USPS Media Mail: How to Ship Books for Cheap

Last Updated on April 16, 2022 by Taylor

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. 2022 Update: This link will now direct you to create a free ShipStation account and connect it to PayPal. Once that’s done, you’ll be able to print labels using the steps below.

Next, there are a few things you’ll need to select/enter.

  1. Click ‘Create New Quick Label’
  2. Enter your return address (‘Ship From’)
  3. Enter the ‘Ship To’ address
  4. Select your Ship Date (next to ‘Package and Weight’). (This is the date you plan to drop the package off at USPS.)
  5. Select ‘Custom Package’ from the Package Type dropdown (you’ll be able to select Media Mail later on)
  6. Enter the estimated dimensions of your package (even if it’s a bubble mailer/thick envelope)
  7. 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.)
  8. Click ‘Calculate Rates’ and select ‘Media Mail’ from the options on the right. (Tracking is free with Media Mail and will automatically be applied.)
  9. Click ‘Purchase Label’.

Then, it’s time to print your label! I print mine on normal paper, then affix it to my packages with shipping tape. Make sure to cover the shipping address area with tape, 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. Here are all my best tips for how to package books for shipping!

shipping supplies for sending books in the mail

Lastly, 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!

62 thoughts on “USPS Media Mail: How to Ship Books for Cheap”

  1. Hi there,

    I’ve got several medium-sized boxes (12 x 12 x 24) of books I’d like to ship cross-country inexpensively. Does Media Mail have a limit on how large or how heavy a box of books can be? Would love some feedback / guidance on how much I can expect one of these boxes to cost…and if it’s even worth it…


    1. Hi Mark! According to the USPS website, “packages can weigh up to 70 lbs. and measure up to 108 inches in combined length and distance around the thickest part.” I can’t give you a cost estimate without knowing how much each of the packages weigh, but with the current Media Mail rates, it looks like a 20 lb package should cost around $17, whereas a 70 lb package should cost around $52. I hope that helps!

  2. Thank you for the info, I just created a label using your process with my PayPal account to send my latest published book to someone. I ended up paying more because I forgot the one step to select ‘Media Mailer’. Oh well, the book is being sent to the son of my foreword writer so he deserves a little priority! 😉

    Glad I found your article just the same!
    Best regards,

    1. Technically, no – bookmarks are not on the list of eligible Media Mail items. (I’m sure plenty of people have sent bookmarks with books through Media Mail just fine, but technically it isn’t allowed.) Sorry, I know it seems like they should be allowed!

  3. Do you have to sell the book via Paypal to print a label through Paypal? What does each label cost to print?

    1. Nope! Just use the link listed in the post (under the “How to Print a USPS Media Mail Label at Home” section), which will direct you to sign up for a free ShipStation account. Follow the instructions listed in that section to print a ‘Quick Label’ (no PayPal order is needed). Each label will only cost the Media Mail shipping price – there is no extra charge on top of that (at the time of me writing this). Currently, Media Mail pricing starts at $3.65 for 1 lb, and the price increases based on weight. Be sure to select ‘Media Mail’ under the shipping rate options once you enter the package details. I hope that helps!

  4. Please excuse me for being so shipping illiterate, but I’m not fully understanding one thing. If there is no option for Media Mail to be picked up, then what is the main benefit of pre-printing the label if you still need to take it to the post office to mail it? I would still need to stand in line and hand them the box, right? Thanks.

    1. Good question – most USPS locations have a bin where you can drop pre-paid packages (so you don’t have to wait in line). That’s the main benefit of pre-printing your labels!

  5. Can Media mail be used for destinations other than educational institutions? The language on the USPS website make it seem as though I cannot use this to ship to customers.

    1. Yes – it isn’t just for educational institutions. Media Mail can be used for personal and commercial uses/destinations within the United States, as long as you are only shipping items that fall under the USPS Media Mail guidelines.

  6. Your post is so timely for me. I have some vintage books that I want to mail to my niece for her 2 daughters. Can I find a box, wrap them, seal the box and take it to the post office where they can weigh and set a cost for the multi-media? Kind regards, Rebecca

    1. Hi Rebecca! Yes, you can – just let the person at the USPS counter know you’d like to use Media Mail shipping. Also, be sure to remove or cover any previous shipping labels if you’re re-using a box. And you’ll want to use a sturdy box to make sure the books are safe. 🙂

  7. Hi, great information thanks. Question, when you stand in line and mail a media package via USPS you get a tracking number on the receipt after you pay, how would you track a package if you are printing your own label?

    1. Hi Paul! You can find the tracking number on the shipping label when you print it out. It’s located near the barcode. Just make sure to select that you want tracking when creating the label. (Tracking is free for Media Mail). Additionally, you should be able to view the tracking numbers for the labels you’ve created in your PayPal/ShipStation account (if that’s what you’re using to pay for & create the label). Hope that helps!

  8. One other question or maybe I missed it, how do you know the weight of the book for the postage? I would imagine a scale is required?

    1. Yep! You can use a food scale or postal/shipping scale for this. If you don’t have one, you’ll have to bring the package in to the post office counter to be weighed and have them print the shipping label there.

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