Thursday, January 15, 2009

Packaging - Mailers

Since I covered the various mailing options in a recent post I thought I would finish out the topic with recommendations about "what" to ship your books in. Generally you have the following choices:
  • Box
  • Rigid Mailer
  • Padded Mailers
  • Bubble Wrap Mailers

There are plenty of expensive ways to get these materials - going to the office supply store is one that I don't recommend. The best thing to do is buy them from a packaging wholesaler. I did a bit of research and I recommend ULINE they are a large supplier with a wide selection and had the best prices I could find.

When considering a mailing material - to me the #1 concern should be weight. You don't want to artificially increase the cost of your book because you have crossed the line to a new weight category. If you have a book that ways about 1 lb. This might not be so big of a concern because all of the options will keep you under 2 lb (next level) but if you are at 1 lb 12 oz then you are really going to care.

Making sure your book arrives in good condition is also a consideration. You want a mailer that will protect it from water...what if it sits outside on a step in the rain before the person gets it? Also protection of the "corners" is a concern you don't want them bent or crushed etc.

In general any cost you incur is either passed on to the consumer or taken from your profit. The shipping material therefore should be as economical as possible it's just not a thing worth spending a lot on this and artificially increase your price or decrease your profit. The best way to control this cost is "buy in bulk" and use free options from the USPS. More on this in a minute.

I would not recommend Boxes. Their problems:

  • Hard to get one that fits the right height of your book
  • Expensive (relative to other options)
  • Difficult to store
  • Takes time to "assemble"
  • Not self-sealing
  • Not waterproof
  • Heaviest option

ULINE does offer a nice "variable height folding box that accommodates 1/2", 1", 1 1/2", 2" but at $0.53 each they are costly

With boxes eliminated mailers are your next choice. The biggest issue with them is determining the "right" size. ULINE does a really good job listing both interior and exterior sizes. I recommend you choose a few options and ask for "samples" they will gladly mail these at no charge . Find the one where you book fits snugly but not too tight (don't want to damage the book getting it in or out then buy them by the case (Usually 50 or 100 per).

I personally like "bubble wrap mailers" - they are light, inexpensive and provide good protection both on edges and weather. I did here from one customer that one of his corners was a bit damaged but that may have been a fluke - I might do some "rigid mailers" in the future. I don't recommend the "padded" I don't think there is enough protection and I don't trusts them against weather.

The following chart shows the various costs for mailers that fit my husband's book "The Crown Conspiracy" well. His is a 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" book with about 3/4" of a spine. I use Hefty #S-996 mailers which are 7 1/4" x 12" outside dimension.

TypePart # per Case Cost per case Unit cost
Brown Bubble wrapS-9986 100$26$0.26
White Bubble wrapS-5632100$28$0.28
Brown PaddedS-1413100$21$0.21
White Poly PaddedS-7544100$27$0.27
Brown PaddedS-227100$24$0.24
White PaddedS-7530100$30$0.30

I ordered 200 and have just cracked my second box. I will probably shift to a "poly bubble" for my next order because the paper ones sometimes have been "punctured" although not a problem for protection - it just doesn't "look" as good to the customer.

Don't forget if you mail priority that the USPS provides free mailing materials. If I'm sending a single book - I put it inside a bubble wrap bag then inside the priority envelope because otherwise the book would slide around a bit and might get "scratched". When doing 2 I can put both of them in a priority envelope side by side very snugly so no extra material is needed. If I have an order of 3 or more I use a priority box.


Frances said...

If you need a mailer which would not only protect whatever you're sending but would also be lightweight enough, you should check out and try poly mailers.

Greg said...

Hi Robin, good point! I love the details you've provided for everyone. You're right, boxes are great for shipping a lot of products but they're also very costly. In fact, many companies have opted out of corrugated boxes and now use plastic films such as bundling film for their pallet shipments. One example of this is bottled water. Costco and Sams Club, for example, do not allow most of their suppliers to use boxes because of their sustainability initiatives and the enormous costs to recycle them.

As for mail order packaging, poly mailers are great because they are so versatile and lightweight.

We carry every kind of packaging but I've left a link to our poly mailers for comparison pricing. :)

Thanks for your support!