These days, sending packages isn’t cheap. Among the post office, UPS, FedEx and other shipping companies, mailing options are abundant. Still, the costs can be prohibitive. If you’re trying to sell a used book or participate in a paperback swap, you probably don't want to spend a fortune on shipping. Thankfully, the U.S. Postal Service has got you covered with their Media Mail program. This is usually the cheapest way to mail a book.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Media Mail is the cheapest way to mail books.
How to Use Media Mail
Offered through the USPS, Media Mail allows you to inexpensively ship educational materials from your local post office. Materials that can be sent through Media Mail include books, sound and video recordings, scripts, manuscripts, sheet music, educational reference charts and more. If you plan to use Media Mail to ship a book, make sure to specify that your package is eligible for Media Mail while at the post office.
Post office employees often default to mailing packages through First Class mail. Clearly write "Media Mail" on your package or otherwise indicate to your USPS representative that you are shipping with Media Mail. This will ensure that you get the lowest rate, saving you as much money as possible. Note also that Media Mail is treated as low priority by the USPS, and delivery tends to take longer than other shipping methods. If your package needs to arrive by a certain date, Media Mail may not be your best option.
Costs to Ship Media Mail
The cost of sending Media Mail is determined by your package’s weight. For a book that’s 1 pound or less, you’ll pay $2.75 for shipping with Media Mail. For each additional pound, add 52 cents to your total. For example, shipping a 5-pound book through Media Mail will cost $4.83 in postage. Media Mail shipping rates are based solely on weight and will remain the same whether you're mailing a package across town or across the country.
Media Mail Restrictions
Unfortunately, Media Mail does have some content restrictions. Items sent by Media Mail cannot contain advertising. This rules out magazines and comic books. Furthermore, USPS specifies that video games, computer drives and digital drives are off limits too. All Media Mail packages may be subject to inspection by the USPS, so it’s best not to violate these rules when taking advantage of the low shipping prices.
Generally, Media Mail will be the cheapest option to ship books, but there might be a few instances where other options cost less. If you are sending multiple books, compare your Media Mail price with that of a flat rate box. Note that the cheapest flat rate option costs a minimum of $7.35, so your books would have to weigh at least 12 pounds before you’d start saving any money. However, it’s always good practice to compare prices before making a final decision.
Chelsea Levinson earned her B.S. in Business from Fordham University and her J.D. from Cardozo. She has been writing professionally for more than ten years. She has created personal finance content for Bank of America, H&R Block, Huffington Post and more.