users who helped us identify and narrow our search so we could quickly identify and remedy the problem. What we have in place right now is temporary to keep our service running, but once we gather more data and explore more permanent solutions, we’ll test and deploy more code in the near future.

Thank you for your patience and understanding while we resolved the problem. We’ll now perform an extensive evaluation of the cause and make every effort to mitigate the risk of such and event occurring in the future.

Dustin Checketts

#1 Site to Sell Used Textbooks

BookScouter affiliate, Kyle Taylor, founder and editor of ThePennyHoarder.com, posted an article today on DailyFinance.com titled, “For an A+ in Selling Used Textbooks, Learn About These Sites“. BookScouter.com was mentioned as the number one resource for selling used textbooks. His excerpt of BookScouter is below.

BookScouter is a great site. I used it to make up to $750 a month selling textbooks, and depending on which books you have at hand, you can make some serious cash.

When you put a book’s ISBN into BookScouter, it scans a bunch of different book reselling sites and displays what each reseller is currently offering for that title. You get to pick the offer you like best and then ship your book directly to that reseller, who pays by PayPal or check.

To get an idea of what these different resellers offer, let’s test a random textbook: the seventh edition of “Principles of Microeconomics,” by N. Gregory Mankiw, ISBN 9781285165905. It was published in January 2014, and its publisher, Cengage Learning, gives $271.95 as the list price.

On, BookScouter, the highest offer came from RentText at $91.55, and the lowest offer was eTextShop at $41.25. Not bad, right? Here’s a little more information about BookScouter:


  • The site compares offers from many different textbook resellers.
  • BookScouter [vendors] pay primarily by PayPal or check.


  • Doesn’t share reseller guidelines on acceptable book condition. Instead, it routes you to the reseller’s website, where you’ll have to search for them. If you send in a book that is determined to be unacceptable, you won’t get paid.
  • According to their FAQ: “BookScouter is not very useful for selling rare, collectible or antique books.”

If you’d like to hear Kyle’s other four recommended sites for selling used textbooks, see the full article on DailyFinance.com. Or, if you want to keep up with other penny-pinching ideas, visit Kyle’s personal site, ThePennyHoarder.com.

BookScouter 2015 Roadmap

No doubt you’ve noticed many changes to the site over the past 90 days. These changes, albeit primarily cosmetic, have set the stage for many more exciting changes to BookScouter. To that end, I would like to take a moment to explain why we made the change, what has changed so far, and what changes are yet to come.

Why the changes?

Long story short, BookScouter.com was beginning to show its age. It’s last cosmetic update was over 4 years ago in April 2010; and since then, many new technologies, practices, and advancements have been made to improve the speed and flexibility of websites. Prior to the 2010 update, BookScouter remained in its original form for over 3 years.

BookScouter’s tools have also been showing signs of age. The Bulk Lookup Tool was introduced in July 2011 and hasn’t seen many updates since; mostly fixes for when the service was down. As more Pro users have come to rely upon the Bulk Lookup Tool, we’ve simply spun up more servers to handle the load – still using much of the original code and design from 2011.

Lastly, our audience has grown. When BookScouter was originally introduced in 2007, it aimed to solve a problem for college students wanting to sell back their used book after the school semester. Today, BookScouter is used by many small businesses, bookstores, online resellers, and non-profit and government organizations.

What has changed?

Thus far, most changes have been cosmetic. Beginning with the BookScouter logo, we toned down the bright red and dark black and softened those colors to the dark gray and reddish-orange you see now. The style now represents a more streamlined look that is more on trend with popular designs such as the new iOS 7.x, Windows 8, etc.

Next, our audience has broadened and BookScouter.com is now being viewed more frequently on smartphones and tablets. This meant a responsive design that adjusted and optimized the content based on screen size. So now BookScouter.com adjusts to an optimized design for specific resolutions (widths – 320px, 480px, 568px, 768px, 1024px, 1224px) while still adjusting for custom widths anywhere in-between.

