The answer isn't in the books I guess.
December 30, 2011 11:49 AM   Subscribe

I feel overwhelmed, maybe because I am down with a bad cold, so I am hoping you can tell me how to get three bookshelves of books from CA to NYC. Constraints: cheaper is better, heavier is worse, and being home to get the packages is a serious challenge. Should I be shipping them in dozens of little boxes? Is there a better way? How am I ever going to get my collection out of my parents' basement and into my apartment? Like an adult? Move ALL the books? Cough cough help.
posted by prefpara to Travel & Transportation (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In the past, when I've had a large heavy parcel, I found that sending it by greyhound bus was extremely affordable compared to other modes of shipping. Last time I did it was twenty years ago, so that may have changed.
posted by jayder at 11:54 AM on December 30, 2011

The answers in this thread might be helpful, even if you don't have to ship quite as many books as the OP.
posted by .kobayashi. at 12:04 PM on December 30, 2011

Look up Media Mail, by USPS:
* Pricing
* Content rules

UPS does this as well, in partnership with USPS. I'd start by calling them (the number's on that last website) since someone there might actually answer the phone.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:04 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I did this once.

First: triage. You know you don't need a shitload of those books. Sell them, donate them, whatever. But you know you own books you will never go back to, or bought and will never read, or whatever. Get rid of them.

Second: Find the find books you already own but are trivial to re-purchase. If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can re-buy most books you have for less than half the cover price. If you do the math, it may end up being cheaper to re-buy them than to try to ship them. At the very least, you will be paying for the premium of not having to worry about shipping books.

Third: How often do you visit CA? How badly do you need the books? If you visit semi-frequently (at least once or twice a year), grab an empty suitcase when you fly and just take the ones you need the most at the weight limit. Then do it again the next time you visit.
posted by griphus at 12:05 PM on December 30, 2011 [10 favorites]

Or maybe you do have to ship that many books. Don't know where I got that idea. Nevertheless, that thread should help.
posted by .kobayashi. at 12:05 PM on December 30, 2011

I would encourage you to seriously challenge your need to move all of the books--unless they are collectibles or professional references do they really need moved. I know that can be heresy but think about it. USPS is the alternative I would explore or piggy backing it on an interstate mover. Good Luck
posted by rmhsinc at 12:07 PM on December 30, 2011

I reduced my collection, then shipped some of my books cross-country via Media Mail. When I had visitors from back east they'd bring more with them (taking a carry-on bag, but checking a box or valise full of books - mainly paperbacks, as the airlines will charge for really heavy bags).
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:08 PM on December 30, 2011

Also: standing on a bathroom scale holding a bag full of books and then subtracting your weight is a surprisingly effective way of weighing books, and a lot easier than trying to maneuver a box onto said scale.
posted by griphus at 12:09 PM on December 30, 2011

Response by poster: Just want to quickly note that pruning will happen but that most of the books are very loved and have my little marginal notes in them therefore have sentimental value. I want them in my home and have for years. So not shipping them or spending more years bringing over a few at a time is the saddest answer.
posted by prefpara at 12:09 PM on December 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

When I moved to Alaska from DC I shipped several boxes of books via media mail. It took a long time and the boxes were pretty beaten up when they arrived, but the contents were fine and it was cheap. I recall that they held the boxes at the post office-- probably because my then-boyfriend wasn't home to pick them up.
posted by charmcityblues at 12:24 PM on December 30, 2011

USPS book rate, broken into carry-able boxes. For three full bookcases, it'd probably be slightly cheaper to crate them and ship them ground freight, but that'd probably be more of a hassle than you want. (Do you own a pallet jack / trailer / etc.?)
posted by introp at 12:38 PM on December 30, 2011

Three bookshelves doesn't sound like an absurd amount (maybe 15 small boxes?). Get some good quality boxes and tape, sort the books by size and fill any empty space with newspaper or bubble wrap. Make sure you can lift each box by yourself without much strain. Put a piece of paper inside each box that lists its contents (every book) and both addresses and then tape it shut. Label the outside as you would an envelope (large black print on white paper taped to the box is best). Tape all seams and corners and also run a single piece of tape all the way around the box in each of the three directions (so you use 3 different pieces of tape).

Is cost an issue? Media Mail is a good option and it seems to work better on smaller packages. You can get Delivery Confirmation on each box or take your chances. I mail about 100 single books per year and have 1-2 percent go missing. DC won't prevent this, but it will give you an idea of where your books are. How does the USPS do with leaving packages at your NYC place right now? If they are bad, you may want to space out the mailing.

