How to ship media mail

How to ship media mail

Media mail is a low-cost mailing service offered by the United States Postal Service, or USPS. Media mail only allows you to ship books, computer-readable media, sound recordings, recorded video tapes and printed music. USPS reserves the right to inspect any Media Mail package and only the above mentioned items can ship using the Media Mail service. Additionally the maximum weight for a single Media Mail package is 70 pounds. You can price and determine the expected delivery time of your Media Mail package before going to the post office using the online postage calculation tool.

Navigate to the USPS website. Click on the “Calculate Postage” link at the top left hand corner of the page.

Click the “Calculate Domestic Postage” option.

Enter the zip code you want to ship the media mail from and the zip code you want to ship the media mail package to.

Enter the date and time you want to ship the media mail package.

Select the “Package” or “Large Package” option and enter the weight of your package in pounds and ounces. Click the “Continue” button.

Enter the length, width and height of your media mail package if you selected the large package. Click the “Continue” button.

Click the “Other Options” tab to display the price and estimated delivery time for sending your media mail package. You go automatically to this step if you selected the package option.

Go to your local post office and pay the shipping fee to send your media mail package. Purchasing postage online is not available for media mail.

  • Attempting to mail items other than those outlined by the USPS is illegal and punishable by law.

Since 1992 Matt McGew has provided content for on and offline businesses and publications. Previous work has appeared in the "Los Angeles Times," Travelocity and "GQ Magazine." McGew specializes in search engine optimization and has a Master of Arts in journalism from New York University.

Media Mail® is one of the least expensive ways to ship, but only specific items qualify as “media.” Learn what those items are and when and how you should ship via media mail.

How to ship media mail

Media Mail ® shipping is a special service offered by USPS ® as a practical and very inexpensive way to ship educational materials. Deciphering what qualifies as educational materials, however, can be a bit tricky.

USPS defines educational materials as: Books, videotapes, DVDs, CDs, printed music and other sound recordings. It seems simple enough until you dig a little deeper and discover that items like blank cassettes, comic books and magazines with ads do not qualify for Media Mail shipping.

There are plenty of other rules and restrictions we’ll cover below. But suffice it to say, if you ship a lot of items that meet the Media Mail criteria and you’re not worried about longer delivery windows, it’s well worth your time to learn its peculiarities.

What is Media Mail?

How long has Media Mail shipping been around? Here’s a hint: Old timey player piano rolls are included in the USPS’ list of qualifying items.

Introduced originally in 1938 as “Book Rates,” what later became known as Media Mail was created to “encourage the flow of educational materials through the mail.” As technology and the way we share information has evolved, so has the list of items that qualify for Media Mail shipping. That’s why you can now ship that old collection of easy-listening cassette tapes for rock-bottom rates.

At the same time, those rock-bottom rates make it tempting for some sellers to skirt the rules a little (we see you vintage magazine sellers). You don’t want to do that. USPS takes its Media Mail shipping rules seriously as you’ll see below.

Media Mail rules and restrictions

In addition to its mission, rates and rules, Media Mail shipping is unique in one other way: it’s open to postal inspection. That means when you ship a package via Media Mail rates you are giving consent to have its contents inspected. If your packaged items are not on the approved list, you could be charged with mail fraud. Or, more likely, you or your customer will be backcharged for Priority Mail rates.

If you don’t want your customers to receive a package stamped with a surprise POSTAGE DUE, pay attention to the following rules and restrictions before shipping your Media Mail package.

Items that qualify for Media Mail shipping

In addition to its mission, rates and rules, Media Mail shipping is unique in one other way: it’s open to postal inspection. That means when you ship a package via Media Mail rates you are giving consent to have its contents inspected. If your packaged items are not on the approved list, you could be charged with mail fraud. Or, more likely, you or your customer will be backcharged for Priority Mail rates.

If you don’t want your customers to receive a package stamped with a surprise POSTAGE DUE, pay attention to the following rules and restrictions before shipping your Media Mail package.

Items that qualify for Media Mail shipping

This list covers the basics, but when in doubt, check out the unabridged list on the USPS website for more details.

  • Books (at least 8 pages)
  • Sound recordings and video recordings, such as CDs and DVDs
  • Play scripts and manuscripts for books, periodicals, and music
  • Printed music
  • Computer-readable media containing prerecorded information and guides or scripts prepared solely for use with such media
  • Sixteen millimeter or narrower width films
  • Printed objective test materials and their accessories
  • Printed educational reference charts
  • Loose-leaf pages and their binders consisting of medical information for distribution to doctors, hospitals, medical schools, and medical students

You cannot combine any of these items with non-qualifying items in the same package, including personal notes and cards. An extra enclosure is allowed only if it pertains strictly to the item you’re shipping, for example:

  • Bills and invoices
  • A brief note that introduces the media
  • Instructions for the media’s use
  • Corrections to any printed information in the media

Finally, Media Mail packages cannot contain advertising or marketing of any type.

What can or can’t be shipped via Media Mail

The following items rank high in the “can BLANK be shipped via Media Mail” list:

  • Puzzles: No, USPS classifies puzzles and books of puzzles as entertainment (regardless of how you view them).
  • Video games: No, video games do not qualify and neither do traditional board games.
  • Vintage magazines: No, magazines contain advertising and even old timey ads aren’t allowed.
  • Cassette tapes: Yes, so long as they aren’t blank. Same goes for CDs and DVDs.
  • Flash cards: Yes, but school supplies like pencils and empty binders cannot.

Media Mail packaging rules

Media Mail packages can weigh up to 70 pounds and measure up to 108 inches in combined length and distance around the thickest part. If your package weighs under 8 ounces, it’s less expensive to send it First Class.

