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Topic: Overwrapped Books

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Subject: Overwrapped Books
Date Posted: 11/24/2013 8:43 AM ET
Member Since: 1/11/2006
Posts: 399
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Edit - more a comment than a question.  Or perhaps a plea.

Normally my husband will unwrap and mark books received for me when I am on the road but this week both books that came while I was out of town were waiting for me when I got home.  One was wrapped in two sheets, mummified by tape, then the label sheet, then mummified again.  The second was similar, but the first layer was taped to the book, then wrapped in plastic which was mummified, then the two layers and another layer of end-to-end tape going in both directions.  A few thoughts:

  • This makes it very difficult for anyone with a fine motor disorder or joint pain to open.
  • It requires the use of scissors, snowplows and raptor talons to open even without the above problems, increasing the possibility of damaging the book.
  • It creates more seams and lines on the package, making it less likely the USPS can scan the barcodes and more likely to get hung in machine sorting.
  • Packing tape is an expensive way to protect a book from the elements if that is your goal - plastic wrap or (better) plastic grocery bags are far cheaper and lighter (saving postage costs if you are close to that next ounce).

Over the years I have sent over a thousand books wrapped in the two sheets with one strip of packing tape down the back seam and one on each end (check the How to Wrap a Book page for a very similar picture).  One has been received damaged (and it had a plastic comb binding that got cracked along the way).  Just one.

Please consider dialing back the wrapping just a bit if you are preparing your books for underwater submersion or being tossed into a car crusher.  Protect yes, but it's unlikely the book is going to be ground zero for the drone attack. ;)



Last Edited on: 11/24/13 8:56 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 11/24/2013 12:04 PM ET
Member Since: 4/28/2009
Posts: 10,207
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Karen, I totally agree.....I hate those mummified packages.   Only damaged ones I've received, except for one last week, were because they were loosely placed in a too large envelope.

Date Posted: 11/24/2013 12:21 PM ET
Member Since: 4/25/2007
Posts: 11,698
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I wrap in plastic and then seal all seams and corners.  It's winter, it's snowy here.  I don't want to damage the book on the way to the blue box.  It could be raining/snowing when it's delivered and plastic wrap and some good taping may be all that saves the book.  And sometimes it doesn't.

I've had way too many books delivered half hanging out of their wrapping with damaged corners because the sender only used 2 or 3 pieces of packing tape on them.

I'd rather have to spend time opening the book than have it arrived damaged because of inadequate taping.

Date Posted: 11/24/2013 12:24 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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I really like a seam ripper for the mummy books.

That said, taping to the book first?  Oh no!

Date Posted: 11/24/2013 12:24 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
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This is one of those issues that will never, ever be resolved.

It's like arguing about religion, or politics. Or cats.

Subject: Mummification
Date Posted: 11/24/2013 12:41 PM ET
Member Since: 1/10/2009
Posts: 332
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I am inclined to use a lot of tape on book packages because I used to work for the post office and saw a lot of what their machines can do to even well-wrapped and padded packges. Inch-and-a-half wide clear tape is cheap at the dollar stores, so why not?

I have always reponded to RCs requesting a break in the mummification for insertion of scissors, seam ripper or whatever. I try to leave a small gap anyway, but sometimes the memory of all those mangled packages overcomes me, so it's good to be reminded by an RC if someone will have special problems opening one of my wrappings.

Last Edited on: 11/24/13 12:43 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/24/2013 2:01 PM ET
Member Since: 10/13/2010
Posts: 4,335
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I'm one of those that sometimes mummifies my books if I think the package itself needs a lot of tape.  Some of the bubble wrap I use doesn't really need much tape, but I re-use a lot of the packages that I get from here & some of them need to be taped up quite a bit.  I'm sure that whoever receives those has to take some time to open them. I've received a lot of packages like that myself & yes, they do take longer to open. 

Maybe you should add an RC to your account saying it's hard to open when someone tapes their packages too tightly? That way people would know that you prefer less tape, but (in my opinion) you also have to keep in mind that you can't get upset if you receive books that are damaged from inadequate packaging.  It's almost a no win situation since sometimes there is too much tape & sometimes there isn't enough.

But I do agree that taping anything directly to the book is a no no!

