Help Center - FAQs about Printable Postage

Search Terms:

printable postage became available at PBS on 9/4/2007.

Printable Postage is an optional service at PaperBackSwap, to print electronic postage onto your address label, in order to mail out a book.

Why use it?

  • Printed postage means you can mail your package as you like.  The USPS regulations that require packages over 13 ounces to be handed to a postal worker in a Post Office do not apply.
  • Printed postage means no fussing with stamps, no standing in line at the Post Office.
  • You will also get Instant Credit if you print your postage through PBS--you will get your credit when you mark the book mailed by clicking the "Book Has Been Mailed" button on the request. Please note that Instant Credit is available only to accounts with good sending records.
  • Printable Postage also earns you a "Free Swap" -- which is useful if you are an A la Carte or Limited Member. A free swap allows you to request a book for yourself in the future using Book Credit only,  without paying a Swap Fee (the usual Swap Fee is $0.49 of PBS Money). Please note that the "courtesy printing" (monthly for Standard Membership, quarterly for Limited Membership) does not grant a Free Swap, since there is no Postage Printing Fee associated with that mailing.

How do I use it?

  • Just click Print Wrapper on a request, and the Wrapper Settings page will come up.  You can choose the Print Postage option on that page. 
  • You need to have PBS Money in your account to use printable postage.  You can add PBS Money to your account in the Kiosk (using PayPal or a credit/debit card).
  • Note: If you are using Printable Postage to send a Mail-to-Friend (noncredit) transaction, you need to create that transaction first from the Book Details page as described in Can I send a book to a friend or a non-member, or to myself at an alternate address? and then follow the instructions above.

How much does it cost?

  • The Printable Postage fee is 55 cents per shipment.
    • This includes the fee paid to Endicia, our online postage provider.

Is there a monthly charge to use this option?

  • No.

How is the postage estimated?

  • According to the dimensions of the book, which are provided to us in our database for books listed with an ISBN, and which the posting member enters when posting an item without an ISBN.
  • The PBS system will automatically choose the best postal rate to send your package: packages up to 7 ounces will be printed with First Class Postal Rate, and packages over 7 ounces will be printed with Media Mail rate.

Is the postage estimate always correct?

  • Usually, but not always.  Database inaccuracies can cause some errors.
  • It is wise to have a postal scale to check the package weight.  You can correct the weight estimate on the Wrapper Settings page, and this will adjust the postage that prints out.

Does the least expensive postal rate always print automatically?

  • Yes.
  • If a package is estimated to weigh up to (and including) 8 ounces the wrapper will print out with First-Class rate because that is less expensive than Media Mail for that package weight.  Media Mail rate and postage will print out for all packages estimated to weigh over 8 ounces.

Can I send any book with Printable Postage?

  • There are some dimensional requirements to use Printable Postage:

    • The package must be at least 3/4 of an inch thick ("at its thickest point")
    • If it is not 3/4" thick, it must be:
    1. "rigid" (most books are)
    2. be greater than 6" x 3" x 1/4 " in dimension
    3. weigh more than 6 ounces
    If you are concerned that your package does not meet the criteria above, you can always "bulk up" its thickness with lightweight material that will not add significant weight (example: Styrofoam, crumpled clean plastic grocery bags).

What about packaging materials?  Does the database estimate of the package weight include the added weight for those?

  • Yes.  A small amount (0.6 ounces) for packaging materials is included in the estimate of the package weight automatically.  As long as you don't package your books in heavy cardboard or put rocks in the box with the books, this extra allowance should cover normal packaging materials.  Note: rocks and other non-Media items are not permitted in packages sent Media Mail.

What if I just want to use Printed Postage, and not the tracking?

  • Printed Postage comes with tracking - USPS regulations require tracking with all forms of oni postage.

Barcodes printed with Printable Postage are tracked at The link to use is:

When will I get my credit if I use Printed Postage?

  • You will get your credit instantly, as soon as you click the Book Has Been Mailed button. (If your account is eligible for Instant Credit)
  • You will get an email telling you that you have gotten credit
    • You will also get an email telling you when the book has been marked received; you will not get a second credit when that happens.
  • If your book is declared lost in the Mail at PBS or is returned to you by USPS for some reason, you get to keep the Instant Credit.

