Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2005 Issue

Confessions of a Compulsive Book Packer

A0511

Fold over the bubble wrap and seal the ends.


To finish up this stage I take a short piece of packaging tape from a tape machine and put it against the open end of one side and then fold the bubblewrap and tape over to make a solid seal. I do that with both open ends of the package. The net result is a completely enclosed and protected book which can be opened with one motion. I should mention here that I do not bubblewrap paperbacks, as that can distort the book in transit; I either ship them just in brown paper, add additional pieces of cardboard for strength, or enclose them in a simple plastic bag before putting them in a padded envelope.

In the case of books too large for the two 12" pieces of bubblewrap, I use 3 pieces or more, and lay the book down lengthwise, following the same procedure as for the smaller books. In bad weather we may bag everything in plastic before putting it in its ultimate container.

Since we often use flat-rate postal envelopes for shipping, which offer very little protection, the bubblewrap is required for hardcovers. Paperbacks can often benefit from being placed in a simple padded envelope before being put in the flat-rate envelopes. I never, ever, just throw a book bare into either a padded envelope, or a postal envelope, no matter what kind of book it is.

We also sell oversize pictorial hardcover books that have easily bruised covers. I wrap these books in brown paper, followed by 3 pieces of bubblewrap, and then box them. Occasionally the books are double-boxed if they are then going into a priority mail flat-rate box, or if they are going via m-bag service (the Post Office's very economical surface mail rate to foreign countries). When we box a book we make sure that there is no empty space in the box which can allow the book to bang around. Moreover, since many people might use a box cutter to open a box, we make sure that there is cardboard protecting the top of the book so it is not accidentally slit while opening the box.

If you are sending very heavy books, it is critical to know the tensile strength of the box you are using. Just because the books physically fit inside a box, it does not mean that the box will arrive at its destination intact if it is overloaded.

I always cover the seal to both padded envelopes and postal envelopes and boxes with an extra piece of heavy-duty packing tape. I do not automatically trust the seals that come with these materials. If I am covering a box with extra-heavy brown paper, I make sure that there is a label with our address on the bare box, in case the paper is pulled off in transit. I try to take no chances that the material will be lost or damaged if the outer packaging opens accidentally.

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