Shipping a significant quantity of books from US to UK. How? How much?
August 11, 2014 9:52 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving soon (UK Home Office and God willing) from the US to England. I will be there for roughly 3 years, give or take, and am hoping that I can have a portion of my substantial amount of books there with me. Previous suggestions on shipping indicate USPS M-bags as the go-to choice, but USPS no longer offers anything but air service on media bags, pushing the cost to around $175 for 44 lbs. This is more than I want to spend. Ideas?

With USPS M-bags being so costly, are there other options? I would think DHL might have a solution, but can't find any info (anecdotal or otherwise) online. Do options even exist outside of DHL/FedEx/UPS/USPS? It seems, going on what little solid info I can find online, that UPS, FedEx, and USPS are all going to come in around the $150-200 mark for about 45lbs of books. If I estimate, I'd say I have something around 100-120lbs of books I want to ship, so was counting on 2-3 M-bags holding about 50lbs each, and costing the previously available rate of roughly $65.

I don't care how long they take in transit, and I don't particularly care about their treatment on the way (nothing fragile, after all). They will be shipped from the US once I am physically in the UK to accept delivery. I'm also not particularly concerned about how they must be packaged; if it will cut the cost from $175 for 44 lbs. to something like $75 for 44 lbs., I will pack and ship the bastards individually if I must.

Does anyone have any relevant info, anecdotes, or ideas? I've considered contacting a local shipping company, but it seems unlikely that they'll offer anything that can beat the rates of the Big Shipping guys.
posted by still bill to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There's lots of shipping services. Stuff is moving everywhere across the globe and you can often squeeze your stuff in along with other people's stuff. You can google "excess baggage"

Try Seven Seas, for example. (Haven't used them - have seen them recommended) which gives you the option of putting your stuff on a boat.
posted by vacapinta at 10:10 AM on August 11, 2014

Response by poster: Seven Seas is, as it happens, one of the options I've looked at. Their quote, though, comes in at almost what I'd pay for USPS M-bags via air (around $350 for the whole shebang, assuming their quoted price holds throughout the process, which I don't think is a safe assumption).

I've done weeks of googling 'excess baggage' and have yet to find anything remotely close to the old m-bags price. For example, the shipping company Excess Baggage quoted roughly £300, which is wildly expensive compared to the old m-bags.
posted by still bill at 10:31 AM on August 11, 2014

Look into smaller freight companies or exporters who might be able to help.

I did this over 10 years ago and can't remember the name of the company, but I had 15 tea chests full of books, CDs, and other stuff that went from the UK to the US by sea and took about 10 days. It was about two hundred pounds back then.
posted by vickyverky at 11:01 AM on August 11, 2014

ScanSnap Sheet-Fed Scanner + Bandsaw or Guillotine = Portable, Searchable PDF Database

Do you need the physical books? A few years ago I purchased a ScanSnap scanner and a cheapo $100 band saw (to cut the spines off). The scansnap came with a license for Adobe Acrobat and included Abbyy FineReader OCR capability. Now I immediately slice up and scan all of my books, and having a non-DRM'd full-text searchable database of my library is VERY useful.

Beyond this, I've done the move-tons-of-books thing before and it was cheaper to sell the expensive ones on Amazon (for what Amazon will pay, not as a merchant) and re-purchase them at my destination. Books are just too heavy to move around these days unless they are rare or valuable.
posted by Th!nk at 11:09 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I should've clarified initially; yes, I need to retain the physical books. I'm a dedicated margin-writer, and also have a serious emotional attachment to the bound books. Some of what I need can be scanned and left behind, and I have a fair amount of those taken care of and in PDF. But for the bulk of them, I want to have the physical copies.
posted by still bill at 11:13 AM on August 11, 2014

Take them on the plane with you as checked baggage. For example, Virgin Atlantic charges $85 for an extra checked bag (you can check a box rather than a "bag") up to 50lbs (23kg).
posted by melissasaurus at 11:47 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've used Seven Seas, and they worked very well. Alternatively, google Unaccompanied Baggage. Not excess baggage. These are usually a service of the air carrier, but some private companies offer them too.
posted by TrinsicWS at 10:18 PM on August 11, 2014

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