The postal service have two types of employees–well three if you count the mouthpieces who wear ties and say ‘gee. we’re sorry we lost-ate-drove over your package. here’s an insurance claim form. have a nice day.’ There are counter clerks who may or may not have their head up their ass depending on the luck of the draw and then there are the postal trolls. Postal trolls are basically like any other trolls, slow moving and heavy handed, and nothing in the world gives them greater pleasure than turning nice symmetrical rectangular packages into objet d’art. Putting whatever is INSIDE the package is at the mercy of whatever blunt object is within their long armed reach.
The optimum secure book packaging will protect the book against most things sharp, blunt or wet. Despite what you may have heard read or surmised, no one type of packaging will do all those things. Like getting dressed for the Arctic – layering is the key.
INNER LAYERS –
Tissue • If the skin of the book is sensitive, say a dust jacket without a Brodart®, or a full leather binding, then a layer of tissue paper is a good start.
Cardboard • two pieces of cardboard of a size that extends BEYOND the corners of the book covers.
Bubble wrap • the kind with the small bubbles. I find the more valuable the book is the more layers it gets.
Plastic • at some point a polybag or even a grocery bag slipped over the bundle can save the book on a wet porch.
OUTER LAYERS –
Envelope – If the book bundle is still small enough, you can slip it into a Jiffybag® with or without padding. That padding is not a guaranteed replacement for prewrapping the book, but it can suffice if the book is small and sandwiched between cardboard.
Box or boxfold • Where would we be without corrugated cardboard? I shudder to think. Using brand new shipping boxes for each and every sale is not always cost effective. But if you are shipping a $$$ book to a $$$ customer, taking the time and effort to make a professional impression will encourage repeat business. If you are reusing a box that is still in good shape, make sure that all previous shipping labels have been PEELED off and all barcodes and text have been blackened out. DO NOT USE printed small appliance boxes these give a very bad impression and are usually frowned upon by the Post Office.
These steps will not always save your package from the Postal Trolls, and skipping a layer or two will not condemn it. Pack with your head as well as your hands. If it’s a $5 book if doesn’t need a $50 packing job, however the $5 dollar customer is just as delighted to get an undamaged book as the $50 customer. Besides if you KNOW you packed it properly, you won’t need to hear, “but it was damaged when I got it.”