It’s no doubt that I love Half Price Books as much as the next guy: they have a great selection, (relatively) clean store, friendly employees, and convenient locations. However, this wonderful store does not have an inventory system. When you ask the friendly employee in the clean, convenient location if they have the new Dora the Explorer Harry Potter Arnold Schwarzenegger book, they can only tell you where they think it would be located. There’s no definitive, “Oh, yes! We have that!”

The whole situation is odd since books are easier to track than many other physical goods–they have barcodes and unique identification numbers. As I understand it, all businesses have to take physical inventory periodically. If anyone in the Half Price Books organization knows what they have on hand, why not open the database for use? My guess is that they probably capture a lot of business from people browsing. A couple weeks ago we went in to get one specific book and walked out with five others that we found along the way. It’s unclear whether or not we would have bought the other books without the necessary browsing.

Integrating a search feature into the website would also be handy. I understand that companies should stick to what they’re good at, and Half Price Books has done well so far; however, opening the inventory system to search would be a straightforward task that would easily put Half Price Books ahead the elite booksellers.