Interesting use of phone camera & app?

Discussion in 'Digital Cameras' started by tony cooper, Mar 1, 2012.

  1. tony cooper

    tony cooper Guest

    The other day I stopped by a couple of Goodwill stores and noticed an
    interesting use of a phone camera and maybe an app of some sort.

    Three guys with phones were going through the books and some other
    shelves photographing title pages of books, and maybe using an app of
    some sort, and choosing books to buy based on some return message they
    received. It looked like they were photographing or scanning the ISBN
    numbers. (They stopped when I moved closer and kinda concealed what
    they were doing) They had a shopping cart half full of books.

    I assume they were looking for books with resale value and were using
    some distant source to identify such books. Maybe a book search firm.
    Frankly, they didn't look like they could read, so I doubt if they
    were building their own library.

    Not finding all that I wanted at the first Goodwill, I went to another
    one after stopping for lunch. The same three guys came in and started
    doing the same thing.

    My Goodwill mission was to buy some cheap tripods. I've got a
    table-top photography project in mind, and wanted the tripods to use
    as light stands. I bought three and bolted a plate on each and use
    those Home Depot reflector work lights clipped to the plate.

    The tripods are light and easy to move around, the plate is adjustable
    in angle and height, and the tripods fold up for storage. I've got
    $12 total in the three of them.

    Not as fancy as Alan Browne's kit, but functional and cheap.
    tony cooper, Mar 1, 2012
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  2. tony cooper

    PeterN Guest

    That's a modern variation. I know an antique dealer who would frequent
    Goodwill and Salvation Army stores, looking for antique furniture. He
    would discretely scrape off layers of paint, in a concealed area to
    determine the quality of the wood. More than once he picked up a piece
    for a few bucks, that after restoration, he sold for thousands.

    The store managers were quite aware of his activities and would let him
    know if anything interesting came in. I will not express the obvious
    PeterN, Mar 1, 2012
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  3. tony cooper

    Alan Browne Guest

    There are apps that scan barcodes and return titles and prices and such.
    There are apps that build inventories from barcodes. I haven't found
    a satisfactory one (for free) to catalog my CD's, DVD's and books. I
    may just fork out the $60 or so for one at some point.

    In the case above I would have simply asked what they were up to. "Say,
    guys, I'm curious...". Maybe that's not a prudent thing to do in some
    Post a phot please. I'm always stealing ideas. Here's some I haven't
    tried yet, but are on the one day list:
    Big spender!
    Once upon a time I used tripods (cheap, expensive and in between) as
    light stands. It works, of course, but the wide spread of the legs can
    be an obstacle. In a small space things get in the way quickly. Over
    time I've collected light stands from new to used. One fellow threw in
    a backdrop kit (2 stands and 9' cross bar) with a set of strobes I
    bought. I gave him an extra $25 over the agreed price. I have a soft
    spot for starving students.

    A nice way to use them for tabletop is with two shortened legs up on the
    table and the third on the floor. This allows getting the light or
    camera steady and right over the subject. A macro rail is best for

    4th photo:

    You can also make light stands with a flat plate base (sheet of plywood)
    and a pole. Various bits and pieces of leftover materials and hardware
    in the garage, shed or attic can often be enough. Might not be as
    "foldable" or portable.
    Alan Browne, Mar 1, 2012
  4. Also, the most valuable books predate ISBNs :).
    David Dyer-Bennet, Mar 1, 2012
  5. The guys were probably nervous that the Goodwill store staff would be
    upset (though I can't see it; if they choose to put the books out at a
    price, that's their part of the deal, and it's GOOD for somebody to
    choose to buy them).
    David Dyer-Bennet, Mar 1, 2012
  6. tony cooper

    Alan Browne Guest

    .... and/or broadcast the price.
    Alan Browne, Mar 1, 2012
  7. tony cooper

    tony cooper Guest

    I don't think you would have asked these guys. Definitely unfriendly
    when they saw I was curious. They weren't doing anything wrong, but
    may have thought I wanted to steal their idea.

    They had the wrong idea about me. I would have complimented them for
    their ingenuity.
    tony cooper, Mar 2, 2012
  8. tony cooper

    Savageduck Guest

    Try these:
    < >
    < >
    < >

    However I suspect that they were probably digging for treasure.
    < >
    Savageduck, Mar 2, 2012
  9. tony cooper

    Savageduck Guest

    < >
    < >
    < >

    As you have noted there are several bar code scanners in the App Store,
    many free which do a decent job to ID a book, CD, DVD, or other
    products and give competitive pricing.

    Amazon's "Flow" does a reasonable job, as does "Quick Scan".

