Preparing Books for Shipping
How to Package Books to Avoid Damage in Transit!
Whether you send books media mail or priority, the purpose of this guide is to encourage you to take a little extra time to package it right- and to show you what can happen if you don't!
There is nothing more exciting to a book collector than winning a gem of a book (one that has somehow managed to survive in pristine condition over the decades!) on ebay at a good price- or at any price at all! And there is nothing more disheartening than to eagerly look forward to your new treasure for days or weeks only to be heartbroken when it has finally arrived- damaged in shipping! Who is to blame? Is this the fault of the post office? Absolutely not! The overwhelming majority of times, this is due to negligence on the part of the person who packaged that book!
It is to be expected that packages will get shuffled around, thrown, dropped, etc. It is the job of the seller or packager to ensure that the book arrives to you in the same condition it was mailed! Some sellers are so poorly educated about this that they drop a book into an envelope (paper or bubble mailer) and expect it to arrive 500 miles away at your doorstep in the same flawless condition!
What can happen if you do not prepare books properly for shipping:
Example #1: Take a look at the once lovely "near mint" 1936 schoolbook that I purchased on ebay several years ago. The cover was exceptionally clean. The corners were still sharp! This book had never been used. Inside pages were clean and crisp. It was a collector copy for sure, one that would have had a fine place in a serious collection.
book before mailing:
Would you believe this was how it was packaged and how it looked upon arrival?
The entire book was bent out of shape! This is not something one would expect to happen to a hardback with hundreds of pages! Ironically, there were "do not bend" stamps all over the package- in red capital letters! Apparently the seller had a little too much faith in the postal system and assumed those little words were going to make all the difference in how the poorly packaged book was handled. Wake-up call, wouldn't you say? It does not matter if "fragile" or "do not bend" is written on your package. If it is not packaged properly, it can (and probably will) get damaged in transit!
Example #2: Placing a book into a bubble mailer is sometimes not enough protection! Bubble mailers often get tossed around and dropped. When this happens, the corners of the book inside the mailer may get bent out of shape!
In my experience, crushed corners is usually the most common damage that will occur when a book is improperly packaged! The once sharp corners of the lovely old 1923 schoolbook shown above are now a thing of the past. This book has suffered corner damage that can never be repaired. I find it extremely disheartening when a book has managed to survive 80 years in immaculate condition, only to be crushed in shipping!
If the book you are mailing out has sharp corners or is near new looking, do not drop it into a mailer (even if it is a bubble mailer) with no other protection. While this is sometimes acceptable for books already showing some serious shelfwear, it is not acceptable for collector copies.
If you are mailing out books, please take time to educate yourself on how to properly prepare books for shipping. If the book arrives damaged due to faulty packing habits, your buyer has every right to be most disappointed with you- not with the post office! While it is possible to have a book arrive damaged that was packaged properly, it is extremely rare. I once even had a package arrive to me partially crushed with tire tracks over it! It was obvious the package got run over by some type of vehicle! Fortunately, the book inside arrived undamaged, because the seller had been smart enough to pack it securely! (Yes, there are many sellers on ebay who know how to package books well!) It is not difficult to package a book well to prevent damage in shipping. I wrote this guide to help book sellers become better packagers. I hope that it will help to prevent unnecessary damage to books- especially those that are antique or collectible and cannot easily be replaced!
How to Prepare your Book for Shipping:
There are two basic types of packages you can use to mail a book out. You can choose a mailer (such as a paper mailer or bubble mailer) or you can choose a box. You can also wrap the package in brown kraft paper (this would be similar to a paper mailer).
Mailing out books in a BOX is best if possible. (However, be careful not to overload the box; too much weight in a box can also damage the contents.)
Shipping in a Mailer (A Bubble Mailer for example)
Using a mailer may be fine, if you only have one book to mail, and if you can protect it well by following the steps below:
1) Cut 2 pieces of cardboard at least an inch larger than the book. This is necessary so that the book's corners do not damage if the package is dropped. If you cut the cardboard the exact size as the book, it will offer little protection so be sure to cut the pieces larger than the book. Place aside.
2) Wrap the book snugly in tissue wrap, a plastic sleeve or bag (ziploc would work) or bubblewrap. DO NOT use newspaper. The print on newspaper can be easily rubbed off and may soil the cover. If you use tissue wrap, then it is a good idea to wrap again in something that will protect it from moisture such as a baggie, or even saran wrap if you have nothing else. A plain paper mailer will not protect against excessive moisture. Sometimes you get the occasional rain-soaked package with water damage right down to the book itself. If the book was enclosed in a plastic baggie or bubble wrap, then it should still be safe.
Hint: To conserve bubblewrap, place book diagonally in the center and fold 2 opposite sides in towards center and tape, then the remaining 2 sides and tape.
3) Make a "book sandwich" by placing the book onto the center of one of the cardboards. Tape the wrapped book securely onto the cardboard.
Place the 2nd piece of cardboard over it so that the book is sandwiched between the 2 pieces of cardboard and tape securely (or wrap stretch wrap around it).
4) Place inside your mailer and seal with packing tape. When the package is dropped, the corners of the cardboard will take the brunt of the fall- not the book inside!
Shipping in a Box
Using a box offers the best protection for one or more books. If you have a box available, follow the steps below:
1) Select the right size box. It should be at least a couple inches larger than the books you want to mail.
2) Make your "book sandwich" following steps 1-3 above (mailer method) and place in box. (For a quicker method- especially with hardbacks that may already be showing shelfwear to corners and cover- you can skip making the book sandwich and just wrap the book in bubble wrap, place it in the box, and cushion it against damage with packing materials.) For a nicer touch, you can first wrap the book in a piece of tissue paper, then in the bubble wrap. However, if your book is paperback, always attach it securely to a cardboard backing. Do not skip making the cardboard sandwich for paperbacks or books that are in near fine condition.
3) Fill up the empty space in the box with packing materials such as crumpled up newspapers, packing peanuts, shredded newspapers, etc. Seal box with packing tape. In the photo shown below, I placed crumpled newspapers into the bottom half of the box, placed the book in the middle of the box on top of the newspapers, and then filled the rest of the box up with packing peanuts. Thus, the book will be centered in the box. This method is good if the book is only protected with bubblewrap. If you've made your book sandwich with cardboards, then it can be placed at the bottom of the box if desired.
With a little practice these steps will become second nature to you and you will no longer need to refer to this guide. You will be rewarded for your time and consideration by the many fine comments your will receive on your feedback profile. If you don't believe me, take a look at my feedback. I have never gotten even one bad feedback for poor packing. On the contrary- my buyers express their appreciation time and time again over my "perfect packaging." I have never (yet) sent a book out that got damaged in shipping. While I realize it is always possible, the odds are greatly diminished if you take some extra care to ensure the book is protected well before you send it on its way.
I sincerely hope my guide has helped you to become a better packager!