How to move a lot of books?
June 3, 2010 9:17 AM   Subscribe

Cheapest/best way to move books a long distance?

My Dad is moving from a large house to a medium condo. He has a bunch of book, and will be taking some (2-3 bookcases) with him. My brother (also in FL) will take some, and I offered to take the remainder off his hands - this could be 100-200 books. Maybe more. But I'm in NY and he is in FL. What's the cheapest way to get them here?

My thoughts:
1) Fly down, and rent a car to drive them back
2) Mail them at "book rate"
3) Moving service

Am I missing anything? FWIW, there are no antiques, or books that need special attention.

posted by ObscureReferenceMan to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: With book rate you can send about 35lbs of books for about 15 bucks. I've shipped a whole library cross country that way,* a few boxes at a time, and it worked out fine. I don't know if that's your answer, but it's a data point for you.

*note: your mailman will come to hate you if you do this.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:21 AM on June 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Media mail (book rate) is certainly the cheapest.
posted by k8t at 9:23 AM on June 3, 2010

FYI, packages over 13 oz. have to be taken to the post office nowadays...
posted by k8t at 9:30 AM on June 3, 2010

Media mail is the absolute cheapest way to move books. You can check pricing with the USPS Pricing Calculator. You'll get the most bang for your buck at the maximum weight of 70lbs.
posted by reeddavid at 9:30 AM on June 3, 2010

I've moved 300-600 pounds of books across hundreds of miles at least a half-dozen times. USPS book rate is generally the cheapest, especially if you use relatively largely boxes (the weight-cost ratios are different for USPS book rate and UPS/FedEx Ground)

UPS/FedEx Ground are noticeably more expensive, but still not out of the question if you need some additional services or speed. It sounds like you don't, but a quick guesstimate on the UPS website suggests that a 35-pound box would be about $35.

Some people have their horror stories with the USPS book service-- mangled boxes, missing boxes, etc. Of the hundred or so boxes I've sent book rate in my lifetime, I've only ever had one box of books entirely fail to appear. (The box arrived, broken open and empty.) I don't know if that failure rate is typical, but it sounds like book rate is the best for you.
posted by willbaude at 9:36 AM on June 3, 2010

I have horror stories about USPS media mail - of four boxes shipped, two disappeared, one got held at the post office half empty and mangled (and strangely including stuff that wasn't mine?), and one arrived intact. But it's my own damn fault because I cheaped out on the boxes and tape. So if you're going to do media mail, get heavy duty boxes and tape the hell out of them.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:09 AM on June 3, 2010

FYI, packages over 13 oz. have to be taken to the post office nowadays...

Not true. They must be taken to the post office if they're being mailed only with stamps. However, the USPS provides a easy way to print postage online, which usually saves you a couple of cents over the post-office cash price. Just print your postage from, affix it to your package, and get your letter carrier to pick it up. I always do the "Schedule a pickup" feature so my carrier knows when I have big boxes on the way and isn't just surprised by huge boxes waiting on my porch.

(And if you get your letter carrier to pick it up frequently, they're allowed to receive gift cards in denominations less than $10. I usually give mine a couple at Xmas because he picks up a lot of packages from me and is generally awesome).
posted by arnicae at 10:25 AM on June 3, 2010

Ah, and regarding horror stories with the USPS: I've only lost one item sent via USPS. When I'm sending bigger items, I am careful to enclose a receipt or paper with the destination on it INSIDE the box as well as outside. The lost boxes will eventually be opened to see if there is such a direction inside, and will eventually make it to you if you do have an address on the inside.
posted by arnicae at 10:26 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow! I knew Media Rate was cheap, but I didn't think it would be THAT cheap. Thanks, all!
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 10:49 AM on June 3, 2010

Unsolicited advice on boxing them: go hit up your local bookstores for boxes. They're (of course) the perfect size for books and that makes the whole process a lot easier. No, you won't get 70 lbs. of books into them, but that is not entirely a bad thing, as you're not going to injure yourself picking the things up.
posted by asperity at 12:22 PM on June 3, 2010

No, you won't get 70 lbs. of books into them, but that is not entirely a bad thing, as you're not going to injure yourself picking the things up.

This comment made me think of "The Great Leap Forward," a David Sedaris essay about working as a mover. He grew to like people with a lot of stuffed animals and dislike people who owned a lot of books, especially if they "packed them into a box the size of a doghouse."
posted by virago at 1:16 PM on June 3, 2010

"go hit up your local bookstores for boxes"

Try to give yourself a bit of time to do this... bookstores go through waves of having too many boxes taking up room in the back, and too few boxes to send stuff out. (The boxes are often re-used when the store does returns of excess stock to the publishers). Not being on a tight deadline will greatly increase your box-acquiring success rate.
posted by kaudio at 1:59 PM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

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