    << >
    Savageduck, Mar 2, 2012
  10. tony cooper

    RichA Guest

    One interesting thing to look for at these places are company cast-
    offs. Often, you can get outstanding quality large aluminum and glass
    picture frames for peanuts compared to the new price. You can just
    disgard the "attitude" and "positive thinking" propaganda posters
    inside. :)
    RichA, Mar 2, 2012
  11. I read about this sort of thing going on in New York the other year and
    heard it has effectively killed good used bookshops. People like that just
    swoop in and take a skim off the resale price. Entrepreneurial maybe but it
    kills everything for everyone else just for a lousy markup. As far as I'm
    concerned people like that are filth like buy-to-let landlords.
    Charles E. Hardwidge, Mar 2, 2012
  12. tony cooper

    tony cooper Guest

    I really don't know what they do, but it would seem to me that they
    would be buying the books at Goodwill and selling them to "good used
    bookshops". Used book stores get a lot of their stock from pickers,
    not just people who bring in personal books.

    If I understand the system correctly, they are *helping* used book
    stores stay in business by finding and supplying them with inventory.

    The pickers wouldn't be selling the books on eBay. The volume and the
    low unit prices would make individual listings and selling on eBay too
    unrewarding. It wouldn't pay for gas.
    tony cooper, Mar 2, 2012
  13. They are leeches.

    The concept isn't new, all the people in the used business will pay
    attention to garage sales and book sales. But, they have to have skill,
    know what people will buy, know the value of an item.

    The barcode skimmers don't need to know anything about the value, or the
    item, they are just looking up a list. They don't even have to type in
    the numbers. They just rifle through the items until something rings a
    bell, indicating a high resale value.

    Real book dealers are like anyone else, they go to the bookstores, they
    look at the books, they make a judgement. I can do it too, that book is
    overpriced, it's common, that book I haven't seen in 20 years, this book
    I've never seen before. I'll give this a home because I'm pretty
    certain nobody else coming by will be interested, but once the price
    goes up, I'll be more selective. I'm not reselling, but I certainly know
    the books.

    This is the way the internet fails. It doesn't raise people up, it dumbs
    them down. Some collective mind lets them do things that they wouldn't
    ahve done before, but they havent' changed, they are relying on others to
    do the work.

    This is so common that only a fool would be worried that someone would
    copy them. But they have good reason to worry about Goodwill, since they
    are explotiting the cheap books and making a profit. Why doesn't Goodwill
    start doing the exact same thing, and then raise the prices accordingly,
    or sell them directly to buyers? The problem is, that if you start
    filtering the books at a used book sale or store, then there is less of a
    lure. If the good books are skimmed off before the sale, then I'm not
    going to get up early to go to it. If the prices are raised, to reflect
    "internet prices", then i wont' buy as much. It relies on people to come
    in and buy at the higher prices.

    Books are in an endless supply, and likely will continue that way for a
    long time (one can still buy records at garage sales). If book sales
    raise their prices for the barcode skimmers, then they risk ending up with
    too much stock at the end, something they don't want.

    These idiots aren't doing me a favor, I dont' want them blocking my way as
    they scan books. I have only comtempt for them, and have told them so. I
    want to go to used book sales for the adventure, to find books I've never
    seen before. If I wanted specific books, then I'd pay someone for that
    filtered selection, but I'd also be real careful knowing that idiots with
    barcode readers may be the source of such books.

    Someone pointed out that lots of books don't have a barcode. Which shoes
    the stupidity of all this. The barcode skimmers will go through that
    stack of computer books, hoping to win the jackpot, but there are endless
    books that I rarely or never see, that may be harder to resell, but might
    have a better price. Meanwhile, the used book sales feel they have to
    deal with the barcode skimmers, so they do the same thing, raising prices
    on the books with barcodes. Yet a year ago, at one sale, they were
    discarding a autiobiography by jazz singer Ethel Waters, something I've
    never seen before, surely of value to someone. That same sale, I paid a
    dollar for a an autobiography of Dorothy Day, the pacifist, it was the
    first time in 30 years that I'd seen a copy (and I paid more the first
    time). But the barcode skimmers will never notice, they are illiterate
    when it comes to the actual books. And so are the book sales, they know
    broadly what's valuable, they can price the latest Clive Cussler at a
    higher price than some generic fiction, but unless they pay attention over
    the years (ie volunteers stick around enough to be valuable) they won't
    know how uncommon that Dorothy Day book is, yet will price something
    higher "because the internet says so".

    Michael Black, Mar 2, 2012
  14. tony cooper

    tony cooper Guest

    An interesting viewpoint, but not one that I particularly agree with.