Is it more important that nothing gets lost and are you willing to pay 5-10 times the media mail price? Then go with UPS or FedEx. Tracking is included, but you may have the same issues with them leaving packages for you.

If you are going to ship them all at once, it might be smart have them sent to a PO Box or Mailboxes Etc (now a UPS Store) type of place that will hold them for you.
posted by soelo at 12:40 PM on December 30, 2011

I've been told that Amtrak Express is very competitively priced for this sort of thing. You'll want to price out the cost of doing everything in small boxes vs bundling it all up into a single pallet.

They have a 50lb maximum for boxes (whereas USPS Media Mail will go up to 70lb). Figure out how many books will fit into a 50lb box, and estimate the weight of your shelves based upon that.

(Oh, and to save you the effort of looking it up, a 50lb USPS Media Mail package costs $21.64, while a 70lb package costs $29.44; all regardless of distance. USPS will not accept packages that are a single ounce over 70lbs.)
posted by schmod at 12:41 PM on December 30, 2011

When I moved home to CA from NYC I shipped four big boxes of books by Media Mail. Only one box made it, and it was in horrific shape.

I am not saying you shouldn't ship them that way, but if you do, do NOT cheap out on the boxes (screw your flimsy boxes, Home Depot) and wrap them six ways to Sunday in strong tape.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:42 PM on December 30, 2011

Media mail, but get sturdy boxes. Liquor store boxes are great for books because they are designed to hold some weight and are sized appropriately for that weight. So, get liquor box. Since these have sentimental value, line with a plastic garbage bag (probably kitchen sized, maybe just grocery sized depending on box size) to protect books somewhat from unexpected water damage. Pack books in liquor store boxes as tightly as possible so nothing moves around in the box. Wrap box tightly in brown paper with lots of packing tape at every seam, edge and around the box totally in all three directions. Head to post office. Put your address inside the boxes, too, and a list of the books in case they bust open for some reason during shipping. Keep a copy of the list and note how many boxes you are shipping. I think using many smaller boxes is better than a few 50 lbs. boxes for portability and general handling through the shipping process.
posted by BlooPen at 12:47 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Call moving companies, or freight shipping companies--this is what they do and it may likely be less expensive than you think. They can ship to their local warehouse in NYC and you can arrange to rent a van & pick them up if local delivery won't work for your schedule.
posted by TishSnave at 12:51 PM on December 30, 2011

A few months ago, I did the move from NYC to Sillycon Valley. I probably shipped 10+ boxes of books and papers, where each box is about 30+ pounds.

I did it with USPS media mail and used boxes from U-Haul (both used and new). I had a good experience and all the boxes arrived within 2 weeks. All the boxes looked a little battered, and for two of them, USPS opened the box en-route, inspected the contents, and repacked them(very well with alot of tape and straps). I suspect the boxes looked battered because the boxes are heavy and it's probably abused during loading and unloading between points. Regardless, the contents were okay because I protected the books with some old newspapers.

In summary, I had a good experience with USPS media mail and the price is hard to beat! I will use USPS media mail again.
posted by jchaw at 12:56 PM on December 30, 2011

Liquor boxes are great for moving, but if you are using USPS, they will not ship liquor boxes.

If you don't want to buy boxes, hit up a grocery store or mini-mart for some high quality boxes. BlooPen has very good advice about making your shipments waterproof or at least more water-resistant. I've received books that had wet packaging but were bone dry because they'd been wrapped in plastic inside the paper envelope.
posted by soelo at 1:05 PM on December 30, 2011

I shipped several boxes from CA to NYC and it was much more of a hassle than I had anticipated. The mailcarrier didn't bring the boxes to my apartment; she left a note on the door letting me know the boxes were at the PO waiting for me to pick up. I had to walk to and from the PO, carrying one heavy box at a time (even small boxes filled with books are heavy when you have to carry them for blocks). It was a serious pain in the ass and I'm glad I was pretty ruthless when I weeded my collection before I moved. And keep this in mind: many New Yorkers have to move every year or two. Those books will might seem a lot less "worth it" when you're carrying them up flights of stairs or moving in the rain, blazing sun, or walking down slush-covered streets in the wintertime. And NYC apartment sizes are such that three bookshelves might seem like they are a lot bigger than they did in your California home.
posted by HotPatatta at 1:23 PM on December 30, 2011

One of the difficulties of not being home when loads of heavy boxes arrive is that if you are using USPS you will have to brave the line at the post office, and then you'll have a bunch of heavy boxes to walk all the way to your apartment. I suppose a granny cart is good for this. You should also expect the USPS delivery, assuming you're using media mail, to take about three weeks. So: do the USPS media mail thing, wrap each box in tons of tape (then brown paper, then the address labels provided by USPS), and then when you're back in NY buy yourself one of those despicable granny carts.

