USPS Media Mail: What It Is and When to Use It

USPS Media Mail is the cheapest way to ship books, vinyl records, and educational materials with the US Postal Service
USPS Media Mail is the cheapest way to send books, records, and educational materials with USPS

USPS Media Mail is the most cost-effective way to send items such as books, vinyl records, videos, and other educational materials with US Postal Service. Media Mail takes a bit longer to delivery than the other USPS mail classes (between 2-8 business days), but it is a fantastic money-saving perk for sending these types of items. However, it comes with some pretty strict guidelines. In order to be sent Media Mail, packages can ONLY contain the qualifying media products that USPS has defined. Also, USPS reserves the right to inspect packages to verify that they only contain items that quality for Media Mail.

What Qualifies for USPS Media Mail?

According to the list on USPS’ website, the following are items that quality for USPS Media Mail:

  • Books that contain at least 8 pages
  • CDs, DVDs, records, tapes, or other audio and video recordings
  • Scripts for plays, books, periodicals, and musicals
  • Printed sheet music
  • Computer-readable media containing prerecorded information and guides or scripts prepared solely for use with such media
  • Sixteen millimeter or narrower width films
  • Printed objective test materials and their accessories
  • Printed educational reference charts
  • Loose-leaf pages and their binders consisting of medical information for distribution to doctors, hospitals, medical schools, and medical students.

How Much Does It Cost?

Media Mail is priced based on weight, and the Retail Rate starts at just $2.80 for a 1 pound single-piece package. After 1 pound, the price increases by just $0.53 per pound for single-piece Media Mail (for example, a 2 pound package costs $3.33). Unfortunately, since Media Mail is already priced so affordably, there are typically no postage discounts available through shipping software.

Heads Up: No Pieces Can Contain Advertising

If you wish to send your package Media Mail, you CANNOT include any advertising inside. This is an extremely important point. If USPS finds advertising of any kind inside your package, it will be disqualified for Media Mail and you’ll end up paying way more money for “postage due” with another service like Priority Mail. That would defeat the whole purpose of trying to save money by sending your parcel USPS Media Mail in the first place.

What About Comic Books or Graphic Novels?

Unfortunately, comic books and graphic novels do not quality for USPS Media Mail.

Can I Send A Book Subscription Box USPS Media Mail?

Book subscription boxes are getting more popular, and people often ask if they can ship them Media Mail. Book subscription boxes can qualify for Media Mail service, but there can ONLY be books in the package. You cannot include anything else inside—no shirts, no bookmarks, no pens…nothing. Just books.

If you’re thinking that nothing but books sounds a bit boring for a subscription box, you’re not wrong. Subscription boxes are all about your customers getting the most bang for their buck—it’s all about creating an experience for them, after all. If you’re running a book subscription business and you want to include other items in your box, your best bet to save money is to ship your boxes USPS Priority Mail Cubic. Your boxes will also arrive at their destinations faster, between just 1 and 3 days!

18 Comments

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  1. Daniel Cada

    Do old post ccards qualify for media rate?

    Reply  
    • Rockwell Sands

      Hi Daniel,

      Are you sending them in a bundle? I don’t think these would qualify, since USPS requires postcards to be sent via First-Class Mail…but to be honest I’m not 100% sure! If I were you I might go to your local Post Office and ask the postmaster if they’ll allow it. Media Mail is the same rate at the Post Office as it is online anyway, so you won’t be out any extra money.

      Reply  
  2. Paul J O'Connell

    Can you ship cds/dvds in nylon binders?

    Reply  
  3. Paul J O'Connell

    I have CDs and DVDs in Nylon CD/DVD Binders .Am I able to pack the CD/DVDs in a box with the binders or will I have to remove them from the binders. I ask because the binders would take up more space and add some weight.

    Thank You

    Reply  
    • Rockwell Sands

      Hi Paul,

      This is a great question. The biggest thing that USPS doesn’t allow for Media Mail is anything that contains advertising. So, as long as your binders don’t have any branding or sort of advertising on them, I think you’re probably ok here! I would be safe and ask your local Post Office though before you send them out, if you’re ok with waiting in line. Media Mail costs the same at the Post Office as it does online with any shipping software, so the only thing you’ll lose is time and you’ll gain some peace of mind.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply  
      • Paul J O'Connell

        Thanks for the reply

        Reply  
  4. john demshar

    Is there special packaging that I need to pick up at the post office for media mail? Or do I just wrap package myself. When mailing do I need to let the post office clerk know that it is media mail?

    Reply  
    • Rockwell Sands

      There isn’t special packaging available, but you have to provide your own. It can either be generic (brown or white) packaging, or you ca use your own custom boxes or envelopes. If you buy the label at the Post Office, yes – just let them know it’s a Media Mail shipment and they’ll probably inspect the contents to make sure it qualifies!

      Reply  
  5. Ernie Paris

    I was charged $4.67 instead of the $2.80 charge set for one pound or less to send a 45 record in a 7in x 7in x .05 box weighing less than a pound using the media mail option at a postal annex. The workers at the annex told me that the media rate prices changes when sipping to different zip codes. I do not think that is correct but the annex refuses to change their view on this subject.

    Reply  
    • Stevie

      Thanks, Ernie. Sounds highly bogus, all right. I’ll let you know how things go here using Orangemailer.

      Reply  
  6. Stevie

    For shipping a single CD in a bubble-wrap squarish envelope via media Mail, can I just slap on $2.80 in stamps and drop in a mailbox, or does my local post office need to label it “Media Mail” in some way? Or should I indicate that on the envelope myself? Thanks, Rockwell!

    Reply  
    • Rockwell Sands

      Hi Stevie, unfortunately that won’t work! You’ll need to specifically buy Media Mail postage for this particular package. You can access Media Mail through pretty much any shipping software platform though!

      Reply  
  7. andrew

    if i sent a record and a small thing of rolling papers media mail will it work? or will it be sent back? how would they be able to tell?

    Reply  
    • Rockwell Sands

      Hi Andrew, that’s tough to answer. Generally speaking, USPS doesn’t want you to include anything else in a Media Mail shipment other than what qualifies…so the rolling papers would be excluded here. When you ship Media Mail, USPS reserves the right to inspect it and could require you to send your items Priority Mail if the entire shipment doesn’t qualify. Better to be safe than sorry!

      Reply  
  8. Donald

    Can you wrap a vinyl record in newspaper (inside the shipping box) and qualify for the media mail rates?

    Reply  
    • Rockwell Sands

      Hi Donald, good question! I wouldn’t necessarily try to wrap the vinyl record in newspaper, if we’re being honest. USPS is super strict about anything containing advertising being in violation of what qualifies for Media Mail, and it’s tough to say what would (or wouldn’t) be on the newspaper pages.

      If you’re looking to wrap your vinyl record, I’d suggest picking up some packing material like foam roll that you can get either at your local Target/Staples or on ULINE here.

      Reply  
    • Becca

      When was this written? Are these shipping rates for Media Mail still accurate?

      Reply  
      • Rockwell Sands

        Hi Becca, we first wrote this article in 2018, but we keep it updated each year with the current prices. USPS raises their rates each year, and this article reflects the most accurate information.

        Reply  

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