This is the cheapest way to get a book from point A to B in the United States: cardboard, a plastic bag, tape, and Media Mail Postage.
First, you need a plastic bag that fits your book. Any plastic bag will do – and you can find them anywhere. This bag will protect the book from moisture.
Next, you need a large piece of corrugated cardboard. You can find these at stores, usually in the back, but sometimes by the front. The bigger stores may save these up for recycling, but smaller stores may put them outside of the dumpster, because recyclers come to pick them up.
You may also find plastic by the dumpster. The main stores to check for are pet stores, toy stores, office supply stores, and basically any business that doesn’t sell food or anything wet.
Take the cardboard box and disassemble it, so it’s flat. Then, put your book on it, and fold it in half, to cover the book. Press it down to put some creases on it, to indicate the edges of the book. Then, unfold it, and cut around the creases, leaving around 1 inch around.
Then, you have to crease it along the creases, and cut a little here and there, to make this into a “box”. Here’s a lazy, kind of lame pattern, but it’ll work:
What’s lame about this pattern is that it lacks some “fold over” flaps on the corners to protect the corners.
Adding those will come naturally after you figure out how to use the basic pattern. You just leave some extra bits of cardboard as flaps.
Anyway, just crease along the lines, so it’ll fold right. I like using a pen, or the pen cap, to make the creases.
Then put the book in the bag, and fold the box around the book. Tape it together, putting tape along all the open edges.
Then, to send it, you can use Media Mail. Media mail is for books.
You can even buy Media Mail postage online, and affix it to your book yourself. See: How to Buy Media Mail Postage Online (Hint: PayPal)
If you buy postage online, some post offices will let you drop off the package, without waiting in line for a clerk.
What’s the cost to mail a book? (2018)
1 pound = 2.66
2 pounds = 3.17
3 pounds = 3.68
Compare that to Retail Parcel: 1 pound is 6.70 to 7.77 to most places in the US.
I like using a ruler to draw lines. I know, obvious right?
I use a utility knife to cut the cardboard. That’s what it’s for. Also, I try to keep the knife pretty sharp, or put a sharp blade in there. A dull blade drags and sticks, and is hazardous.
I leave long flaps on to protect the edges. I also try to cut the edges “half-height”, or “full height on one side, and nothing on the other”, so they close with a single thickness of cardboard. The effect is that the cover closes more easily, but with the long flaps, the edge is still protected with two layers of cardboard.
If I have thinner or softer cardboard, like a weaker double-walled corrugated, I choose that rather than the extra strong double walled or triple wall.
If the book is going to a wet area, I will put it into a polybag or a padded mailer with bubble wrap. These packages resist water more effectively. I still wrap the item in cardboard, but the entire bundle goes into the plastic mailer.
If the book is small, I just use a padded mailer.