How to Ship Books Cheap in Seven Easy Steps

If you’re like me, you probably have WAY TOO MANY books, but you don’t want to get ripped off by selling them at Half Price Books. The good news is that it’s really easy to make a lot more money than you would from HPB by selling them on either eBay or Amazon (I prefer to sell my books on Amazon). But when I got started selling my books online I was spending way too much money and time just getting the books packaged and shipped.

So I looked for a better way . . . and found it!!!

I now have a nearly perfect way to pack and ship books that’s easy to do, cheap, doesn’t take much time and pretty much guarantees that your book won’t be damaged in transit. Follow these simple steps below and you’ll never ship a book another way again.

Step 1 – Gather the needed supplies.

The first step to any project is to make sure you have all the supplies you need. You might already have some of these around the house, but here’s the list of materials you’ll need to get started:

You probably don’t own any corrugated cardboard, but the stuff is awesome for shipping books. It just works. It works so well in fact that I’ve found myself using it for shipping all sorts of stuff (DVDs, Video Games, etc). I bought my roll of b flute from a local paper/cardboard box dealer in 2007 and I haven’t run out of it yet (as of August 2011). It was the best $25 I have ever spent on shipping materials and was BY FAR CHEAPER than using cardboard boxes or manilla envelopes. If you want to save as much money as possible on shipping books you really need to use this method.

Step 2 – Put the book and order slip into a plastic poly bag.

You need to ensure that your book arrives to its intended recipient in the same condition it left. I like to put the book along with the order slip into a plastic bag to protect it from any moisture damage. The bag also keeps the book from getting scuffed up by the cardboard. I like to leave a little bit of air in the bag to add some extra cushioning for even more protection. Again, you don’t want your book to be damaged in transit. That’s never good for anyone.

Step 3 – Wrap the book with cardboard.

Once the book is snug and secure in its plastic bag, wrap it tight with the corrugated cardboard. You’ll want to make sure you hold it tight through this step because the cardboard tends to unroll fairly easily. Wrap it with two layers of cardboard. Any more and you’ll have trouble stapling it closed. Any less and the book is more likely to get damaged.

Step 4 – Staple the ends of the package closed.

Now that your book is tightly rolled with the cardboard, grab your heavy duty stapler and close both ends of the package. I’ve found that 1/2″ staples do the job pretty well. Just be sure to pay attention to the limits that your stapler has. I bought some that were too long for my stapler once, but 1/2″ seems to work just fine.

Put use about four staples on each end of the package, depending on the size of the book. The key is to make sure the package stays closed, but you still want it to look professional, so don’t go crazy with the stapler (as tempting as it might be).

This step took me the longest to perfect. Just be patient and don’t worry if you make a mistake. Practice makes perfect.

Step 5 – Cover the seam with packing tape.

To keep the package a little more secure it’s a good idea to cover the seam on the back with a strip of packing tape. This will help prevent the package from opening during transit and keep things just a little more secure overall.

Step 6 – Add a shipping/postage label.

The cheapest form of shipping that’s out there for books is USPS Media Mail. This is a discounted rate for shipping books, CDs, DVDs, and video games and the like. The USPS lists shipping time as taking up to 9 days, but I’ve found that the package usually arrives in 4-5 days. It’s a great price for a service that doesn’t take much longer than more expensive options.

I always print labels using PayPal, no matter how I sold the book. I also just use regular paper (it’s cheaper) and affix it to the package with packing tape. UPDATE (August 2011): I now use self-adhesive shipping labels and I’ll never go back to plain paper. It’s so much faster than messing with cutting and taping plain paper, so it’s completely worth the little extra expense in my books.

Printing the label at home is cheaper than buying it at the post office and you can easily track the status of delivery. PayPal sends an email confirmation with the tracking number for every label you create, so it’s easy to track down the number.

Step 7 – Ship it.

This step is probably way too obvious to really be necessary, but I did want to point out that you have couple options on how to actually ship your package. I live really close to the post office, so I’ll just drive by and drop the package into the bin inside the building. I’ve never had to wait in a line for this, so it’s really quick to get in and out. You could also schedule the USPS to pickup your package from your home, so that might be an even easier option for you.


So that’s the method I use. It takes some practice at first to make the process run smoothly, but after you’ve done it two or three times you’ll find it happening much more quickly. I’ve only made a few tweaks over the years, but I’ve yet to find a better or cheaper way to ship books.

What about you?

Do you sell books online? What tips or tricks have you found useful? Is there anything unclear in my tutorial? I’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Thanks to Michael Hyatt for this disclosure statement.