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A guide to shipping books

A stack of colorful books.

In a digital-first world, it may sometimes seem like books are yesterday’s technology. But wherever you look, books form the background of our lives. From our homes to our classrooms and our libraries, you don’t need to search far to find a good book.

There may even be a time that you need to ship a book. Maybe it’s shipping textbooks in time for back-to-school, or you’re a self-published author looking to fulfill orders. Whatever your need, here is some practical advice for shipping books that will reduce the potential for damage in transit.

How to ship books

Nobody wants a dog-eared or moisture-damaged book when they’re expecting a pristine edition. Whether you’re shipping a paperback or hardcover, it’s important to reduce exposure to moisture and protect the edges of the book from damage while in transit. 

For high levels of protection from moisture, wrap the book in plastic. Use plastic wrap or slip it into a plastic bag if you have one that fits. Consider leaving some air in the bag for extra padding. Alternatively, cover the front and back of the book in bubble wrap and secure with tape. The bubble wrap will help protect from moisture and provide cushioning against impact. Another option is to fully wrap the book in waxed Kraft paper, which offers high resistance to moisture and does not tear easily.   

Next, if you want to give both hardcover and paperback books some extra protection, consider creating a cardboard mailer in which to insert the book. Using a box cutter, score a length of cardboard designed to fit all the way around the book. Tape the cardboard securely. Ensure that the sides of the book, including the spine, are adequately protected by the mailer. 

Finally, slip the book into an appropriately sized poly mailer. If you would like the added protection of a box when shipping books, insert packaging material, such as tightly wadded Kraft paper or loose bubble wrap, to cushion the book inside the box and reduce the likelihood of it moving about during transit.

Shipping large books and books in volume

Not all books are made equally. There are big books, small books, thin books, and thick books. Shipping a coffee table book is a different proposition than sending a pocket-sized manual. And shipping all 20 volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary will require yet another approach.

For large books, wrapping in plastic provides excellent protection against water damage. As already mentioned, bubble wrap is a good alternative for repelling moisture. Ensure the spine and corners of the book are adequately protected with a cardboard covering and the book is placed inside an appropriately sized shipping box. Again, secure the book within the box with additional packaging material such as bubble wrap.

If you’re shipping more than one book, protect each book individually following the guidance above, and place the books into the box in a way that maximizes space. Since large books can be quite heavy, you should understand the principles of dimensional weight to help you figure out the cost for shipping.

For larger shipments of books, consider obtaining a multi-depth box that allows you to adjust the box down to the required depth. Use cardboard dividers between the books to protect each of them from bending. 

Remember to use extra packaging material inside the box to prevent the books from sliding around. Tape the box securely on all sides to avoid moisture getting in. Finally, print your shipping label and securely attach it to the box.

Shipping valuable or antiquarian books

Sometimes the best books are the older ones. Who doesn’t marvel at a collection of old maps or a recipe book from a century ago? Meanwhile, a first edition of “The Great Gatsby” or “Mrs. Dalloway” is more than just a great read. It has significant commercial value.

For shipments of valuable or antiquarian books, follow each of the relevant steps above, including plastic wrapping, to ensure maximum protection of the books during transit. Then decide on the best delivery option, depending on how timely or sensitive your shipment is. Again, remember to properly tape the seams of the shipping box to avoid moisture getting into the box.

You should also consider increasing the declared value of your shipment or taking out insurance through UPS Capital for further peace of mind.

Additional considerations when shipping books 

When deciding on the best way to mail books, the cost of shipping is usually a factor. UPS® Ground is a great option for shippers looking to ship books cost-effectively.

Furthermore:

  • For anyone planning to ship books internationally, be sure to complete your customs documentation, including the commercial invoice, fully and accurately to avoid delays or unexpected complications at the port of entry. You can also check the country regulations to make sure the commodity you are shipping is not restricted.
  • For e-commerce merchants, consider using company branded paper when wrapping the book. Alternatively, slip in a custom bookmark that your recipient is bound to appreciate. Small touches go a long way.
  • If you’re shipping a set of rare and collectible books, arrange them in the box in as orderly a fashion as possible for the best presentation. That said, it’s always advisable to lay the books flat rather than stack them spine upwards.

For total peace of mind, visit a The UPS Store® location to get expert support with packing and shipping your books. The UPS Store locations offer a range of packing services and packaging materials perfect for your shipment, including sturdy boxes designed to withstand both lighter weight and heavier volume goods. The UPS Store Certified Packing Experts® will determine the right materials for shipping your books, which will likely include placing each of your books inside a poly bag prior to boxing, with Kraft paper used to fill empty space inside the box.

For higher value or antiquarian books, The UPS Store locations can offer fragile and custom packing solutions, which can include one-inch foam planks on all sides of the box, as well as layers of bubble and foam wrap to protect the contents. Their Pack & Ship Guarantee is great news for readers everywhere when shipping books with UPS.

Get your books on their way today

No matter if you’re shipping a spiral-bound textbook for the new academic year or an antiquarian volume of encyclopedias to a collector in another state, ship with UPS and enjoy the confidence that your books will arrive on time and intact. 

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