What Is the Cheapest Way to Mail Books?

by Tom Chmielewski, Demand Media
    Media Mail is the cheapest rate for sending books, but delivery can be delayed.

    Media Mail is the cheapest rate for sending books, but delivery can be delayed.

    The cheapest way to mail a single book of close to a pound or more is through the U.S. Postal Service’s Media Mail. The Postal Service, however, imposes strict limits on what can be sent by Media Mail. If you’re sending several books, or unusually heavy books, using Priority Mail’s flat rate packaging may give you comparable rates and be even cheaper, depending on the weight. Even if Media Mail is cheaper, it will often take longer to arrive than other mail services.

    Sending by Book Rate

    Media Mail formerly carried the name “book rate,” and the Postal Service and many people still informally refer to it by the old name. Book rate covered printed books as well as manuscripts that an author might send to an editor. The Postal Service upgraded the name to Media Mail to make clear the discount mailing services also cover video tapes, film and sound recordings on DVDs and CDs, and books on CDs.

    Excluded from Media Mail

    Items sent by Media Mail cannot include advertising, such as that found in a magazine. The Postal Service does allow books or recordings to contain incidental announcements about similar work. You cannot include a letter that would qualify as first class mail. Excluded material includes blank CDs or DVDs, recordable computer drives and separate photos. Computer software and video games also cannot be sent by Media Mail.

    Allowable Enclosures

    Among attachments and enclosures that the Postal Service allows are instructions, corrections of printed matter and a post card order form or envelope. Postal regulations also allow incidental personal greetings to be written in the book or attached loosely as a note, provided the note is “closely related but secondary” to the medium being sent.

    Open for Inspection

    By sending a book by Media Mail, you are granting postal inspectors permission to open and inspect your mailing to confirm it meets the criteria for the special mailing rate. Post offices conduct spot checks on Media Mail packages, and if the package violates the criteria, the recipient receives the package with postage due for the difference between Media Mail and Parcel Post. The Postal Service will also charge Parcel Post rates if you seal it it in such a way that postal inspectors cannot open the package without destroying the wrapping.

    Rates

    Current rates for Media Mail and other services are available on the Postal Service’s website, usps.com. Media Mail rates correlate to the package weight, starting at 1 pound. Partial-pound weights are rounded up to the next pound. Rates as of the date of publication start at $2.47 for 1 pound or less and increase by 42 cents per pound up to 7 pounds. Rates then increase by 40 cents per pound until the maximum limit of 70 pounds. Commercial rates start at $1.73 for the first pound. If your book weighs 8 ounces or less, first class mail costs less.

    Priority

    The Postal Service gives Media Mail a low priority for delivery, which may take days or weeks longer than with Priority Mail. Rates for Priority Mail flat-rate boxes can be close to the Media Mail Rates, and delivery normally takes two to three days. Rates for a small flat-rate box -- 8 5/8 by 5 3/8 by 1 5/8 -- are $5.35 retail and $5.15 commercial. The largest Priority flat-rate box measures 12 by 12 by 5 1/2 and costs $15.45 for retail mailing and $14.65 for commercial mailing. Media Mail is available for U.S. domestic delivery only.
    Priority Mail International's smallest flat-rate box is priced at $12.95 for mailings to Canada and Mexico and $16.95 to all other countries for both retail and commercial. Boxes for the lowest rate are available in shapes suitable for sending a DVD, a video tape or a paperback book. The maximum weight is 4 pounds.
    The largest flat-rate box for Priority Mail International measures 12 by 12 by 5. Mailings to Canada and Mexico cost $39.95. Mailings to all other countries cost $60.95 for retail and commercial. The maximum weight is 20 pounds.
    The Postal Service offers delivery confirmation for Media Mail and Priority Mail, but to track your shipment en route you must use a commercial shipper at higher rates.

    About the Author

    Tom Chmielewski is a longtime journalist with experience in newspapers, magazines, books, e-books and the Internet. With his company TEC Publishing, he has published magazines and an award-winning multimedia e-book, "Celebration at the Sarayi." Chmielewski's design skills include expertise in Adobe Creative Suite's InDesign and Photoshop. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Western Michigan University.

    Photo Credits

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