Littera Scripta

Packing Books for Shipment

There are a lot of ideas about how a book should be packed for shipping. And a fair number of them are in complete disagreement. However, I'm going to take a stab at this anyway for the sake of booksellers who are just contemplating a mail-order business, and for readers and collectors who need to ship one or more books.

The main goal is to protect the book, and make sure that it arrives in exactly the same condition in which it was shipped.

First, the book needs to be wrapped. I use food grade polyethylene bags which are available in small quantities at your local grocery store as "freezer bags", or at any one a number of commercial suppliers in large quantities:

Bags Unlimited - (800) 767-2247

Chiswick Inc. - (800) 225-8708
Fax: (800) 526-0066

U.S. Address:
33 Union Avenue
Sudbury, Massachusetts

Canadian Address:
P. O. Box 4444
Georgetown, Ontario
L7G 4X7

Tape the bag tightly so that no moisture can penetrate. Don't forget that if the book is going by mail, it may encounter water at some point in it's travels - especially if it's raining on the day it's delivered by an old fashioned mailman on foot...

Some booksellers wrap the book in paper rather than plastic, and others wrap it in paper and then plastic.

Wrap the book in bubble wrap and tape firmly.

Place the book in a cardboard box that is just slightly larger than the book and fill with loose packing material such as styrofoam peanuts or additional bubble wrap until the book is firmly protected on all sides. You must create a cushion around the entire book in order to protect it from bumps and bangs.

Once the parcel is taped closed, shake it a bit. If you can hear or feel any movement, then the book is not tightly enough packed.

Tape all open edges closed. This will help if the parcel encounters water.

Address labels should be completely covered with clear packing tape so that moisture won't obliterate the information - resulting in a lost book.

Padded mailers, either the bubble wrap or the shredded paper versions, are not suitable for shipping hardcover books. I do use them for mass market and small trade paperbacks, although generally not for collectible paperbacks. Of the two, I prefer the shredded paper mailers as the exterior paper is considerably heavier. However, I've spoken to specialists who say that there's not really much to choose between them, so it's up to you.

Make sure that you include an invoice and credit card receipt if appropriate. It's a helpful reminder to the customer if your invoice includes your original condition statement about the book.

As for carriers, the most economical is almost always the post office - whatever country you are in. When shipping between Canada and the US in either direction I don't advise United Parcel Service. They charge additional fees for customs brokerage and GST collection.

When shipping from Canada to the US, two options for commercial shippers are CanPar and TNT Mailfast. Both are slightly more expensive than the post office, but considerably faster.

When shipping from the US to Canada and many other countries do not overvalue the book on the customs form. This results in additional duty or tax to your customer.


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Copyright © 2000 by Deanna Ramsay