How to Use a Scanner with ScoutPal

ScoutPal will work with a bar code scanner that is advertised as being fully compatible with any program that runs on your device.  Scanners are simply input devices, just like a keyboard.  All they do is send bar code digits into your device just as if you had tapped them in from a keyboard.  Scanner support is an issue that is not directly connected with ScoutPal. Your scanner needs to be set up so that it can send bar code digits into any program that is running on your device.  Nearly all scanners come with software "drivers" that will do exactly this. (The ScoutPalDB download includes drivers for popular Windows Mobile scanner types.)

Most recently published books will have an EAN-13 bar codes printed somewhere on them.  EAN-13 bar codes are actually the underlying ISBN "transformed" into a 13 digit UPC, and in the USA, always start with "978". EAN-13 bar codes can be found on the back cover of most trade paperbacks, and on the back leaf of dust jackets. When ScoutPal sees a valid sequence of EAN-13 numbers, it automatically derives the ISBN from the last 10 digits, re-computing the final “checksum” digit.

When scanning mass-market (grocery store type) books, you will need to scan the EAN-13 bar code that's printed on the inside front cover, not the barcode on the back cover. The back cover bar code in mass-market paperbacks is the publisher's SKU for the book. SKU bar codes are unique and proprietary to each publisher, and are not used when searching or listing on Amazon.  With experience, you will likely find that mass-market books are usually penny books in a saturated marketplace.  (Even so, a first-edition Harry Potter book signed by the author may have collector value!)

To operate the scanner, hold it about 4 to 7 inches above the bar code and at a slight angle to avoid having the beam bounce back into the scanner lens, then press the SCAN button. The red scan light stay on until a bar code is read or the scanner gives up ("times out") trying to read it, whichever comes first. If the beam is not shining completely over the bar code, just tilt the scanner, or move it closer or further away, such that the beam shines completely over the bar code. Refer to the picture below, showing how the red scan beam should be aimed to shine completely over the bar code:

Note the smaller 5 digit "supplemental" bar code printed to the right of the EAN-13 bar code. It is typically used to encode the publisher's list price.  It does not need to be included in your scan, and many scanners will simply ignore it.  But if you are using a ROV scanner refer to the ROV FAQ web page on the ScoutPal website to learn how to disable ROV supplemental scans.

CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, other non-print media, in fact all other general consumer merchandise items, all use the familiar 12-digit UPC-A bar code:

You can scan a bar code rightside-up, or upside-down, as long as the beam is shining completely across the bar code, as shown.

The instant the scanner detects the bar code, the bar code digits will appear in the ISBN entry field. Scanners are usually very flexible, and do not need to be held at an exact distance or at an exact angle, within limits, but they will have optimum ways of being aimed. With just a few practice scans, you will learn how to routinely aim the scanner such that it will accurately, efficiently and quickly capture a wide array of bar code formats and sizes.

Techniques to learn with practice include the angle that you hold the scanner and the distance from the scanner to the bar code. Most scanners will not audibly or visually indicate when they fail to read a bar code.  Instead they typically will just shut off their beam, and you'll need to try the scan again. If a bar code won't scan due to printing or other defects, you'll need to tap the bar code digits in manually and perfectly. (Including the small digits printed on the left and right sides of a UPC!)

In a nutshell, the basic instructions for scanning printed merchandise are:

1)  Find and scan the EAN-13 bar code. (Look for a 13 digit bar code that begins with "978".)

2) Don't scan in the SKU bar code on the back of mass-market paperbacks, scan the EAN-13 bar code that's printed inside the book.

For non-print merchandise like CDs, DVDs, tools, toys, etc.:  look for and scan the UPC bar code, these are the 12-digit bar codes you see every day on nearly all consumer goods. If a UPC won't scan and you need to type it in, be sure to include the small numbers on the left and right of the bar code; they are needed to make a full 12-digit UPC sequence.

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