The cheapest way to send a book in the United States is USPS Media Mail. Media mail is a special, low-cost postal rate, that was created to foster the exchange of information.
You can’t just ship anything by Media Mail. The USPS has a list of items, and it’s basically:
- Regular, bound books
- Prerecorded DVDs, CDs, tapes, but not video games.
- Manuscripts, plays (meaning, basically, self-bound items or things bound at a copy shop)
- Printed music.
- Computer disks or tapes that containing prerecorded medial. (This is a gray area. I don’t think most disks are covered.)
- 16mm or narrower film.
- Printed objective test materials. This means the kinds of tests you took in school. It’s not blood tests or anything like that.
- Printed educational reference charts.
- Loose leaf medical information for medical students and hospitals.
The packages may not contain advertising. However, the few pages of ads in the back of paperbacks and in liner notes, are allowed.
The postal rate is simple. For 2020, it’s $2.75 for the first pound, and 52 cents for each additional pound.
A typical paperback book weighs less than one pound. A heavier paperback, or a hardcover, weighs between one pound and two pounds.
The real savings happen when you send boxes of books.
To get the best experience, you should buy the postage online, and print and pack at home. This way, you can bypass the lines at the post office!
You can buy postage online at USPS.com.
Buy a label and send it to the seller
Imagine the typical bookbuying scenario online. You buy a book, and pay the vendor, and they mail it to you. Simple.
With book giveaways, it can be a little different. Everyone likes free stuff, but, if you want to mail order free stuff, you have to send postage money.
However, suppose you don’t trust the sender with your money. One way around this is to buy the label yourself, and then send the label, via email, to the sender.
When the sender puts the package into the mail, it’ll get scanned, and you can track its delivery.
This also removes one transaction, and related transaction fees, from the deal. Normal PayPal fees are 30 cents plus 3%. That can be over 10% of the cost of postage.
If the package is never put in the mail, you can void the label, and in a few weeks, you’ll get a refund.
What about for non-free, book buying?
Well, it depends on how cheap the books are. If you’re buying dollar books, you might as well email labels. It saves the sender some time.
You can pay the book price via Venmo or other no-fee money transfer service.