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 Taylor – thanks for the great information! I volunteer at a nonprofit bookstore. I recently created a pick up only online store for our customers through Square. I am now thinking of adding a shipping option as well.
    I know there is a reduced shipping rate program for nonprofits. Do you know if we can also take advantage of the Media Mail rates on top of that?
    Or do you know of any other avenue to reduce or eliminate shipping costs for nonprofits? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Rose! Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with nonprofit shipping rates. But you should definitely ask your local USPS. They should be able to tell you your best option!

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