My only caveat is that very, very occasionally the post office will want you to "prove" you're only shipping media via media mail. That means they may ask you to open the box. (GAH!) If you've covered the entire thing in packing tape, this will be difficult and annoying. I have found that simply telling the USPS agent the contents of the box can keep them from making you open your well-wrapped packages ... but not always. So, just in case, bring extra tape and brown paper to the post office.
posted by brina at 1:23 PM on December 30, 2011

been a long time since I shipped books, but the post office has or used to have a rate for educational marerial, it was called 4th class mail.
posted by misspat at 2:11 PM on December 30, 2011

oopsy, 4th class mail is slow, but cheapest way to ship.
posted by misspat at 2:13 PM on December 30, 2011

The will ship the liquor boxes if they're wrapped in paper so there are no markings on the outside of the box showing. They (usually) won't ship any box that has a lot of external markings of any kind-- hence the paper wrapping. They won't even know it's a liquor box.
posted by BlooPen at 3:12 PM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I moved to grad school, I wound up shipping three bookcases of my academic books from CA to Chicago. As those were six ft. bookcases, that meant thirty boxes of books, not ten or fifteen. Don't try to stuff books into big boxes: they won't be movable and the box itself is likely to implode, explode, or some other unfortunate thing. If you're shipping, as opposed to getting a mover, be sure to extra-reinforce the box w/high end shipping or moving tape, as they'll be tossed around. My books went USPS first class, which cost $$$, but also meant that they got where they were supposed to go in a reasonable time frame, and without undue trauma.

(Of course, they also arrived at the apartment building on the day when the elevator had blown out, leaving me to carry thirty boxes of books up the stairs to the fifth floor. I trust you won't have that problem.)
posted by thomas j wise at 3:15 PM on December 30, 2011

Done this with media mail; boxes arrived tattered but intact.

Do limit each box to 30 pounds or so rather than bringing unnecessary back pain to yourself/shipper, postal workers, and yourself/recipient. In the same vein, dropping off a box or two every couple of days, provided you have time for that, will make everybody happier than rolling up to the post office with hundred of pounds of books, and two weeks later, getting all of those hundreds of pounds dropped on your doorstep.
posted by orangejenny at 3:47 PM on December 30, 2011

U-Haul sells good quality boxes sized for books (25-30lbs or less when filled) for about $2 each, and media mail with USPS is usually the cheapest option within the USA.
posted by jb at 9:34 PM on December 30, 2011

For the problem of being home to accept the packages, don't ship them to your home. Rent a box at the UPS store or some other storefront mailing shop by the month, they generally accept packages from any shipper.
posted by yohko at 11:35 PM on December 30, 2011

Bookstores have good boxes. Thomas J is indeed Wise, don't use big boxes, and don't make them too heavy; they will be more likely to break apart in shipping, and a bigger pain to shift. Put out the word with friends and on freecycle and Craigslist that you need boxes for moving books. Even with flattened boxes, you don't need to go wild with tape. Seal the bottom and top with 1 strip of packing tape, and use 1 or 2 strips of filament/strapping tape all the way around the middle.

Media Mail and Library Mail prices are based on the weight of the piece without regard to zone making it a good deal for a distance move. I've received packages via Greyhound; you have to pick it up at the station, but my chair arrived intact. Will a super accept delivery?

Ship 4 - 5 boxes of your most favorite books at a time. At some point, the remaining books will be worth it, or not. I lost 1/3 of my books in the Horrid Flood of Spring 2010. Many of them, I still miss. They aren't all that cheap to replace, and some of them were in editions I especially liked. But. It's just stuff, even though the stuff is books, or so I tell myself.
posted by theora55 at 3:51 PM on December 31, 2011

My recommendation is to glue the flaps in the bottom of the boxes and glue the top flaps closed after you have packed them. Sometimes I reinforce a box with styrofoam as needed. I have shipped boxes of books all over the world this way and have never had a damaged box, or book.
posted by mlis at 10:36 PM on January 1, 2012

Media rate is probably the cheapest. But beware... I shipped six boxes of books, and only received five. Grrr.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:28 AM on January 3, 2012

« Older What are some tips you can provide me for sticking...   |   The Library of Congress has my cheese sandwich Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.