Date Posted: 11/24/2013 10:12 PM ET
Member Since: 5/18/2007
Posts: 13,223
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I dislike mumified books too. I do not have fine motor skills issues but I do know that a seam ripper is not helpful for those with fine motor skills. I spent over a year in a sling/in pain/no usuable motor skills after two shoulder surgeries. If it was too tightly wrapped (as in, encased in tape), I had to wait until my DD came by to open the books for me. That's when I really began to be aware of how ridicules some wrapping jobs were. Good intentions or not.

I'm also with the OP in the fact that I have never mummifed a book and I have had only a couple books marked RWAP. I've sent out almost 2,200 books. To me, the odds just show it's not necessary.

ETA: I do want to add that I tape down all corner flaps, which to me, is where the issue is since it can get caught in the machine, or what have you.


Last Edited on: 11/24/13 10:13 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/24/2013 11:43 PM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 14,177
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OP yes

Mummy wrap no

Date Posted: 11/25/2013 12:37 AM ET
Member Since: 2/5/2007
Posts: 30,805
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That's why we are allowed to have RC's.  That way you never will get one of those mummified books.

Date Posted: 11/25/2013 8:44 AM ET
Member Since: 2/13/2007
Posts: 2,276
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I agree that if overwrapping is an issue, add an RC requesting that books not be mummified due to your problems opening them. I don't mummify but I do wrap tape once around the book in each direction so that if the wrapper is torn it won't be separated from the book because I have received too many books in a plastic post office bag because the wrapper has torn in transit and the book is falling out. And who knows, that could have been what happened to all the books I never received that have been "lost in the mail" over the years.

Date Posted: 12/1/2013 8:25 AM ET
Member Since: 1/11/2006
Posts: 399
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One clarification - I don't have any fine motor skill or pain issues (husband does) but it's still an effort and I can imagine how awful it must be for someone who doesn't have someone around to open their packages for them.  There is a happy medium and I would hope that it could be reached without anyone needing an RC.  In agreement with Jeanne, books bouncing around in too large packaging are the ones that get here damaged for me, not the ones snugly wrapped and secured.

Your experience may vary, of course, but as I said - more than 1000 books wrapped, shipped and received with no damage.  Maybe worth considering.

Date Posted: 12/1/2013 8:38 AM ET
Member Since: 9/8/2009
Posts: 626
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The only damaged packages I've ever received were the ones sent in copier paper.

I invested in a roll of freezer paper (if you could call it an investment; it was inexpensive).  It's plastic coated on one side, so waterproof, and sturdy, so doesn't require mummification to stay intact.  One strip of tape along the seam, one on each side of the book and it's good to go.  My guess would be that the price difference between the freezer paper and the tape required to mummify a cook would be pretty comparable.

Date Posted: 12/1/2013 9:54 AM ET
Member Since: 8/25/2009
Posts: 706
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Speaking as a cook myself, I feel compelled to say:  Please, don't mummify the cook.  Thank you.


(Just kidding!)  smiley

Date Posted: 12/1/2013 1:54 PM ET
Member Since: 9/8/2009
Posts: 626
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Haha!  That's what happen when I type before coffee.   (Although I HAVE known some cooks that deserve mummification.)

Date Posted: 12/2/2013 10:58 AM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,550
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Out of 500+ books received, at least 25 have been received with the wrapping torn open, 1/2 to even three or four inches wide [several of these were combat losses; several others were literally totally repackaged by USPS]. In over a dozen cases the book would have surely been damaged had it not been wrapped in something plastic, usually as simple as a Wal-Mart bag. Of books sent with no internal reinforcement and no clear plastic tape on the outside, at least 80% have tears in the wrapping, often harmful to the book.

I go around the book once with bubble wrap; then wrap the whole thing very thorougly in tough brown paper. Then I use clear tape over the corners to be sure there is nothing for the often brutal USPS machinery to grap and tear. I have received at least 6 books that looked like a car had driven over them, and want my books to manage that. I have received dozens of nice thank you's for my packaging, zero complaints for "mummifying"

Date Posted: 12/2/2013 11:48 AM ET
Member Since: 11/14/2010
Posts: 220
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I just re-use the bubble envelopes I get in the mail (assuming I can open them neatly and they don't have holes or worn spots).

Date Posted: 12/4/2013 4:59 AM ET
Member Since: 1/11/2006
Posts: 399
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John, I'm going to assume you are agreeing with me as none of my posts mentioned the type of packaging you are describing - you are receiving underwrapped books.  I regularly get compliments on my packaging as well and, based on the lack of RWAPs, it holds up during shipping.  You have a less than 5% damage rate from poorly wrapped books - that's not what I'm referencing, nor is it what you are describing as your packaging.  I've received 1200+ books with two RWAP damaged by USPS - both were hardbacks that frankly appeared to have been sufficiently wrapped by the sender (one I clearly remember as the book had obviously been caught in machinery).

