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Topic: Book Damage From Bad Packaging

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Subject: Book Damage From Bad Packaging
Date Posted: 3/18/2009 5:17 PM ET
Member Since: 12/26/2008
Posts: 4
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I have now been trading books here and on another site for many months.  Having both shipped and received dozens of books, I can say with certainly that shipping books using only the printed PBS label pages as a shipping envelope is a VERY BAD idea!

Books wrapped only in a thin layer of paper inevitably arrived damaged.  Typically they are at very least dented after the book was dropped on one or more corners, and often the wrapping has been torn open, exposing the book and its pages to the elements and other kinds of abuse.

In light of this, I don't understand why PBS and similar sites continue to encourage people to use only the printed label pages as wrapping.  Paying a little extra for a proper envelope is worth the effort and expense -- and furthermore, once you have received a package from another member, at least half the time, if it has survived the trip and is the correct size, you can re-use it to ship out your own book.

My request is that PBS change its philosophy about shipping.  If I receive a slightly damaged book, then once I finish with it and send it to another person, without proper packaging it will continue to receive additional damage.  Eventually, if shipped a few times, such books won't be suitable to ship out according to the minimum quality and condition standards set by PBS!

Shipping books without proper care defeats the wonderful recycling philosophy that's at the heart of online book swapping.




Date Posted: 3/18/2009 5:27 PM ET
Member Since: 1/26/2006
Posts: 318
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I guess I have been pretty fortunate.  Those books that I've received wrapped only in the PBS wrapper have survived very well, if wrapped fairly tight with mailing tape (not scotch tape, not masking tape).  When I ship I will sometimes use the wrapper and sometimes use an envelope...depending on the book.  I haven't had any complaints yet :)  (knocking on wood).

Date Posted: 3/18/2009 5:48 PM ET
Member Since: 2/28/2007
Posts: 2,164
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IF you use the PBS wrapper, the key is tape, tape, and more tape.  I used to use it, taped the heck out of the paper, and never had complaints.  I don't use the paper anymore just because I got lazy - bubble wrappers are just easier.  But there is a "right way" to wrap using the paper.

Date Posted: 3/18/2009 5:57 PM ET
Member Since: 1/23/2009
Posts: 3,041
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I also sometimes use the PBS wrapper. I am more likely to do so if it is a mass market paperback that I am sending. If I'm not being lazy, then I will use thick brown paper (that you can buy in rolls at the store) which costs only about 2 bucks. I wrap in plastic wrap, then use a helluva lot of packaging tape. Never had a complaint yet either. The tape is definitely the key!

Date Posted: 3/18/2009 6:13 PM ET
Member Since: 11/15/2008
Posts: 3,308
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I also haven't had problems with most PBS wrapped books I've received.  The only problem one was poorly taped and had no plastic.  I've actually had more problems with books in manilla envelopes.  If they aren't secured, they seem to find a way to tear out of those.

Date Posted: 3/18/2009 6:38 PM ET
Member Since: 10/6/2007
Posts: 376
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If the person uses 2 pieces of printer paper, and packaging tape and the item is a MMP, it should be fine -  every book sent to me this way has been fine and not damaged by the post office.

Almost every single package where the person has used brown kraft wrap (like paper bags) the paper has torn, not on the taped seams, but on the edges. Luckily, no damage has occurred but the potential was there.

I think wrapping it tightly in strong paper and plenty of packaging tape is the key. Books even in bubble wrap envelopes can be damaged if the envelope is too big and the item is loose inside. I sometimes use bubble envelopes for hardcovers but I make sure to tape the edges tightly so the book can't move about inside.

I sent myself a box of books (from my old address to my new address) that the post office managed to jumble enough for the box to be torn open in several non-seam places - the box was stuffed tightly with books and plastic peanuts, so the books weren't banged up too much (but each book was filled with the remnants of the plastic peanuts - what a mess that was - never again!). So a box doesn't necessarily guarantee undamaged packages either.

Date Posted: 3/18/2009 6:39 PM ET
Member Since: 2/6/2009
Posts: 1,411
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All the books I have sent out are wrapped in plastic wrap several times and then have the PBS wrapped taped tightly around them. So far, none of my requestors have complained. I sent out a few larger books and found a paper bag was the best choice for that.

In all honesty, I dont want to spend extra money on buying envelopes. Of the books I have recieved, a few of them have come in envelopes with no damage done to them. I dont care that much one way or the other how the sender sends the books to me as long as they get here safely. The PBS wrapper are fine; the reason you may be getting books in poor condition is because someone didnt wrap the books as carefully as they could have. Mine are all carefully and snuggly wrapped.

Date Posted: 3/18/2009 7:26 PM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2009
Posts: 26
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Last Edited on: 5/28/09 4:49 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/18/2009 7:39 PM ET
Member Since: 8/15/2007
Posts: 3,044
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I have received most of my books this way and send them out the same. I have never had a book arrived damaged because of it. I have had books arrive in bubble wrappers that are shredded and the book barely contained in what's left of the package. I'm surprised I got those books at all let alone without damage! The books wrapped in plain paper seem to fair better on my end!

