What is USPS Media Mail?

by Ashley Friedman - Updated August 21, 2018
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Sending educational materials generally means sending books, and books can get heavy. USPS Media Mail is a solution that helps transport educational media that might otherwise be prohibitively expensive to send across long distances. USPS Media Mail allows the shipper to mail the media for a more affordable price than he or she would have to pay with traditional ground or air shipping costs. USPS Media Mail is useful for institutions but also for individuals who might be moving house, and have a large personal library of media and need to ship it in a timely, cost-effective manner.

What Counts as USPS Media Mail?

While the goal of the Media Mail program is to make it easier and more cost-effective to ship educational media, there are some varieties of media that are not approved for Media Mail rates. Comic books and advertising, for example, do not meet the media mail standards and cannot be shipped at USPS Media Mail rates. A list of materials that are permitted to be sent as USPS Media Mail includes: books (item must have at least eight pages to qualify as a book); CDs, DVDs, and other sound and video recording media; scripts and manuscripts; sheet music; periodicals; and periodical drafts. Also acceptable under Media Mail guidelines are any computer-readable media containing prerecorded information, such as flash drives, disks and CD-ROMs, films that are 16 mm or narrower, printed testing materials and any necessary accessories, educational reference charts that have been printed, and binders and loose pages whose contents contain medical information, or medical history for the intention of distribution to doctors, hospitals, medical schools or students.

How Is Media Mail Calculated?

Media Mail costs are calculated exclusively by the weight of the package being sent, rather then the distance the package will travel. People sending a Media Mail package would therefore spend the same amount to mail it across the state as they would to send it across the country. The charges begin at 1 pound, which is the lowest possible weight for a package accepted as Media Mail. Any additional fraction of a pound is rounded up to the next whole pound. The price per pound may vary with inflation, price increases or economic fluctuations.

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Is USPS Media Mail Trackable?

When you send a package via USPS Media Mail at the post office, you'll be given a tracking number on your receipt. Once you've received the tracking number you can visit the USPS website, which has a tracking icon you can click to enter your number and see your package's progress. It can sometimes take up to 24 hours from the time that you sent the package for its tracking credentials to show up on the USPS site, so if you track your package earlier than 24 hours and don't see any information, it's a good idea to give it a little time.

Is USPS Media Mail Reliable?

USPS Media Mail is used by schools, universities, scientific institutions, educational institutions, health care institutions and other educational bodies. USPS Media Mail is designed to be reliable, and the USPS website claims that most packages take between two and 10 days to arrive. With the tracking information, it's easy to see where your package is and then decide if it is necessary to alert anyone on the receiving end of its arrival. If you have specific questions about the package or packages you are hoping to send, talk to someone at the post office or at USPS customer service.

About the Author

Ashley Friedman graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and Social Sciences. She has experience writing copy for the websites of creative professionals, and regularly contributes to several blogs covering popular culture, travel, food, and social action.

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