I'm talking about books that are completely wrapped (sometimes multiple times) in packing tape to the point that there is really no entry point for opening the package.  I agree with you - a book that is wrapped in plastic, wrapped with paper (either a 2-sheet PBS wrapper or heavy paper) and then secured at the corners and seams will travel just fine the vast majority of the time.

For the record, heavier books that must go media mail need a bit more care in packaging - media mail is shipped with packages up to 80 lbs and subjected to more transit over longer periods as it is a "space available" service.  But I still contend there is a happy medium in packaging and it is worth mentioning.

Date Posted: 12/4/2013 5:42 AM ET
Member Since: 1/21/2009
Posts: 11,924
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I suggest you have an RC asking that mailers please not overly tape the parcel.  I have had a handful with this RC and accepted with the proviso that if the book was damaged, I would not be marked as the responsible party nor would I return the credit.  I mummify as I worked at mail processing plants and saw firsthand what parcels and letters were subjected to in transit.  Some folks were happy with my overtaping and a few were not.  Oh, well.  At least out of almost 4300 books mailed not one arrived damaged.  I cannot say the same for the 2249+ books sent to me.

I have a seam ripper, nail scissors, suture scissors and a wonderfully sharp top quality pair of professional sewing scissors (bought at a house sale for a few dollars).  I usually cut a small triangular corner off, insert the appropriate scissors or seam ripper and go along the edge.  The only problem I had was with the two sheet mailer and no plastic inside plus the book was taped to the mailer  Ugh!  You really need sharp scissors or a sharp seam ripper.

Date Posted: 12/6/2013 11:07 AM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,550
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Karen, I certainly was not disagreeing with you. I was just submitting data based on 500 books received. A book with clear plastic  all over it would be, to me, a mild pain in the a$$. On the other hand, just something as simple as a Wal-Mart bag [or any similar brand] around the book, I have seen many with no tape securing it. makes a surprising amount of improvement in the book's condition when it is received. 

And I do love those bubble-wrap many are using in these days. I have about a half-dozen of various sizes within 6 feet of where I now sit. [watching the snowflakes out the window]

Subject: Help for mumified books
Date Posted: 12/9/2013 6:00 PM ET
Member Since: 5/2/2006
Posts: 14
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I found at the local dollar store a small "box cutter" (not a seam ripper). I can use that to open any mumified book or unmumified book that comes my way. It is very easy to use for those with motor skill problems or pain. Don't need a lot of strength to cut the seam of the book. I usually cut on the end of the book where the pages are not bound as the blade is thin enough to slip thru the pages if I press too hard. I haven't had a book damaged yet by using one of these. They are small (no larger than a pen or pencil) and thus easy to use. Hope this can help some people having the problem of mumified books.

Date Posted: 12/10/2013 5:40 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,578
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I use the scissors from my insect dissecting kit. It has very pointed, small blades. Getting into any mumified book is a snap. In fact, sometimes it is almost a game getting the envelope open so I can reuse it. Obviously, I do not reuse the two-page wrappers.

Sometimes there are advantages to being an entomologist.

Date Posted: 12/14/2013 1:05 PM ET
Member Since: 5/7/2009
Posts: 794
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I do have arthritis in my hands but I don't mind good wrapping.  I've had compliments on my own wrapping.  HOWEVER, I think what we're talking about here is where the tape covers the entire package and maybe is covered 2 or 3 times and is also tight to the book.  I have actually damaged a book opening it that was packaged in that manner.  If some plastic covering was inside and even a small untaped area existed on the outside of the book, it could be opened without damage.  I have also sent out about 1000 books and have never had the need to mummify and don't feel the need to tell people "if it comes damaged I won't be responsible" as one of the posters stated.

Date Posted: 12/17/2013 1:25 PM ET
Member Since: 2/23/2009
Posts: 96
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Under wrapped books get damaged more especially going to wet areas. I use poly mailers to help with this issue. I use a letter opener or utility knife to open a package with extra tape and never damaged a book. Taping to the book however is a big no-no.

Date Posted: 12/17/2013 1:27 PM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2010
Posts: 1,207
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I have received many damaged books that came in just the printer paper and minimal tape.  I am I the only one?