Customer Support Ruling

Packaging Books, Bound Printed Matter, and Similar Printed Material

REVISED March 2010

PS-329 (601.3)

This Customer Support Ruling (CSR) clarifies that packaging standards apply to all mailpieces that contain books, Bound Printed Matter (BPM), heavy journals or magazines, and similar items.

The Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) sets a general standard that all mailpieces must be able to withstand normal transit and handling without damage or breakage.  Pieces with items such as books or BPM require adequate packaging to meet this requirement, whether they are mailed as machinable parcels, irregular parcels, or Not Flat-Machinable pieces. A common packaging method is a sturdy box. However, other packaging methods such as plastic bags or shrinkwrap may be used under certain conditions.

Our packaging standards describe three types of mailpiece loads — easy, average, and difficult — based on content, degree of protection, and strength of the mailing container. We consider a single book or book-like piece or a single BPM item to be an “easy” or an “average” load.  A multicomponent piece containing printed material is considered to be an average load when it is packaged to minimize shifting of the contents.  Mailers may use plastic bags for easy loads up to 5 pounds when the plastic is at least 2 mil thick, and for easy loads up to 10 pounds when the plastic is at least 4 mil thick.

Parcels processed in network distribution centers (NDCs) include Package Services machinable parcels, Standard Mail machinable parcels, and NFMs weighing 6 ounces and over, except pieces prepared on 5-digit or finer level pallets.  For pieces processed in NDCs, shrinkwrap or heat-shrinkable plastic film may be used as the only method of packaging for paperback books and similar items weighing up to 3 pounds.

As an option for pieces not processed in NDCs, mailers may use heat-shrinkable plastic film for pieces weighing more than 3 pounds.  The film must be at least 3/4 (.75) mil thick for easy loads up to 5 pounds and at least 1-1/4 mil thick for average loads up to 5 pounds.  Average load pieces weighing up to 10 pounds and prepared on 5-digit pallets may be packaged with film at least 1-1/2 mil thick.

In summary, all books, Bound Printed Matter, and similar printed material are subject to packaging standards in the DMM. Pieces that are processed in NDCs are subject to additional restrictions.

Lizbeth Dobbins


Mailing Standards

Headquarters, US Postal Service

Washington DC  20260-3436