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Online Bookseller Tips - How Should Books be Packaged for Shipment?

The dilemma facing most online booksellers is to find a sweet spot where the marketplace reimbursements completely cover the costs of packaging and shipping the books they sell. For penny booksellers, the postage margins are really a part of their business model and they rely on making a quarter to fifty cents per book from the postage paid, so packaging is even more important to them.


There are all kinds of ways to reduce your packaging costs, but there are consequences with most that usually mean spending more of your time packaging to save on spending for packaging materials. Some resourceful booksellers have found ways to recycle materials and have no real cost (except for tape) in their packaging of books. I have even resorted to fabricating boxes myself when I was faced with shipping a valuable book that would not conveniently fit into a box I already had, but this usually meant spending fifteen minutes to a half hour custom making a box.

Doing this for a $100 book may seem worthwhile, but doing it for a $20 book can mean reducing the value of my time to minimum wage.

Still, there is a lot to be said for being creative and coming up with ways to adequately and efficiently package your books while minimizing your costs. Back when online bookselling first started, there were buyers that would not accept books packaged in self-sealing bubble pack envelopes; they insisted on corrugated book packs. Books sent to them in self-sealing bubble pack envelopes were returned. Today, the norm is a self-sealing bubble pack envelope, which sufficiently protects most books, but does not suffice for books that are more valuable, and is deficient for many hard cover books for two principle reasons. First, a bubble pack envelope will not protect the corners of a hard cover book from being bumped, and we all know that once our books are turned over to the Post Office, they are tossed into large containers with much bigger and heavier items like refrigerators, boat anchors, and other well packaged bricks. This inevitably leads to damaged corners on hard backed books. The second reason that bubble pack envelopes do not suffice for some hard backs is that the corners of the book are sharp and they tear through the envelope. This can lead to corner bumps as described above, or worse, continued tearing of the envelope and the escape of the book.

For all of these reasons and scenarios, you need to evaluate each book you sell and determine what the appropriate packaging should be, or you need to take the profit hit and provide boxes/book folds for all of your books.

Personally, I prefer to strike a balance that results in the maximum protection for the books with minimal demand of my time. This means that the majority of my books are packed in self-sealing bubble pack envelopes, while the smallest and least valuable books are wrapped in clean newsprint paper and shipped in manila envelopes and the more valuable and bigger books are put in either a custom fitting box, or a suitable available box.

Another step in preparing your books for shipment that is appreciated by customers and added protection for your book against moisture is thin film stretch wrap. This is much like the clear plastic wrap used for leftover food that stretches and clings to the sides of food storage containers. The cost is probably on the order of a penny per book and you can buy this kind of stretch wrap in three inch widths from most industrial suppliers. I like to wrap all new books with this with the customer receipt on the cover of the book.

When you are making the decisions for your business and how you will package books for shipment, think about how you would want the book to arrive if you were the buyer. If you do not provide the level of shipping protection for your books that your customers expect, you can expect negative feedback, so if you opt to use cheaper shipping materials, make sure you are not cutting too much cost out and giving your customers the wrong impression.

by Michael Mould