I would suggest an RC stating you don't want books unless mailed in bubble wrappers.

I would be upset if PBS said we couldn't send books wrapped in printer paper or other similar forms. It's so much cheaper than buying bubble wrappers. You can only re-use them so many times and like I said, I get a lot that are not re-usable.

Date Posted: 3/18/2009 7:41 PM ET
Member Since: 9/24/2007
Posts: 453
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I send virutally every book out with the PBS printer paper method with no problems.  However, I wrap in saran and I use packing tape along the seams and especially reinforcing the ends.  Makes for a nice tight package that travels well.

One thing I've personally noticed is that by far the BEST travelers I receive are the tightly wrapped, well taped PBS paper variety. 

Manila envelopes are the WORST, followed closely by those tossed in a bubble mailer (not the tyvek ones) which is almost always torn open.  Either way in those envelopes the books are always banged up because they've been sliding around.

So I certainly wouldn't want them to abandon the PBS method.

Daniel T. - ,
Date Posted: 3/18/2009 7:52 PM ET
Member Since: 10/22/2008
Posts: 272
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I've never had a problem with PBS wrapper both outbound and inbound. They can be somewhat challenging to open, though, because it's like trying to open a brick. I usually take a pair of scissors and work my way into the end folds until I can free enough to tear by hand. Plastic food wrap seems to work best for protection when using PBS wrapper because it's very thin and flat. I personally opt to use 24lb paper when printing PBS wrappers. I also believe packing tape is the key to success as opposed to other type tapes.

Date Posted: 3/18/2009 8:22 PM ET
Member Since: 10/6/2005
Posts: 10,718
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I use the PBS wrapper (2 sheets not one) for small MMPBs only, and I've never had a complaint in over 3 years here. I recycle bubble mailers for most of my larger books.

Honestly I've had more books arrived with prior damage than I have books that were damaged in transit.

Date Posted: 3/18/2009 8:23 PM ET
Member Since: 7/12/2006
Posts: 183
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I have never had a problem either receiveing or sending with the PBS way. I don't believe that the PBS recommendation on wrapping are appalling at all. It must not be that huge of a problem, otherwise TPTB would not recommend wrapping books that way.

Date Posted: 3/18/2009 8:45 PM ET
Member Since: 1/5/2009
Posts: 760
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How have the books sent to you in the PBS wrappers been wrapped specifically? I'm still pretty new here, but I haven't had a problem sending or receiving in the PBS wrapper yet. I think that the key is following the recommended instructions for wrapping books that way (with plastic underneath, tightly wrapped around the book, and lots of packaging tape, especially around the edges). If anything, I find it harder to use bubble mailers because there's no way to easily make it wrap tightly around the book.

I'll admit that I'm guilty of sending out fairly brick-like packages. When I've received them though, I've found that it's usually pretty easy to get the book out with no damage if you find the end point of a piece of tape and work at it until it comes up. That usually will rip the PBS wrapper because the tape is stuck to it and then it's easy to rip the rest open.

Date Posted: 3/18/2009 9:23 PM ET
Member Since: 12/29/2008
Posts: 6,386
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Tape is definitely the big key.  I have had no problem with books I have received in the printed mailer where tape has been used sufficiently on the ends and corners.

Date Posted: 3/18/2009 9:32 PM ET
Member Since: 8/10/2005
Posts: 4,601
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I've received hundreds of books wrapped only in the PBS wrapper and rarely has there been a problem. Before I started using my current wrapper (the waterproof envelope things from Uline) I used only the two-page wrapper and sent hundreds of books wrapped that way, too, again without problems. I did use plenty of tape, though. I only switched to thse envelope things because of the quickness and ease of packaging.

In fact, the problem 'wraps' I've had have been more from people putting a book in a manila envelope or bubble mailer that was too large for the book they sent and the USPS machinery catching corners and ripping envelopes open. If people use an envelope, it should be molded and taped securely around the book so there's nothing loose for the machinery to catch.


Date Posted: 3/18/2009 10:34 PM ET
Member Since: 2/12/2008
Posts: 4,470
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Last Edited on: 6/2/09 5:51 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/18/2009 11:01 PM ET
Member Since: 10/6/2007
Posts: 376
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I've noticed that EVERYONE who said they send or received a book with only the PBS wrapper also qualified it with the terms: But, however, in order for it to work, the only way, etc...

Yeah, in order for it to work, the only way is if you actually follow the instructions from this website - hmmm, following the instructions that 100% of the people who are members have access to, which specifically mention using the 2 page method for a single paperback, and alternate packaging for larger books/shipments  - including "bubble or padded mailer". Oh and the instructions do say "use plenty of tape" too - so this isn't exactly a secret only those of us who read the forums are privy to.

It's not a question of receiving in "okay" condition - when it's wrapped according to the instructions included right here on this site under the Help docs, I've received the books in the condition they were sent.

And cheap is a consideration for me - we are swapping used paperbacks here, not finely tuned electronic devices or expensive jewelry. Sorry your experience has not been as positive as mine.