    A line worker making iPads knows nothing about what makes an iPad
    work, the value of an iPad, or the use for one. But, that worker is
    contributing the skill he/she has to the process.

    The result is a product that someone wants, knows what to do with, and
    one that puts money in the pocket of the assembly contractor, Apple,
    Apple employees, app developers, software developers and some end
    users. Without that ignorant line worker, the product doesn't get to

    The picker in the Goodwill store is earning money and supporting
    himself and his family. The money he earns is spent on food,
    clothing, rent, and other essentials. It flows into the system.

    If you discount the value of every employee or worker who has a
    function in making or distributing a product that he or she is
    ignorant of the value or end-use of, you discount the value of most
    people in the workforce.

    You discount the value of the typesetter, the press operator, the
    bindery worker, the warehouseman, the shipping clerk, and the delivery
    truck driver who don't read the books that they produce and bring to
    I doubt if this is the prevailing practice. Most used book dealers
    are small businesses in the number of employees. They can't be out
    scouring other bookstores for inventory and manning their own stores
    unless they increase their overhead by staffing their store to replace
    them. They can't travel over a wide area because of the costs of road
    trips. The picker system brings the books to them.

    Rare book dealers may be an exception, but the average used book store
    can't follow your model and remain in business.
    You're a hobbyist, then. You don't depend on volume or a varied stock
    of titles. Basically, you're a cherry-picker.
    So you're a dilettante that is annoyed when someone making their
    living in the only way that may be available to them slows down your
    tony cooper, Mar 2, 2012
  15. tony cooper

    Irwell Guest

    When our local libraries have their discarded book sales,
    there always local book sellers loading up their boxes without
    looking too deeply into the books. They then take the boxes
    over to a quiet area and filter out what they consider will
    be best for them.

    Not quite 'leeches' more like shite-hawks.
    Irwell, Mar 2, 2012
  16. tony cooper

    Alan Browne Guest

    The rewards for the skimmers are lower too. They don't know the real
    value of something, only what a re-seller is willing to _offer_ (lowball).

    So the skimmers fill an economic niche and as they are less expert at
    it, their rewards are less.
    So, let the legions of skimmers do the searching and you do the deciding
    and pay less as they're not expert enough to see the real value and long
    game. This puts you in a position to really corner the market at lower

    Why are you bitchin?
    You've got it all wrong. Read "The Black Swan" and pay attention to the
    part where you "... don't get rich being a single resource doing a
    single thing at a time, you get rich by MULTIPLYING your talents over a
    wide opportunity base thereby greatly leveraging your ability to
    generate income and profit." (That's not verbatim - just dragged out of
    the dank recesses of my memory).
    They will catch on at some point. But even then the best profit goes to
    the level above.
    Not at all. Get in the driver's seat instead of lowering yourself to
    the single kill.
    They are finite.
    Markets such as these always adjust price wise. The internet just
    causes settling of prices in a faster way.
    Then you deprive yourself. Compete man! Compete!
    That is your competitive advantage. Take advantage of it instead of
    moaning like the last picked kid for dodgeball sides.
    So - you've stated how you're so much smarter than the rest. With that
    advantage you should be able to leverage your smarts, put the "leeches"
    to work for your advantage and corner the best.

    Way to go Michael!
    Alan Browne, Mar 2, 2012
  17. tony cooper

    Alan Browne Guest

    As I said, "I haven't found a satisfactory one for free". If there was
    a paid for _one_ that would do CD/DVD and book __inventories__ all in
    one system, that would be great.
    Alan Browne, Mar 2, 2012
  18. tony cooper

    tony cooper Guest

    I was chatting with a lady in my camera club about this. She grows
    plants that she sells at a flea market. She finds unusual containers
    for her plants at Goodwill. She knows all the Goodwill and Salvation
    Army stores in town.

    According to her, each Goodwill is different based on the help. If an
    employee (volunteer?) at that store is knowledgeable about a certain
    type of item, that item will be priced higher than it might be at
    another store. She thinks that certain stores set some things aside
    and call certain buyers (like for-profit thrift shops and antique
    shops) to give them first crack. She's upset about the practice, but
    I think she's more upset because she's not on the list to be called.

    There's a whole sub-culture at this level that I never knew existed.
    tony cooper, Mar 2, 2012
  19. tony cooper

    PeterN Guest

    And just where would most people live if they couldn't lease apartments,
    PeterN, Mar 2, 2012
  20. tony cooper

    PeterN Guest

    Last year I brought my daughter's decent quality keyboard to the
    Salvation Army. I told the manager what I thought a fair price should
    be. They sold it for that price, but it took a few months.
    PeterN, Mar 3, 2012
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