Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2005 Issue

Confessions of a Compulsive Book Packer

A0510

Fold the ends and tack, and place package on bubble wrap.


So what does good packaging look like? First of all, it does not look like you are emptying your trash and sending it to the customer. I do not use newspaper to wrap books, because the ink is not stable (some people are even allergic to it), and in my opinion, it feels dirty and used. I do not use obviously pre-used packing material or bubblewrap with scraps of other people's tape on it. I never use styrofoam acorns. If you find the packing material irritating, it is likely your customer will as well.

Let's start with the basics. The goal is to protect the book while at the same time making the packaging easy to open. You do not want anybody to damage the book, or themselves, in trying to open something completely swathed in shipping tape. That is frustrating and it makes people angry. And frankly receiving a parcel entirely covered with tape, head to toe, makes the packer appear neurotic.

I start with brown paper of a reasonable weight, say 30 - 40 lbs. or even butcher paper, which is really nice, but a bit harder to work with. I use 18" and 24" sizes, stored in two rollers in our shipping area. I use a good quality scotch tape from a dispenser to tack the folds down (make sure the tape works well with the paper). With precious books, we may use layers of archival tissue first, before the brown paper.

I have a little ritual: the book is placed face up on the paper. I fold one side so it is about halfway across the face of the book, and then fold or double-fold the other side so that it overlaps the first side (but does not go all the way to the edge). One piece of tape. Then I push in the sides of the bottom paper, fold the top down and press it against the book, then fold up the bottom and tack it with one piece of tape. I do the same to the top. It makes a nice, neat package, easily opened with one motion, but keeping the book -- be it a hardcover or a paperback -- from moving around, or being hurt by accident from other packing.

I buy bubblewrap in 3/16" size bubbles on long rolls, pre-scored at 12" intervals. Two sections generally are needed for each book to cover not only the two faces but the top and bottom. I put the book on the bubblewrap with the bubbles up (the smooth side is against the table), place a bookmark, the invoice, the shipping slip, a thank-you note, and anything else to be enclosed neatly in the middle of the book, with the most attractive piece on top. Then I fold the right side of the bubblewrap so that it is about half-way across the book and then fold or roll the rest of the bubblewrap around the book. One piece of tape tacks it.

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