Date Posted: 3/18/2009 11:59 PM ET
Member Since: 2/19/2008
Posts: 2,007
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On a cost basis I've found it's actually cheaper for me to use bubble mailers than to spend time wrapping and taping books the PBS way.  Good tape can be expensive, but bubble mailers are cheap and easy.

Date Posted: 3/19/2009 12:03 AM ET
Member Since: 8/10/2005
Posts: 4,601
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I agree, Melinda. When I said I had sent hundreds of books using the two-pages wrap BUT I used plenty of tape, in doing so I didn't do anything that the Help Docs don't state in their "how to wrap a book" tutorial. Anyone who reads that has access to how to wrap books so they arrive in great shape. Bubble mailers ARE mentioned as an alternative. Reading the forums isn't necessary at all to know what to do. A great majority of the books I've received are from people who don't read the forums and they get here fine.

The problem is, people join up and start doing things before they read ANYTHING, even the basics about how to list books (by ISBN, not title) or what is supposed to happen when they get a book request (you actually have to send the book!). They don't bother to read the basic information like "how do I get started" much less the Help Docs.


Date Posted: 3/19/2009 12:10 AM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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The only book I received that was badly damaged was loose in an envelope.  The sorting machine ate it up.  The post office nicely put the damaged book and the remains of the envelope in a plastic bag.  With lots of machine grease.

Yes, some of my books have arrived dented.  Some have torn packing corners.  A few are no longer what I'd call postable.  I still would rather have that then have everyone use plastic mailers.

Last Edited on: 3/19/09 12:12 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/19/2009 12:11 AM ET
Member Since: 12/9/2007
Posts: 9,601
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The guidelines also suggest using plastic pre-wrap.  I use a lot of plastic pre-wrap from free sources - mainly the air pillows that mail order companies use for packing material and plastic outer packaging from products I buy from the store.  All are clean and dry.  I pre-wrap every book in plastic because that might be the thing that keeps the book from damage of most sorts including the elements.  Even if I'm using a box or a buble mailer - I use the plastic because it keeps the book tightly wrapped and reduces most kinds of damage including sliding around loose if I'm forced to re-use a larger bubble mailer that's been sent to me.  Most of the books I've gotten wrapped well in the PBS 2 page wrapper and with a reasonable amount of tape on the edges and ends of the package arrived in good shape.  However, the wrapper doesn't prevent damage from water problems.  I've received books that indeed had their wrappers torn and shredded - but were fine because of the plastic.  So I'm sorry that you've had such a rough time getting poorly wrapped books.  With the continuing influx of new members we will continue to have some (many?) of them not read the rules and guidelines.  You can lead a horse to water - but you can't make him drink!


ETA - I recycle everything I possibly can including the plastics that are available to me. 

Last Edited on: 3/19/09 12:13 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/19/2009 12:23 AM ET
Member Since: 6/15/2006
Posts: 5,751
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I am actually bidding as we speak on a box of bubble mailers. I find it more time and hassle saving to use them instead of the paper and tape route. I will ay that I have never had a damaged book come in the 2 page wrapper but have had a bunch of brown paper books arrived dented and corners badly dinged up.

Date Posted: 3/19/2009 12:31 AM ET
Member Since: 8/16/2007
Posts: 15,213
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I do not like to use envelopes for books. I will only reuse the ones I get when the stack get too high. They rarely fit the books tight enough and I end up using just as much packing tape to get them snug on the book as I would using paper.

I have never had a damaged-in-transit book show up in a PBS wrapper. I have had damaged-in-transit books show up in bubble wrappers, lightweight brown paper (like lunch sacks) in a single layer without tape on corners or edges, and left loose manila envelopes. All my MMP go out in the wrapper+plastic lining (larger get brown Postal Paper instead of the wrapper). I haven't ever been told that there was a problem and have been complimented on my wrapping job a few times. 

If PBS made using bubble mailers a requirement, they would really hurt the club, membership would drop significantly. I can't see why the'd change the wrapping requirement when it works fine as long as people do it correctly, its cheaper, and people who refuse to have plastic in their homes can be members. It wouldn't make any sense. Everyone has the option of writing an RC and asking for better than PBS required wrapping.

Date Posted: 3/19/2009 9:47 AM ET
Member Since: 2/13/2007
Posts: 2,276
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I send out books in  the PBS wrapper all the time, MMP, trade paperbacks (over 1600 with no complaints about my wrapping and only one eaten by a Post Office machine). I generally use envelopes only for hardback books. A layer of plastic underneath and tightly wrapped in the wrapper always works for me. All of the books I have received damaged in the mail are the ones loose in envelopes whether padded or not. The secret is to wrap the book tightly in the wrapper -- anything loose and you are inviting trouble. And if you are using an envelope, make sure it is the appropriate size for the book -- little book, big envelope and I can guarantee it will look like it went through the wars when it arrives. And NO MANILLA ENVELOPES please, they are the absolute worst until you really encase the book tighly in it -- and if you go to all that trouble, why not just use the printed PBS wrapper?