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How to package a book for mailing

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Butcher paper and strapping tape are not good enough, nor professional enough, to package books to send from your business. And padded envelopes will not hold up for hardcover books. Here's how to package books for shipping so they arrive in the same condition in which they were mailed.

Steps

  1. Clean the book.
    • If the cover is uncoated paper, you may be able to use an eraser to remove some smudges, but be gentle.
    • If the dust jacket or paper cover is glossy, you can take off dirt and stray marks by spraying a little Windex on a paper towel and gently wiping off the cover. Be careful not to get Windex on the pages. Sometimes a slightly damp dishcloth is all you need. Give the book cover a moment to dry out before you wrap it.
    • Lighter fluid can be used to remove stubborn stickers from glossy covers -- soak the sticker for 20 seconds or so and then peel it off -- but keep in mind that lighter fluid is harmful to skin.
  2. Protect it from moisture. When the cover has dried, wrap the book(s) in some kind of plastic in case the box gets stuck under a drain spout at some point along the way. The plastic sleeves in which newspapers are delivered to homes are the right size for most books. Put the book in the bag, fold over the top of the bag, and tape it with packaging tape. Don't over-tape; use just enough to tape down the edges. It's a pain if the recipient has to cut off yards of tape to get to the book.
  3. Add whatever letter or card you want the recipient to get.
    • To qualify for the Media Mail rate, which is the best shipping rate the U.S. Post Office offers for books, don't add personal letters or non-book items, or you'll have to pay the higher Parcel Post or Priority rates. Mail a card by itself and tell the person that a book is coming separately. (The card almost always arrives first.)
    • If you didn't include a commercial packing slip, write a duplicate address label to include inside the box in case the original label is torn off or becomes otherwise unreadable.
  4. Consider sending a paperback book in a padded envelope. A box is still best, especially if the book is valuable or sentimental to either you or the recipient. However, paperbacks don't have the overhanging covers and exposed corners that hardbacks do, so they travel better in envelopes than do hardcovers.
  5. Use a box that is larger than the book. For hardcovers, find a cardboard box that is a little larger than the book. If you don't mind paying the higher Priority Mail rate, you can use the Priority Mail boxes that the post office provides free (it's a service you get for paying more). But you cannot use these boxes and still get the cheaper Media Mail rate.
  6. Make a reused box look fresh. If you're reusing a box, you can make it look nice for the recipient by turning it inside out. Just find the spot where the box is glued together. Usually it's just one seam. You can separate that seam with a butter knife, turn the box inside out, and retape that seam.
  7. Add packing material. Set the box right-side up, with the top open. Layer the inside bottom of the box with some packaging material -- packing peanuts, air bags, Styrofoam, crumpled plastic grocery bags, or crushed newspaper as a last resort (newspaper is relatively heavy and adds to the shipping cost).
  8. Fill in the box. Set the book (wrapped in multiple layers of plastic bubble wrap) on the layer of packing material. Fill in the space around the book with more packing material, then fill the box to the top. You want the book to stay firmly in the middle of the box and not slide around.
  9. Can the book still shift? The key is to close the flaps of the box when you finish packing, but don't seal it yet. Shake the box. If you can feel or hear rustling or movement, add more packing material until the box is packed just enough to prevent any movement within. This will protect the book from getting beaten up, no matter what your box goes through.
  10. Write the address on the top flap of the box before you tape it closed, or put on an address label.
  11. Tape the box closed. Tape the top seam with one long piece of tape, then put tape over all the side seams as well to strengthen the box.

Tips

  • You want the book to arrive undamaged. Damage usually happens to the corners of the book, which can get bent (or "bumped," as they say in the book trade). The book should be packaged so that the cardboard box takes any damage, instead of the book itself.
  • Many commercial bookstores have extra packing material that they will give you if you ask nicely. Ask for a lot, and keep the extra in a trash bag ready to pour into boxes when you need to ship something. Plastic bags from grocery stores crumpled up will cheaply fill the spaces.
  • Sometimes with small books, the Priority Rate will be close to the Media Mail rate, and it will be worth it to upgrade to Priority. The book will arrive a lot sooner, thus with less time to be damaged in transit.
  • Make sure to ask for a "zero postage strip" at the post office if you use stamps. This proves that you gave your book to a human and it won't get sent back to you for being over the weight limit.
  • Download the USPS Shipping Assistant, which will allow you to print a barcoded shipping label from your computer. Shipping Assistant requires you to use Delivery Confirmation, but it only charges an additional 14¢ for this service (and it's free with priority mail). PayPal also has a nice shipping system.
  • First class mail is good if you can afford it, but only works for lighter books.

Warnings

  • If you sell books on the Internet, make sure the buyer has no complaint. It isn't the post office's fault if a book arrives damaged if the sender didn't package it properly. Media Mail shipping can take two weeks, which is two weeks for the package to be dropped, kicked, or stacked with dozens of other heavy boxes.
  • If you have a preprinted adhesive address label with a bar code, you don't need to cover it with tape, which can make it more difficult to scan. But if your label was printed on plain white computer paper, it may tear in transit, so you should tape down the entire label, covering it with clear packing tape.
  • You can request "delivery confirmation" for about 50¢ more if you ship from the post office, 14¢ more if you print a shipping label using the USPS Shipping Assistant, or free if you print your own Priority Mail label using the Shipping Assistant or Click-N-Ship. You get a receipt with a long number on it, which you can put into the "track and confirm" section of the post office website; you can also opt to get an email sent to you when the package is delivered. With delivery confirmation, if you sent something to your aunt, for instance, you can tell her when the package was delivered, and she can ask her family members what they did with it. Delivery confirmation also discourages dishonest people from pretending they never got the package.

See also

External links

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This entry includes information from the following WikiHow article: How to package books for shipping