Sharing thoughts and ideas is an important part of our society, and the United States Postal Service rewards those who do this. If you want to ship books, movies, music or other types of media, the USPS offers a discounted rate on the shipping costs. Your package will only qualify for media mail rates if you don't include anything else in the box or envelope. For booksellers and others who mail a lot of information, media mail shipping can help you to save a lot of money.

What Qualifies for Media Mail Prices?

Even though it used to be known as "book rate," the media mail category encompasses much more than just books. In general, any materials that are meant to spread information or knowledge can fit into this category. Things that qualify include:

  • Books at least eight pages long
  • Scripts for plays
  • Manuscripts for books, music and periodicals
  • Sound and video recordings on CD, DVD, videotape, reel-to-reel tape or other media
  • Printed music
  • 16-millimeter or narrower-width film
  • Media readable by computer containing prerecorded information
  • Printed test materials and accompanying accessories
  • Educational reference charts
  • Looseleaf binders and their accompanying pages meant for distribution to hospitals, doctors' offices and other medical facilities

Avoid Media Mail Shipping Problems

Everything in the media mail package must fall under the media mail guidelines. You may include an invoice in your package but may not include catalogs of other media you are offering for sale. In addition, comic books and magazines are prohibited from being sent using this rate. The post office does allow for packing materials to be added to packages to prevent items from shifting during the shipping process, but they should not be items of value themselves. Packing peanuts and shredded paper are fine under media mail regulations but T-shirts and beach towels are not.

All media mail packages are subject to inspection, and local post offices go through periods when they ramp up their media mail checks. If you're caught sending noncompliant materials using media mail, the entire package could be charged an additional postage fee. This means your recipient will have to pay before she can pick up her package.

Calculate Postage for Media Mail

If you're selling books or other items that fall into the media mail category, knowing the cost of postage will help you to determine the shipping charges you should add to your customers' invoices.

First of all, it's important to know when your package is too large to be sent via this rate. After all, if you've got a big order, why not send it all in one box? Well, besides giving your mail carrier's back a break, there are rules about the size and weight limits for anything you send using media mail.

Begin by measuring your package. Measure the length plus the girth at its thickest point. Add these two numbers together. If they add up to 108 inches or less, you've passed the first test. It's small enough to ship media mail.

Next, weigh your package. Do it after you've boxed up the contents, taped it closed and added any stickers you need. If the package weighs less than 70 pounds, you're well within the guidelines and can use media mail rates on the package.

Using a digital scale will give you the most accurate rates since a difference of one or two ounces can mean the difference between one rate level and the next. Media mail rates currently begin at $2.66 for an envelope or package that weighs one pound or less. For every additional pound in weight, the media mail cost goes up 51 cents.