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  • Writer's pictureColin Harrang

What is Media Mail?

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

I love getting packages in the mail, especially surprise gifts from friends across the country that I haven't seen for a while. But, if you've mailed a care package recently, you know that it's not cheap. Luckily, there is a life hack that too little of the world knows of, and it's called Media Mail.


What is Media Mail? Media Mail is a USPS highly-discounted shipping rate, exclusively for mailing media and other educational materials (Yes, even heart-throb romance novels that educate purely the soul).

Media mail was introduced in 1938 to encourage the flow of educational materials through the mail. As media has become more readily available of the years, Media Mail postal perks still hold and are a great way to mail books to friends around the country.

Keep in mind that Media Mail takes longer than First-Class mail, but the wait is worth the savings. Domestically, Media Mail starts at $3.19 while typical priority mail starts at $7.70. I mailed a 1.4lb book from San Francisco, CA to Houston, TX for $3.27.

The Rules of Media Mail

Like all good things, there are restrictions and rules to be followed. The most important is that Media Mail must contain ONLY Media. That means you can’t mail a care package that includes a book, snacks, and a candle and call it media mail. Mailing a book to a friend is Media Mail. Mailing a book and nail polish to a friend is not Media Mail.

This rule is critical because media Mail packages are also subject to inspection by the Postal Service, even after you successfully get the package through the post office. If you try to pull a fast one and are caught, anything you mailed that is not eligible for the Media Mail rate may be assessed, priced at the accurate shipping price, and back charged to the sender, or worse! USPS could send the receipt to the package recipient. Here’s a care package to get over your breakup, Katie… and here’s the postage bill you owe the US government for it…

However, there is one exception to this rule. Media Mail packages can include either one envelope or one addressed postcard bound into the pages of a book. Are you smiling right now because you’re thinking “Hello, Book Club Card!” because I am!

Media Mail also accepts other types of educational material like printed music, film, and test materials. But, I’ll leave the educational topics to the experts. I’m only concerned about sending Laura Dave’s The Last Thing He Told Me to my friend that lives in Austin, TX. I will be mailing her my copy - along with a Book Club Card of course.

Happy mailing, and happy reading!

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