The Cheapest Way to Ship Books 

Published on March 30, 2023
Written by
Filed under Carrier Rates
Read time 11 Minutes

Shipping books doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. But you do need to make sure that you are shipping books correctly. Books are heavy and if you’re not careful, they can jostle loose and tear open boxes. This can cause headaches for postal facilities, as well as damages and additional fees to return the books to you. Whether you’re shipping a single book, a publisher, or a bookstore, there are a few things you and your customers need to know about shipping books. 

Once you know which service to use, how coverage works, and a few packing tips, you’ll be ready to ship books individually or by the truckload. 

Continue reading below

How to Pack Books

Packing books into their shipping material can vary depending on the book you’re shipping or the number of books you’re shipping. In this section, we’ll go over tips for properly packing books.

How to Pack One Book in a Parcel

Packing a Single Paperback Book

The way you ship a single book can vary depending on a few factors. If the book is a paperback and not very fragile, a polymailer or bubble mailer can be sufficient protection from the usual stress that occurs during transit. 

Packing a Single Paperback Book That Needs More Care

If you have a paperback that needs a bit more form during transit, a common option is to slide a piece a cardboard into the mailer to keep it from tearing or breaking along the spine. 

Packing a Single Hardback Book

Hardback books can have more damage in transit than paperbacks. They can have their corners dented in easily or get a damaged spine. As a result, it is best to ship hardback books in either a box or snugly fitting kraft mailer

Packing Multiple Books in a parcel

Shipping multiple books can become a game of Tetris. You want to arrange them in a way that doesn’t allow them to splay out during transit. Avoid packing the books vertically with spine facing up. Laying books on their side or with the spine facing down are the two preferred methods. Additionally, pack kraft paper around the books to ensure a snug fit and avoid jostling that can rip open the packaging. 

Shipping Books with USPS Media Mail

Media Mail is the most common way merchants ship books and other physical media items. With a weight limit of 70 lbs, it can ship a LOT of books for an affordable rate. It is an economical option that has long been available through the USPS. Media Mail is a slower service than First Class or Priority Mail. However, an advantage of Media Mail is that, unlike USPS First Class Mail, it does not have a zone-based pricing structure. So, parcels shipped locally cost the same as they do when shipping across the country. 

What Can I Ship With Media Mail? 

Media Mail lets you ship more than just books! It is the preferred method of shipping USPS Media Mail is a low-cost USPS service that allows you to mail physical media such as:

  • Books
  • Vinyl Records
  • CDs
  • DVDs, Blu Ray discs, VHS tapes,
  • Cassette tapes
  • Other bound material at least 8-pages in length

Why is Media Mail Slower than Other Services? 

A major reason that USPS Media Mail takes so long to reach its final destination is that it is not as high a priority as Priority or First Class Mail parcels. So, it is not sorted as quickly. This is a holdover from when Media Mail was referred to as Library Mail and was subsidized to transport books and other bound media across the country. 

Another reason that Media Mail is slower is that it can be subject to inspections. Unlike other mail classes that would require a warrant to be searched, postal inspectors can check to verify that a USPS Media Mail parcel contains approved content. 

Can You Insure Media Mail Shipments? 

While Media Mail doesn’t include coverage in the way that USPS Priority Mail does, you can choose to purchase coverage from either the USPS or a third-party insurer like Shipsurance. To find a full breakdown of coverage for different services and costs of insuring parcels, read about insurance available in ShipStation

Does Media Mail Offer Tracking?

While insurance is not provided for Media Mail, it does provide tracking updates that update based on new events from label creation, to movement, to delivery. 

When to Not Use USPS Media Mail

Even though Media Mail is the preferred method for shipping books, it is not always the best option. There are times that other services or carriers work better. 

Media Mail Vs First Class Mail?

If your customer doesn’t want to wait too long for a book weighing under 16 oz, First Class Mail may be the way to go. Despite recently slowing First Class Mail by a couple of days, it typically arrives more quickly than Media Mail. While Media Mail can take 2-10 days to arrive, First Class Mail usually only takes 2-5 days to make final delivery. 

Media Mail Vs Priority Mail

Priority Mail functions similarly to First Class Mail when shipping books in that it is a quicker shipping option than Media Mail. Priority Mail takes 1–3 days to make final delivery as opposed to 2-5 days for Priority Mail or 3-10 days for Media Mail. Additionally, Priority Mail lets you ship parcels weighing up to 70 lbs. 

Shipping Books with UPS or FedEx

FedEx and UPS are a good option to ship heavier books that also need a quick shipping time. Additionally, with more delivery guarantees, it’s a good option for students that are ordering textbooks the last possible second and need them shipped using an express service. 

Shipping Books Internationally

Shipping books internationally is another instance where Media Mail won’t work since the service is a USPS domestic service. There are a few ways to ship books internationally. To find the cheapest way to ship books internationally as well as other affordable shipping options, you can check out our cheapest way to ship guide. 

Shipping Rare and Expensive Books

Rare and expensive books is another example of when it may not be best to use Media Mail.  Because a stolen or lost rare book is worth more than its dollar value, it’s more upsetting for merchants and recipients if it is lost. Out-of-print or signed editions of antique books can’t be replaced, so you will want to cover all your bases. Using signature confirmation along with good insurance coverage and an express service is recommended for rare books. Additionally, you will want to use premium packaging and wrap the book in bubble wrap. 

Learn how ShipStation user Harmony Harvest Gets Ship Done.

How ShipStation Makes Shipping Books Simpler

Automatically Choose the Best Shipping Option

ShipStation helps whether you need to ship most of your books out with Media Mail, or if your customer chose a more premium shipping option, or you know that a book needs an express service. With our advanced import automation and shipping presets, you can always make sure you are using the best shipping option. 

Make Purchasing Insurance Simpler 

Buying insurance is never anyone’s favorite activity. The best case scenario is you don’t have to use what you pay for! But, with ShipStation, you can access affordable carrier insurance or third party insurance from services like Shipsurance

Save on Premium Shipping Options

Whether you’re using an economical service or a premium one, ShipStation gives you a range of carriers and services to choose from. From UPS, economical options like GlobalPost, to a broad range of USPS services through, to freight options like Seko, or international options like DHL Express, ShipStation Carrier Services lets you choose the best shipping option for less money. Whether it’s a book, a box of books, or a hot tub, ShipStation has you covered.

Written by

James Messer

James Messer is a copywriter specializing in shipping, logistics, and ecommerce.

Want to learn more about ShipStation?