How To

How To Pack Books For Moving

Katherine Packer

Staff Writer

Katherine Packer is a displaced Midwesterner currently living wherever she can find WiFi and a couch to crash on. She holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence and an MA from the University of Kent in International Conflict. While books have always been her first love, she’s recently been exploring how books can help open minds and change the world. You can get in touch with her here:

We all know that moving is challenging under any circumstances, but for avid book collectors it can feel extremely daunting. Trying to migrate an entire library is a gargantuan task, especially when you just can’t say no to owning physical books. Thankfully, there are ways to make moving books less painful, and I’m here to help. This is my ultimate guide on how to pack books for moving.

Use Small Boxes

Books are heavy, we all know this from the time we tried to bring more than five books on our weekend getaway “just in case.” So, you want to make sure that you’re not trying to fill huge boxes with books. Even the “small” moving boxes can get really heavy if you’re packing them entirely with books. The best boxes for moving books are smaller boxes that are used for packing liquor bottles or food at groceries stores. Just make sure the bottoms are well reinforced, because even these small boxes will get heavy!  

Spread Books Out

Another technique I’ve used in the past to move books is to not dedicate whole boxes just to the books but spread them out amongst different boxes and suitcases to spread out the weight. Books can help fill in many of the nooks and crannies, so, say you have a box of pillows or pots and pans, lining the sides and top with books can help keep things in place and give you an easy way to transport a ton of books. This is also where rolling suitcases can come in handy, since they will make the heavy load of books easier to transport. This method can make it difficult to stay organized, so if you are super anal about the order that your books are in, this may not be the best method for you.

Get Rid of Books that No Longer Bring You Joy

Moving is also a great opportunity to get rid of any books that you no longer need. I know this may seem like blasphemy to some, but any avid book collector knows that you inevitably end up with some duds. The ARCs that you were sent and never read? Free books from the street? Do those really need to come to your next home? It can be really good to clean out your library to make space for even more, better books in the future!

Stack and Pack Tightly

As far as physically packing books, I always prefer to stack the books flat, lining up similar sized books in the same box, and then filling in any gaps with small books or packing materials to keep everything in place. This is another reason that smaller boxes are helpful—they are usually the perfect size for two rows of books, with a little room on the side to pack in less valuable or more durable books to protect everything inside. For extremely valuable books, I recommend wrapping them in tissue paper or items of clothing and placing them towards the middle of the box or suitcase to avoid any damage in transit.

Label Carefully

If you have a really large library of books and you’re worried about the chaos that can ensue from moving, you can use your small boxes and a sharpie to keep everything organized. I recommend packing the books in the same order that you have them in on your shelves. You can then label each of the boxes according to your personal organization system, so whether that means by genre, author, shelf, or simply color, mark down what is in each box to help yourself out on the other end.

Ship Using a Book Rate

How to pack books for moving is one of the challenges you face, but how to actually move them can be a whole other issue. If you’re moving across the country and have limited space in your car or suitcase, one helpful thing I’ve learned that is that USPS has a special book rate. Since most shipping rates are determined by weight, this can add up really fast with books. But with the USPS book rate, you can pay a much more reduced rate to ship the boxes with the contingent that the boxes will take a bit longer to arrive at their destination.

Moving is always stressful, but moving your books doesn’t have to be. Hopefully with this helpful guide on how to pack books for moving, you feel more prepared to tackle this daunting task.