What Is Media Mail?

Media mail; a great and cheaper option to send media items via the USPS. In this article, we do a full review on what media mail is and the features that come with it.

If you’ve ever wanted to send a book, music, or other multimedia through the mail – and didn’t just want to send one copy, but maybe dozens (or even hundreds) all at once – the odds are pretty good you’ve had a look at Media Mail from the USPS. At the same time, though, not everyone has had occasion to send dozens of different books through the mail and look for a more cost-effective way to do so. Regardless of where you fall on this spectrum, by the time you’re done with the inside information below, you’ll know everything there is to know about Media Mail.


You’ll know how it works, you’ll know how much it costs, you’ll know the advantages of using Media Mail versus other types of USPS services, and so much more. We even go over the downside to using Media Mail (and there are some hang-ups you’ll want to be aware of before you jump right in). Ready to get started? Great! Let’s do this.



What Exactly is Media Mail, Anyway?


To put it simply, Media Mail is a USPS program started back in 1938 as a much less expensive way to send books through the mail. In the late 1930s, the USPS was looking for a way to make it more cost-effective for Americans to send books to one another to help foster more education throughout the nation. Over the years, though, the USPS expanded the capabilities of Media Mail to accommodate a couple of other methods of distribution – and today it can handle everything from audio CDs to MP3 files on USB drives to films and computer media, too. At the end of the day, if you’re looking to send any kind of multimedia through the mail – especially in bulk quantities – you are definitely going to want to take a closer look at sending it via Media Mail and the USPS.


Why Use Media Mail Instead of Other Services?


There are a couple of different reasons you’ll want to consider using Media Mail compared to other USPS (as well as UPS, FedEx, DHL, and other shipping companies) services – but two really stand out from the rest of the pack.


For starters, Media Mail has actually been designed to handle all different kinds of multimedia. This means that not only is the Media Mail packaging you drop into the mailbox a little more secure than it might be for First Class mailings, but the whole process – from start to finish – with the USPS is tailored towards getting your multimedia to its ultimate destination in one piece. This is a huge advantage. No longer do you have to worry about your multimedia pieces getting tossed around, getting snapped in half, getting bent out of shape, or just generally getting beat up before they get to the person you want to have them. Instead, the Media Mail labeling let’s U.S. Postal Service workers know what’s in the package and helps them take better care of your things as it goes through the USPS infrastructure.


The second big advantage and reason people use Media Mail versus other shipping services is the discount you get! The USPS started this program out looking to move educational materials throughout the country at the lowest prices possible, and that model and ethos remains today. At the same time, the USPS doesn’t want people taking advantage of these deep discounts – and that’s why they have such severe restrictions on what can be sent through the mail with this method, what can’t be, and they reserve the right to inspect things at the same time. On top of that, anyone found caught of using the Media Mail system can be found guilty of mail fraud. That’s not the kind of charge you want attached to your permanent record, is it? When you get right down to it, though, the big reasons people use Media Mail have to do with the way the system has been built for multimedia through the mail and the deep discounts, too.



Will I Really Save Money Sending via Media Mail?


Absolutely! The discounts that you’ll get when you choose to use USPS Media Mail compared to other shipping services are significant. This isn’t some knock off discount that reduces your overall shipping costs by 10% or 15%, either. We are talking about discounts that can get to 50% or more, even when compared to Priority Mail packages that you send through the USPS.


Take this, for example. Let’s say that you want to send a book that you have just published to your favorite cousin across the country. With Priority Mail via the USPS that book (200 page paperback) might cost $11.95, and it might cost even more than that! Choose to use Media Mail, on the other hand, and because of your item meets the criteria – it’s printed material that has been bound and is not advertising – you’ll be able to send the exact same package across the country for $4.59 (and maybe even less than that). That’s less than half. Now imagine you’re not just sending out one copy of your new book but are instead sending out dozens and dozens. The savings stack in a hurry, don’t they? You’ll be able to save a mountain of money choosing to move forward with Media Mail, there’s really no way getting around that. Add in the fact that your books are going to be better protected and handled throughout the mailing process by USPS workers and this kind of approach becomes a bit of a no-brainer.



How Quickly Will My Mail Be Delivered?


