7 Tips for Shipping or Storing Your Books

by Hannah Nelson-Teutsch

Do you love your library (and/or your sanity)? Moving any time soon? You'll want to consider these tips for packing, shipping, and storing your books.

Over the course of my 29 years I've made many mistakes. I once drove a car into the middle of the desert, puncturing two tires and stranding myself in rattlesnake country because I was promised an oasis just beyond the next bend. I took up longboarding (and ended up with stitches in my knee). I got a perm. And, I lost several libraries worth of books to mold, mislabeling, and angry relatives rearranging overstuffed garages as I hopped from continent to continent in a post-collegiate haze.

From all of my mistakes I've learned a few lessons: 1) Just because it's on the map doesn't mean it's a road; 2) Balance is not something you can learn at 20 mph; 3) Curls are not a good look for me; and, most importantly, 4) Losing the books you love is a choice, not an act of god.

So, as college season winds down and you're ditching the dorm room, or before you trade up to a far better apartment, I have 7 simple tips for packing, shipping, or storing that impressive library you've amassed. I can't promise to save you from poisonous snakes or keep you out of an emergency room, but I can offer relief from the sharp pain of regret, the angry demands of family and friends, and the dark, moist plague that is mold in all its forms — oh, and did I mention I can also save you quite a bit of cash along the way?

1. Sort It Out

With exams out of the way and summer right around the corner, you might be tempted just to dump all of your books into a few large boxes and be done with it. I mean, there's useful information buried in that Econ 101 textbook, right? Wrong.

Take it from someone who once blew through more than $300 on economics textbooks that literally have not seen the light day since '08: there are some academic volumes you just won't miss once they're gone, and you could make some money off of them if you're willing to make part with them today. Textbooks can be worth a great deal if you resell them, but as years go by editions get updated and the old books just aren't worth what they used to be. What's more, every book you do save is going to cost you time and space in the move.

So, think about where you'll be in the next few years, what you love, and what you never want to look at again before you pack those boxes — one day you'll be glad that you did.

2. The Liquor Store Is Your Friend

Whether or not you've made it past the legal drinking age, you're definitely going to want to make your way down to the liquor store before you start to box up your books. Beer and wine boxes, which your friendly neighborhood retailer will usually be more than happy to get rid of, are the perfect size for storing books. If you pack a bigger box full of the weighty tomes you're likely to find yourself with books scattered all over the floor and a whole lot of ripped cardboard. The boxes that previously carried booze, on the other hand, are compact and sturdy, made for hauling bottles and perfectly repurposable for books.

And the best part? ID is not required.

3. Save That Silica

The next time you find one of those little packs of silica that they so often shove into new shoes or the occasional packaged food product, stop whatever you're doing and save 'em. Those handy little pouches of mysterious beads soak up water like that's what they were made for... because that's what they were made for. If you slip one or two in every box of books, your valuable volumes will stay warm and dry — the mold won't even stand a chance.

So, in the months leading up to your move, bother your friends, harass your neighbors, and hoard ever pack of silica you can get your hands on. In the end it might just save your books.

4. If You Like It Put a Label On It

It's midnight. You've just had a Candide craving that's not going anywhere anytime soon. You're down in the basement, flashlight in hand... but which box houses the French satire, and which box has those YA classics you're not ready to give up on? Sure, when you packed those boxes you had it all under control, you probably went through those things so many times you could have rattled off the inventory from memory, but six months or six years down the line? Forget about it. So, do yourself a favor: if you like what you've got in there, put a label on it. Your future self will thank you for it.

5. Give It Some Space

Like most teenagers and any decent Merlot, books need room to breathe — but only the right kind of room. When you're packing your boxes, make sure to stack the books all the way to the top, so larger, heavier items won't crush the packaging during shipping, and the solidity of the stack will keep everything where it should be.

However, if you're resting your boxes in the attic or garage, you are gong to want a little room above and below. Never leave your boxes directly on the ground (no silica pack can protect you from a sudden flood or the vagaries of condensation). Keep your boxes about four inches from the floor, each other, and from the ceiling, packed tight as a perfectly played game of Tetris on the inside, and you'll give the mold a run for its money no matter how many years you neglect your once-beloved books.

6. Consider Your Costs

So you've done all this work to save your books, you've collected boxes from the liquor store, you've saved your silica packets for months, you've prepped and packed your novels with care, and you've labeled those boxes something fierce. You deserve a little treat for working so hard on your library's behalf, wouldn't you say? So here's a wee gift from the tax man himself, courtesy of yours truly. If you're moving for work, meet certain distance and time criteria, and you have to pay to ship or store your books (writers out there, I'm looking at you) you may be eligible for a tax write-off courtesy of the American government. So keep those receipts, and the next time you're ready to file, this will all feel a lot more worthwhile.

7. Media Mail

If I could only give you one piece of advice about the packing, shipping, or storing of books, this would be it: media mail. Yes, media mail, an entire specialized class of postage just to help you move those books around with ease. Now, be aware, in order to qualify for the discounted rate (and I mean, heavily discounted) there cannot be anything in the boxes you're shipping besides books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs — you will almost certainly be quizzed on this. But, if you can look your neighborhood postal carrier square in the eye and answer honestly, you'll be on your way to savings so impressive you may consider moving again in the next few months just for the hell of it.

Image: Randi Boice/Flickr; Giphy (7)