Safely Shipping Books
You’ve sold a unique and wonderful book online to a new customer or simply giving it as a gift. No matter the recipient, your hope is for the book to arrive in the same condition as it did prior to shipment. Unlike most new books that are mailed with little care (e.g. throwing a book in a bubble mailer, dropping it in whatever flat-rate box it fits with no padding), books of age or value should be handled in a different manner.
- Particularly if you’re selling the book to someone, your first step is to inspect and ensure it is the exact item you agreed to send. While it seems like a rather obvious step, you would be surprised how easy it is to send the right book but wrong printing, especially when you have multiple copies. If the book was handled by others, verifying the condition is a necessity.
- Next, you’ll want to wrap the book in a soft material; for example, a tissue paper for gift wrapping or a light weight shipping paper will do the trick. This should be a white color so that there is no transfer, which is what can happen when colored or newspaper print is used. A lightweight paper prevents the covers and, if applicable, a dust jacket from rubbing against rough edges of other packing material.
- A small amount of bubble wrap, between two and three layers thick, will compliment the thin wrapping paper and prevent any hard jolts during transit. Typically, the bubble size used for this is around 3/16” but the larger 1/2” bubble wrap will work as well. If a “Handle with Care” label is needed, apply it to the bubble layer so that the person unpacking the shipment knows they need to be delicate or risk damaging the book.
- At this point, a sturdy box needs to be located with enough size on each side of the book to allow for 2” or more of thick shipping paper, packing peanuts, or large bubble wrap. Depending on the weight of the book(s), you might need upwards of a double-walled “Heavy Duty” box, which is recommended for packages over 12” in any one dimension. If the package is smaller though, a single-walled shipping box will work. A new, unused box can take the the brunt of the shipping stage, whereas a used box might tear at the seam or otherwise fail. Heavy duty shipping tape is a must for heavy duty boxes, but standard shipping tape, if layered correctly, will suffice as well.
- Lastly, your packing material is necessary but paper works well for its versatility and recyclability. There are a variety of weights for thicker paper, but we’ve found that 40# and 50# paper to be cheaper and easier to buy from local stores. Though messy and hard to store, packing peanuts will do the trick; inflatable air cushion bags can be expensive if you ship infrequently.
This largely depends on each situation: the destination, what you’ve promised, what your recipient requested or paid for, the value of the book, the dimensions and weight, etc.
USPS Media Mail
Most single book shipments of lower value and in no hurry to arrive, will work using USPS Media Mail. Keep in mind that your book must qualify and meet the restrictions set by USPS, which for the most part prevents any bound items with ads (magazines, periodicals, etc.) from being shipped with that service. If you determine your book qualifies for Media Mail, it can also be insured if the item has value. Should you need to send an item from coast to coast, Media Mail will take every bit of 7-9 days, while Hawaii or Alaska can take weeks.
USPS Expedited Services
If an expedited service is necessary, USPS Priority mail can handle most book shipments especially with the number of flat-rate boxes available. However, there are few circumstances where a shipping envelope would be selected as the possibility of damage rises dramatically – stick with a box!
Regional flat-rate boxes, when applicable, can save a few dollars if your book fits those inside of those boxes. There is also nothing wrong with using your own sturdy box and purchasing a Priority Mail label just keep in mind that heavier books and destinations farther from you will come with added cost. Priority Mail shipments come insured with $100 and additional insurance can be added to your shipping label.
FedEx Home Delivery and UPS Ground
Finally, both Priority mail and Media Mail can be a great value, but it pays to check FedEx Home Delivery and UPS Ground shipping rates. In situations where the package is heavy, usually starting around 20-25 lbs, in our experience it is much faster and cheaper to use FedEx and UPS. Note that FedEx and UPS do not deliver standard services on Saturdays.
Finally, don’t forget to insure accordingly, print and affix your label. Your book shipment should be ready for drop-off at your nearest service center collection. Following these aforementioned steps will give you the peace of mind that your books will arrive safely!