Media Mail packages must include both the sender’s and receiver’s full addresses.

You can protect your Media Mail shipments like other packages with packing peanuts, bubble wrap or other filling.

Pros and cons of Media Mail shipping

The lure of Media Mail shipping is the price, which starts as low as $2.80 for a one- pound package. Plus, you can take advantage of many of the same services you get with more expensive shipping options, including free tracking and optional:

  • Collect on Delivery
  • Insured Mail
  • Delivery Confirmation
  • Signature Confirmation

The primary disadvantage is that your package will take longer to reach its destination. A couple of other things you might want to consider before shipping via Media Mail:

  • Less care is taken with the package. Your box of used paperbacks will arrive intact but wrap those player piano rolls carefully.
  • It’s a little confusing tracking what qualifies for Media Mail shipping. When in doubt, contact your local post office.

Media Mail shipping with SendPro Online

You can buy postage and print shipping labels for your Media Mail packages at home with SendPro ® Online. With subscriptions starting at $4.99 a month, Send Pro Online offers members access to services from all the major carriers, often at discounted prices.

Whether you run an online book store or need to ship a book to a client, the USPS Media Mail service offers your business benefits such as low-cost, weight-based shipping and free tracking. When packaging your book to send through Media Mail, you’ll need to follow the USPS size and weight requirements and avoid putting ineligible items like advertisements in the box or envelope. While you won’t be able to use the USPS website to print your Media Mail postage, you do have other online and offline options.

Exploring USPS Media Mail Rules

When shipping a book, you have to follow some basic USPS Media Mail rules. Your book must have eight or more pages, can’t contain advertising and may not be a comic book. However, you can include certain other items with the book such as sheet music, CDs, film, DVDs and educational materials.

Although your book probably weighs far less, the USPS will allow a max of 70 pounds for a Media Mail shipment. The box or envelope you use to ship the book will need a combined girth (height and width added and multiplied by two) and length of no more than 108 inches.

Understanding Media Mail Pricing

The USPS offers two different prices for Media Mail that depend on whether you pay the retail or commercial rates. In both cases, the USPS charges you just based on the package’s weight. So, you won’t find yourself paying more to ship the same book across the country than you would to ship it within the same state.

The 2020 retail price for shipping a one-pound Media Mail package is $2.80, and you’ll add $0.54 for each additional pound. So, if your book shipment weighs five pounds, that results in a $4.92 shipping fee. On the other hand, a 10-pound package would cost $7.60 to ship using Media Mail.

The 2020 commercial rates for Media Mail vary and cost more if you do a basic presort than if you presort your packages by five-digit zip code. The base price for shipping a one-pound Media Mail package with the five-digit presort option is $2.10 and goes up to $2.67 with the basic presort option. Each additional pound will cost either $0.53 or $0.54. So, a five-pound book could cost $4.22 or $4.79 to ship, and a 10-pound one could cost $6.90 or $7.47.

Choosing Your Media Mail Packaging

Your options for Media Mail packaging include flat cardboard envelopes, padded envelopes and boxes. If you send a book in a Media Mail envelope, you might put a cardboard insert on both sides of the book. When using a box to mail books, use an appropriate size and insert packing peanuts, bubble wrap or shipping paper to fill any leftover space. You can then insert any packing slip and seal the package for mailing.

Shipping Your Book

If you prefer buying Media Mail postage without going to the post office, you’ll need to look somewhere other than the USPS website. After you weigh the package, your options might include using USPS metered mail, using PayPal’s shipping tools or subscribing to a mailing service like Pirate Ship or Stamps.com. You can then purchase and print your Media Mail label and choose from options like scheduling a USPS pickup or dropping the book off at an authorized mailing location.

Otherwise, you can take your package to your local post office where an employee will weigh the package, charge you the appropriate fee and have it shipped off for you. Note that due to Media Mail restrictions, the worker might inspect your package to make sure you’re only mailing a book and other allowed materials.

How to ship media mail

Media Mail is provided by the United States Postal Service. It allows you to get a discounted postage rate on certain items. Media Mail is a cost-effective way to ship heavier books. It usually costs less than First Class Mail if you are sending large items. You might want to use Media Mail if you sell books online or swap CDs or DVDs. Using Media Mail is easy, but there are a few tricks and precautions that you should be aware of.

Check to make sure that your item qualifies for Media Mail. Your item shouldn’t weigh over 70 pounds. You can send books, videotapes and computer-readable media as long as it’s not blank. This includes DVDs and CDs. You can’t include any other items in your package, even promotional materials or advertisements.

Package your item. If you are sending a book, you might want to wrap it in plastic or bubble wrap first so it doesn’t sustain any water damage. If you are sending an opened DVD, consider padding the spindle with a small piece of bubble wrap or tissue. This prevents the DVD from sliding off the spindle and becoming scratched. Place CDs between two sheets of thick cardboard. You may also want to write “non machinable” on CD packages so the disc doesn’t get broken in a machine. There may be a small added fee if your item isn’t machinable. Use lots of packing tape on the outside of your envelope to make sure the item is secure.

Mark the package as Media Mail. Write “Media Mail” in large letters under the receiver’s address. You may even want to write this in a different color such as red so it isn’t missed.

Deliver the package to the post office. Media Mail is based on weight. Instead of trying to figure out the exact amount of stamps you need, have a label printed out at the post office. The postal worker can properly weigh the item and packing materials.

  • Media Mail
  • A Customer’s Guide to Mailing

Sara Gilmore is a freelance writer who has been creating web content for the last four years. Her writing has appeared on eHow and her own blogs and websites. Gilmore has a degree in paralegal studies from Kaplan College.