Finally, over 70% of BookScouter.com’s pageviews are the ISBN search results page (prices.php). This meant we had to give that page a lot of attention. In order to guide users to the comparison process, we emphasized the SELL action by the use of a button, and cleaned up the clutter of Yes and No with icons that quickly depict payment and shipping methods. Additionally, we added a visual element to each vendor, the vendor icon, that can help users identify a familiar brand that they may have used before, as well as add more color to the page.

We weren’t fully satisfied with these changes so we continued to research other search results pages of highly successful companies and finally conceptualized what we’re calling the “Featured Vendor Box”.  This box is BookScouter.com’s suggested vendor for a particular book and will adjust dynamically for each individual book based on a key set of criteria. This criteria is quantified and processed by what we’ll call our “algorithm” – just to be cool.

The BookScouter buyback algorithm currently takes into account the following criteria to determine the vendor that will appear in the Featured Vendor Box:

  • Status - Only vendors with Preferred status are eligible to appear in the Featured Vendor Box. If no preferred vendors qualify, the box will not appear.
  • Price – Price is often the first and most important factor to a seller; thus it is the most heavily weighed data point in our current revision.
  • Feedback** - We take into account a vendor’s BookScouter.com feedback score as means of quantifying the quality of service, as determined by BookScouter users.
  • Speed* – Speed favors vendors who pay sellers more promptly as an average measure of time from when the book shipped to when payment was disbursed.
  • Payment* - Vendors with more ways to pay sellers will appear more often than those with fewer ways of paying sellers, all other criteria being equal.
  • Shipping* - Vendors offering free shipping with more carriers will appear more often than those with fewer carriers, all other criteria being equal.

* Not yet implemented. ** Partially implemented using placeholder data.

There are many other criteria we could add to make a very complex and comprehensive algorithm, but we would like to to keep things simple and transparent. Because this is a brand new feature, expect the Featured Vendor Box “algorithm” to undergo ongoing tweaking and adjusting over the next several months. However, we’ll post updates when changes are made so that 1) users can know we’re performing the same due diligence they would (or should) do before selling their books to a vendor, and 2) that vendors know what criteria they’re being ranked upon and have a clear plan of action to improve their chances at appearing in the BookScouter Featured Vendor Box.

NOTE: Registered users are able to hide the Featured Vendor Box so that the ISBN pricing table shows higher on the page, limiting or even eliminating the need to scroll to easily compare vendor prices. To do this, simply visit the “My Profile” page and opt to “hide” the Featured Vendor.

What changes are coming?

If there’s one thing BookScouter has to get right, it’s the accuracy, availability, and reliability of data that gives book sellers the information they require to make an informed decision about where to sell their books. So that’s where we started with the changes – BookScouter’s core service of searching a single ISBN and returning a result from dozens of vendors wanting to buy that book and the price they’re willing to pay.

Our first round of improvements tackled these core services, but with those now behind us, we’re ready to make improvements to the other tools and features that supplement its core service… and introduce a few new ones as well. Below is our list of features and tools that will be receiving some updates or be introduced to BookScouter users in 2015:

  • More robust feedback system
  • New iOS & Android mobile apps
  • Improved vendor pages & relations
  • BookScouter Deals & Deals Notifications
  • Buy books using BookScouter
  • Buy & Sell CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, video games, and other media using BookScouter

Note that the above items could be placed on hold or cancelled at any time, for any reason. I simply want to publicly state our roadmap to keep myself and others accountable for our current list of goals. Because of the length, I won’t go into detail just yet on any one item, but will reveal more details as we near the introduction of any of these new features or changes. As always, if you have questions, suggestions, or comments, please contact us.

Happy scouting,
Dustin Checketts

[Re]introducing BookScouter Mobile

BookScouter Mobile iconTucked away in the recesses of BookScouter.com there once was a mobile-optimized site found at m.bookscouter.com. Having rebranded this mobile-optimized version of BookScouter.com with the new BookScouter design I’d like to re-introduce this tool.

