EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 48 - September 29, 2001 - ISSN 1528-6703     2 of 7

How to Package Books Cheaply, Quickly and Safely - Part 2

By Craig Stark

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The following is a step-by-step method of packaging books with b-flute. Before I began to use it, I experimented extensively with a soft pine board, which is excellent for telegraphing damage. I wrapped the pine board as if it were a book, and subjected the package to systematic abuse - namely, throwing it down on a concrete slab floor at varying angles and degrees of force. In all but the most extreme cases, the packaging prevented all damage. Nevertheless, I should emphasize that this is only one approach, and there may be other packaging methods that work as well or better. Costs for the following items are based on prices in my area and may vary considerably across the country.

List of supplies needed:

  1. B-flute (1 300' roll each of 12" and 18" widths. These two sizes will accommodate nearly every size of book. About $9 for a 12" roll and $14 for an 18".) NOTE: Suppliers for b-flute may be difficult to locate, especially in less densely populated areas. Check under headings like "Shipping Supplies" or "Packing Materials" in the Yellow Pages. Mail order is available with some suppliers but often doubles (or worse) the final cost.
  2. Packaging tape (Tape is expensive. Buy it in bulk, if possible, and your savings can be as much as 50%. Use a medium grade or better. About $1.75 for a 2" x 110-yard roll.)
  3. Tape dispenser (About $8.)
  4. Heavy-duty stapler (Don't skimp on this. The stapler must be able to staple through 4 thicknesses of flute and hold up under heavy use. Also, buy the type with an arm than angles up. About $50.)
  5. Staples (Heavy duty, 3/8". About $5 for a box of 5,000.)
  6. Spring-clamp (4" jaw opening. About $8.)
  7. Scissors or box cutter
  8. Zip-loc bags (Several sizes.)


  1. Seal the book in a Zip-loc bag. Packages get wet from time to time, and flute soaks up moisture like a sponge. On international shipments, I use two bags.
  2. Crease the flute near the end of the roll, approximately the thickness of the book plus at least another two or three inches in from the end.
  3. Tuck the book snugly against the crease, press the end down on the face of the book, then roll, flipping it over twice in the flute.
  4. Holding the book firmly with one hand, cut along the gutter of a corrugation with the other. Leaving enough excess so that the end can be folded back over the book and more or less meet the original end, in effect making a double thickness of b-flute around the entire perimeter of the package.
  5. Still holding the book firmly, pull on the free end of the b-flute and tighten up the package as much as possible, then secure it temporarily with a spring clamp.
  6. Hook a small loop of tape inside one open end of the package and tape the seam, leaving enough extra to hook it inside the other end as well.
  7. Staple one end of the package, starting at one side and moving to the middle at approximately a 45-degree angle, reversing, then starting at the opposite end and moving to the middle at the same angle. This will ensure that the end of the stapler arm will stay free of the package at all times. Make sure at least one staple straddles and secures the seam on each end.
  8. Staple the other end of the package the same way.

A Few Tips:

  1. Use 12" b-flute if at all possible. It's cheaper. If the book is too long to fit across the flute and still leave enough excess to staple, it's often possible to turn it 90 degrees and make things work. There's no rule of thumb for which size to use because books vary in length, width and thickness, and an especially thick but otherwise small book may require 18" flute. It's simply a matter of practice, developing a feel for what will work with each size. Generally speaking, the closer the row of staples is to the edge of the book, the better. This maximizes the all-important pinching action. If a book is an in-between size, I'll roll it in the 18" flute, tape it, then cut the end off to size before stapling.
  2. Thin manuals, brochures and the like may need to be wrapped in a single roll of b-flute first, then cut to the length of the book and positioned with the corrugation crosswise to the outer package. This stiffens the resulting package considerably and prevents bending during shipment.
  3. On especially thick books, stapling can be somewhat tricky. It's sometimes easier to push the book partially out of the rolled and taped flute to make stapling on at least the first end straightforward. On the second end (after pushing the book back in) it may be necessary to pinch it first to create a somewhat flat surface for the staple to enter. This prevents it from tearing the outer skin of the flute.
  4. I don't waste money on adhesive labels but print my addresses on plain paper, cut them to size with a paper cutter (about $25 at an office supply store), then tape them to the front of the package.
    This all but ensures that the addresses won't become illegible if the package gets wet. On international shipments, which are sometimes opened for inspection, I tape a duplicate copy of the address to the Zip-loc bag.

It's impossible, of course, to cover every contingency in an article of this length, but if anyone has any questions, I'd be happy to address them in the book forum.

About the author:

Craig Stark is a full-time online bookseller and former Editor of The Bookologist, a newsletter from the publisher of AuctionBytes.

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