If you’re shipping books, educational materials, or digital media you’ll want to know about USPS Media Mail.
USPS Media Mail is typically the cheapest way to ship items defined as educational materials. This includes books, CDs, DVDs, and digital recordings used for education. Figuring out exactly what qualifies can be tricky – comic books don’t count?! – so we’ll cover the specifics in full below.
Shipping USPS Media Mail can save you money if you don’t mind longer delivery times. And some restrictions do apply. At Easyship, we do our best to help you simplify shipping while giving you access to the cheapest shipping rates anywhere.
Use this article to learn about shipping with USPS Media Mail, plus all the items you can and can’t ship with this affordable option.
Table of Contents
What is Media Mail?
Formerly known as “book rate shipping,” media mail was introduced by the US Post Office in 1938 to encourage the exchange of educational materials. The definition of media has since been expanded to include film, DVDs, CDs, and other forms of digital media.
To this day, USPS Media Mail is generally the cheapest way to ship books and similar items. The USPS defines educational media as:
- Books (8+ pages)
- Printed music (sheet paper)
- Camera film (no blank film)
- Audio/video recordings (CDs and DVDs)
- Scripts for plays and book manuscripts
- Educational periodicals
- Digital media of educational intent
- Printed reference charts
- Printed test materials
- Medical paperwork for medical schools or doctors
You cannot combine educational items with non-qualifying items in the same package. USPS is very strict on this. This means personal notes and cards must be sent via another package. The only items you can include in shipping media boxes are “extra enclosures” that pertain directly to the item in a shipment, including:
- Bills or invoices
- Notes introducing the media
- Instructions for use
- Corrections for any media
USPS Media Mail is only available within the United States.
What Can’t Be Shipped USPS Media Mail?
Anything not intended for educational purposes is prohibited in USPS Media Mail. The following items are unapproved for Media Mail:
- Entertainment media: Comic books, magazines, newspapers, and printed goods that include advertising or marketing don’t qualify
- Puzzles: Defined as entertainment
- Games: Both video games and board games are defined as entertainment
- Blank Media: The media must be ready for education, meaning unused journals, blank paper, and blank CDs/DVDs/Cassettes aren’t allowed
- Books lacking text: This includes books that center around a pattern, cut-outs, posters, crosswords, and sudoku
- Cards: Including greeting cards, playing cards, trading cards, etc.
- Marketing & advertising media: Anything meant for advertisement or entertainment purposes cannot be shipped via Media Mail.
Though many have tried, it’s best not to add unapproved items to USPS Media shipments because...
USPS Media Mail is Open To Inspection
Media mail can be inspected by postal workers, unlike other package types. Yep, the post office is allowed to check whether you’re playing by the rules.
If you’re found sending unapproved items as Media Mail, you could face charges of mail fraud. And you’ll certainly receive a notice (POSTAGE DUE) to pay the difference between the media rate and the rate for unapproved items.
Packaging Rules For Media Mail
Shipping media mail requires you to observe size and weight restrictions, including:
- Package weight is a maximum of 70 lbs.
- Package dimensions less than 108 inches in combined length and height
Packages must include the sender's and receiver's full address. You can protect your Media Mail shipments with packing peanuts, bubble wrap, and any other dunnage of your choice. Here are all the shipping rules for USPS Media Mail.
Due to restrictions, shipping via Media Mail is unavailable on the US Postal Service website. Instead, visit a US Post Office or use a USPS-integrated shipping platform like Easyship.
Pros & Cons of USPS Media Mail Shipping
The appeal of Media Mail is cheap rates. The main disadvantage of Media Mail is that it takes longer to arrive. Below are all the benefits and drawbacks of shipping Media Mail.
- Affordable: Media mail is the lowest of the low rates. Rates start at just $2.80 for a one-pound package.
- Extra services: Media Mail carries includes features like free tracking, Delivery Confirmation, Signature Confirmations, and Collect on Delivery.
- Longer delivery times: Most media mail arrives in 4-5 days, though some can take up to 8 days. Factor in the unreliability of the USPS and it could be two weeks before your package arrives.
- Lack of insurance: If you’re shipping valuable media, you may want to add extra insurance starting at $2.25 based on weight. Alternatively, Easyship can help protect your goods up to $5,000.
- Durability: Book rate shipping isn’t known for its delicate handling. If you’re shipping fragile media items you may want to ship USPS Priority Mail.
How to Calculate Media Mail Shipping Costs
USPS Media Mail is the cheapest way to ship books and educational materials.
Media Mail rates are based on weight. The first pound costs a flat $2.80, regardless of the destination. For each additional pound, the cost is $0.53.
Shipments weighing between pound amounts will be rounded up. For example, a shipment weighing 1.3 pounds and a shipment of 2 pounds would both ship for $3.86 (2.80+0.53+0.53).
If you’re shipping 300+ media shipments per day, you qualify for a bulk discount known as a "pre-sorted" rate from the Post Office.
Media Mail vs USPS First Class
Which is the cheapest way to send books and media? Media Mail or USPS First Class? Well, that depends on your package weight and dimensions, and when you need the package to arrive.
USPS First Class is the cheapest way to mail packages below one pound within 1-5 days. First Class limits package weight to 13 oz. and package dimensions cannot exceed 23" x "18 x 15". Your shipping distance also impacts the price, unlike Media Mail which offers flat rates based on weight.
For Media Mail, delivery times range between 2-8 days, and the maximum shipping weight is 70lbs. While delivery times are slightly longer, the cost of shipping larger packages will be much less.
Shipping Media Mail With Easyship
USPS Media Mail is the cheapest way to send books, media, and educational materials. Various restrictions apply, though, so be sure to double-check your packages before sending.
Media Mail is only available online via shipping platforms like Easyship. This is because Easyship integrates with all USPS services to offer the cheapest rates on shipping. You can use our platform to find your cheapest rates on media and all other shipment types.
Create a free Easyship account to find real-time, accurate prices on USPS Media Mail shipments. Or, jump over to our Free Shipping Rate Calculator to find the cheapest rates on shipping from over 250+ courier services.
Media Mail FAQ
Does USPS Media Mail Work Internationally?
USPS Media Mail is unavailable for international shipments.
How Often is Media Mail Inspected?
USPS reserves the right to open packages to check for unapproved items. When to inspect a media mail package is up to the discretion of the postal employee, meaning there’s no way to know. To be on the safe side, avoid sending unapproved items via Media Mail.
What is the Maximum Weight for Media Mail?
The maximum weight is 70lbs. If your package exceeds 70lbs., you may need to split it into multiple packages.
Does Media Mail include tracking?
Yes, as of 2015 the USPS includes package tracking on all Media Mail shipments.