USPS Media Mail: How to Ship Books for Cheap

I was an online bookseller for years, so I wanted to share the best way to ship books for cheap: with USPS Media Mail! And, how to save time with PayPal (but I’ll get to that part later).

Before we get into it, I want to mention this is only for those who live in the United States and who are shipping to states within the U.S. (Sorry in advance to everyone else!). And yes, Media Mail rates allow shipping to Hawaii and Alaska.

Now, let’s get into the deets!

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USPS Media Mail: How to Ship Books for Cheap

Why Ship Books with USPS Media Mail?

USPS Media Mail is by far the cheapest way to ship books within the United States. The rates are a fraction of the cost compared to other mail services like First Class, Retail Ground, or even Flat Rate boxes.

It’s a mail service created specifically for shipping books and other media (like video/sound recordings, reference charts, etc.) It was built to keep costs down for shipping books, so it makes sense that it’s the cheapest option!

How to Print a USPS Media Mail Label at Home

I’m going to let you in on a little secret I stumbled across when I was an online bookseller: you don’t need to pay for a membership to print shipping labels for Media Mail packages at home! You definitely can, but it isn’t necessary. All you need is a PayPal account (and no, it doesn’t need to be a business account).

When you’re signed in to your PayPal account, navigate to this link to print your shipping label. It will automatically pop up with a form to fill out the necessary information. Next, there are a few things you’ll need to select/enter.

  1. Enter your return address
  2. Select your service type from the dropdown (Media Mail)
  3. Enter the weight of your package (You can use a food scale or postal/shipping scale for this. This is the one I have from Amazon.)
  4. Select your package type (I’ve always used ‘Package/Thick Envelope’, unless I’m using a really large box for lots of books). (I’ll get to how to package later on in the post.)
  5. Put a checkmark next to ‘USPS Tracking’ (It’s free with Media Mail and so helpful to have!)
  6. Select the date you plan to drop off your package
  7. Click the ‘calculate shipping cost’ button

Then, it’s time to pay for and print your label! I print mine on normal paper, then affix it to my packages with shipping tape. Make sure to cover the entire thing (including the barcode), so it won’t get damaged in the rain.

How to Wrap a Book Package for Shipping

For 1-2 books, a bubble mailer (with plastic lining inside) or small box can be used. Larger boxes will be needed for shipping multiple books at once. If you use a box, I recommend wrapping the books in bubble wrap and/or a plastic bag to prevent them from getting wet in the rain.

shipping supplies for sending books in the mail

And don’t forget to seal the box with shipping tape before you drop it off at USPS! Most USPS locations have a package drop-off bin, so you won’t have to wait in line or go up to the counter.

How long does Media Mail shipping take?

While Media Mail is the cheapest option for shipping books, it’s definitely not the fastest. It can take anywhere from 2-10 days. I’ve found it typically takes around 5-6 days, depending on how far away you’re shipping. Shipping to states like Hawaii and Alaska can take longer (sometimes 2-3 weeks).

Can I ship other items with the books?

It’s important to note that you can’t add any additional items in the package if they don’t qualify for Media Mail.

For example, you can’t send a candle with a book if you’re using Media Mail. Your package is subject to be searched at any time, and extra charges would be added if not all items qualify for Media Mail shipping.

I hope this helps you save some money (and time) while shipping books!

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