BookScouter Mobile is a lightweight version of BookScouter.com with only the minimum required information for users to make buying decisions on the go. BookScouter Mobile also has the capability to use a smartphone’s camera to scan a book’s ISBN for quick and easy searching while on location at bookstores and other popular scouting locations/events. To take advantage of this feature, users must install the free Pic2Shop app (compatible with all iOS and Android devices).

BookScouter Mobile is not meant to replace the existing iOS and Android BookScouter apps. However, m.bookscouter.com is a great alternative for users while we reengineer our mobile apps for broader compatibility, optimized use, and performance. Stay tuned for more updates on our mobile apps.

I want to thank you for your continued support while we work to improve BookScouter and its many features. Stay tuned for our 2015 roadmap where we’ll reveal more changes that lie in store for BookScouter.

Dustin Checketts

BookScouter Site Redesign – What You Should Know

The last time that we redesigned the BookScouter site was clear back in April of 2010.   (It was really ugly before that.)

We’ve spent the past several months working on the new design and think that the new look is a huge improvement that makes the site look much more modern.  None of the functionality has changed, but you may find some links in slightly different places.  We’ve spent the last week fixing some minor bugs that were introduced with the redesign and listening to your request for changes based on how you used the site.  We’ve got a few more minor things that we’d like to clean up, but everything should be running pretty well now.

One thing that may not be obvious came from suggestions from users.  You said that the pricing information should be moved up on the page so as not to require scrolling to see the prices.   We wanted to keep the format as it was for new users, so if you simply sign into your free account, there is now a setting  that says “Hide Featured Vendor, moves pricing table higher on the page, limiting page scrolling, and hides FAQs.”.   Selecting “Hide” next to this setting will show the book information on the left side of the page, and the prices on the right side, further up the page

As always, please feel free to Contact Us if you have any more comments or suggestions.  We are also getting more active on Facebook, so you can interact with us and others there as well.

Slight Change to BookScouter Bulk Functionality

Since its inception, the Bulk Lookup Tool for BookScouter Pro users has had a quirky behavior if you started to process a second list before the first one was completely finished the two lists would get partially combined.

We’ve just released a change that will fix this behavior so that it works more as expected. When you upload a list of ISBNs, the resulting screen will display only prices from that list. It no longer combines the prices from multiple lists.

Historic BookScouter.com Data

Would you like to gain access to BookScouter’s daily pricing data? BookScouter now has historic data available for purchase. A daily data file contains every price that is shown on the BookScouter.com website.

Contact us about pricing and a sample to try it out!

Each file is gzipped CSV with the following columns:

  • Vendor ID
  • ISBN
  • Price
  • Timestamp

Sample Data:
24,0809129795,1.25,2014-08-04 00:00:00
54,0691122946,1.05,2014-08-04 00:00:01
24,0691122946,1.00,2014-08-04 00:00:01
47,1416589228,1.74,2014-08-04 00:00:01
12,1418548200,1.25,2014-08-04 00:00:02
11,1111347174,4.58,2014-08-04 00:00:02
12,1111347174,54.25,2014-08-04 00:00:02
18,1111347174,18.50,2014-08-04 00:00:02
16,1111347174,51.25,2014-08-04 00:00:02

BookScouter Mentioned on WallStCheatSheet

BookScouter was featured in the article, “6 Ways to Earn Money Without Leaving the House” found on WallStCheatSheet.com. Their six suggestions include recycle, have a garage sale, teach lessons, sell used books, open an Etsy store, and rent a spare room.

Full Article: WallStCheatSheet.com

New Site: BooksCashed.com

We’re happy to announce the third new site that we’ve added this month. BooksCashed.com is the latest addition. This company is based in Atlanta and seems to have some very competitive pricing.

Please give them a try if you have the chance, and make sure to leave feedback after you’ve tried them out.