In return for these deeply discounted shipping prices – and significantly improved handling of your multimedia – you can expect your packages to take a little bit longer to get to their ultimate destination. Yes, this isn’t great news for those that want to get their books into the hands of people desperate to read them as quickly as possible. But you still save a boatload of money in your books get there in better condition than you would have dropping them in Priority Mail at the post office. As a general rule, it’s not a bad idea to expect US Media Mail to take anywhere between two days and ten days to get to its ultimate destination. Sometimes it might take even longer than that, believe it or not! That’s the trade-off you have to be comfortable with sending your media through this USPS program, though. The overwhelming majority of people that take advantage of Media Mail recognize that their packages are going to be delayed a little bit and plan ahead, and still choose to take advantage of this service all the same. If you’re willing to wait even just a little bit longer for your media to reach your intended recipients this is definitely the way to go!



Are There Any Downsides to Using Media Mail?


There are a couple of downsides to using Media Mail, not the least of which is the slower mail delivery schedule that we just mentioned a moment ago. Nobody wants their mail to take any longer than absolutely necessary to go from one address to another, but that’s the reality of leveraging the other benefits of Media Mail. Another disadvantage is that every single package that you send through Media Mail with the USPS is subject to being stopped, opened up, and inspected. Obviously, as long as you aren’t doing anything bad or shipping anything that is prohibited with this service you won’t have a whole lot to worry about from a mail fraud perspective.


But even the most careful USPS inspectors sometimes make mistakes when they see your packages backup, leaving out some of the items, not sealing the box quite as well as it was originally, or making other errors that cause the package to arrive late – and sometimes not at all! There’s no way to get around this, though. USPS inspectors have every right to pop boxes been sent via Media Mail open at any point in time. On top of that, there’s no way to insure the contents of your package when you send it via this service. Unlike a lot of other USPS services that let you insure the contents, that’s just not going to be an option when you use Media Mail.


Finally, you won’t receive any compensation whatsoever for damages to your media that may occur during transit. Most of the time you won’t have to worry about damages in the first place because of how this kind of mail is handled due to its labeling, but if anything go sideways with your media along the USPS infrastructure you are going to be out-of-pocket with no way to get compensation. That’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow but again it is a required trade-off you have to be comfortable with when you go in this direction.



Do I Have to Pack My Boxes or Envelopes Differently with Media Mail?


Not really. Sure, you want to make sure that you are securing your packages as best you can with a sturdy box and quality tape as well as quality packing materials throughout. But other than that you don’t have to go crazy when it comes time to get your boxes or envelopes ready to be sent out via Media Mail. You will, though, have to notify the Post Office that you are intending to take advantage of Media Mail with the boxes that you are dropping into the post. This is best done at your local post office, but you can also do this online as long as you have a printer and are willing to stick it to your packages and then drop them off or have them picked up moving forward.


Is There Anything I Can’t Send via Media Mail?


There are a couple of things that you won’t be able to send via Media Mail, and some of them aren’t as obvious as you might have hoped – which can get you into a little bit about water with the USPS inspectors.


For example, you’re not going to be able to send any photographs, photo albums, or loose pictures – though you can send photo books as long as they are printed and bound. Other things you won’t be able to send via Media Mail include, but are not limited to:


  • Periodicals and magazines
  • Printed educational reference charts that are overwhelmingly text only
  • Certain pieces of computer readable media, including portable hard drives
  • Films that are being sent directly to or from commercial theaters
  • Electronic equipment used to playback Media Mail eligible pieces of media
  • Trading cards or video games
  • Any kind of clothing
  • Looseleaf binders


Keep that stuff out of your Media Mail packages and parcels and you won’t have anything to worry about moving forward.



US Global Mail – The Ultimate Modern Mailbox


If you’d like to be able to have every single package you ever receive – from any major shipping company, including the USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, or anybody else – digitally photographed and scanned with alerts sent to your directly, the odds are pretty good you’d like all that US Global Mail has to offer.


America’s premier virtual mailbox service, US Global Mail has been providing top-tier mailbox alternative solutions to the USA for more than 20 years. Providing customers with a 100% legitimate street address that allows them to have any packages and parcels (including Media Mail) sent to them directly, US Global Mail includes mail scanning, mail forwarding, check depositing, and other mailbox solutions you won’t get from the USPS.


Those interested in learning more about all that US Global Mail has to offer are encouraged to check out their website. You’ll find packages, plans, and detailed breakdowns of all their services there. Of course, if you’d like to speak to someone directly and have any questions about US Global Mail services answered in person you to reach out to their customer service department – via phone or email – at your earliest convenience.

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