How will I know I have gotten my credit for using Printed Postage?

  • You will get an email from PBS telling you that you have gotten credit
    • You will also get an email telling you when the book has been marked received; you will not get a second credit when that happens.
  • You will be able to see the credit in your Credit Registry, linked from the top of your My Account page.

What if I decide to "throw in" an extra book with the one requested (if I am doing a "deal" in the Book Bazaar, for example)?  How can I print the correct postage for the package?

  • Nothing could be easier!  Just weigh the books together and enter THAT weight onto the Wrapper Settings page.  Then scroll down and click the print button, and the postage that prints out will be enough to mail the multiple-book shipment.

What if I print with postage and the wrapper file doesn't download?

  • If your browser won't download the .pdf file, and you are using Internet Explorer, check the top of the browser for an alert bar that will tell you a download is being prevented.  You can okay the download by clicking on that bar.  You can also change your Internet Explorer settings to allow downloads under Tools> Internet Options> Security.  Choose Custom Level and then choose Enable under "Automatic prompting for File Downloads".
  • You can also just avoid downloading the file, by clicking the "backup wrapper" link on the Wrapper Settings page, which will show the wrapper in a webpage that you can print.

What is the significance of the postmark date on the Wrapper Settings page?  Does it matter what date I choose there?

  • Yes, it is important to choose the date properly--you need to mail the book by that date.
  • You cannot change the postmark date after you have downloaded/printed the wrapper.
  • If you mail AFTER that date, you can go to the PO and have a new metered $0.00 strip with that day's date applied to the package.
  • It is okay to mail it earlier than the date; your package may be returned to you if you mail it after that date.
    • If you put it into a collection box after the last day's scheduled collection, then the package will be accepted with the previous day's date when the next collection happens on the next day.
  • If you are into legalese, here are the USPS regulations on this ("indicia" = postmark):
      • Mailpieces bearing a complete date in the indicia must be deposited or presented on that date, except that pieces entered after the day's last scheduled collection from the post office or collection box may bear the actual date of entry or the date of the next scheduled collection from the post office or collection box. When authorized by USPS, presort mail accepted after midnight may bear the previous day's date. If the mailer knows that the mail is not to be deposited or presented on the date in the indicia, the mailer must use a date correction indicium under 4.4.1. (from DMM, 4.5.2 Mailing Date Accuracy and Mailing Periods)

I am getting the message "electronic postage cannot be used for this address".  What does this mean?

  • This message "electronic postage is currently not available for this address" is an error message from, our online postage provider, and often it just goes away if the sender tries again to print after a few minutes.  
  • If the address is not validated by USPS,  you will also see the above message.  In the case of an invalid address, the requestor can go to this site  to try to find the "validated" form of his or her address.  Printed postage can't be used to send a package to an address that has not been validated by USPS. 

What is the black box next to the postage square on the wrapper?  Can I choose NOT to print that?

  • The black box indicates non-First Class Mail rate, and is also required by USPS.  There is no option not to print it on the wrapper if you are sending a package by Media Mail rate.
  • If you are concerned about the amount of ink the black box uses, you should print your wrappers with Draft Quality, which uses less ink.
  • First-Class wrappers will print without the black box.

Can I make the font bigger on the printed wrapper?

  • No, unfortunately.  USPS guidelines govern the exact appearance of the printed wrapper and we cannot change anything, including the font size.

Is there anything special about wrapping my book with printed postage?

  • Nope. Same old same old.  See the Help information on wrapping books (How to Wrap a Book) for more about this

Can I put tape over the printed postage? 

  • Yes, you can apply tape over the printed postage square.  Obviously it should be clear (transparent) tape.
  • The tracking barcode will be scannable with a single layer of transparent tape over it.  Wrinkles in the wrapper much more commonly interfere with the barcode scannability--tape is not usually a problem.

What if I make a mistake (like I entered the wrong weight or didn't correct the estimated weight) and the wrong postage prints out?

  • When you click Print Wrapper Now, you will see the weight of the package and the postage that is about to print out.  PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO THIS, and ONLY click to print if the information is correct.
  • If it is not correct, you should cancel and go back and adjust the weight to be correct, then print.
  • Once a wrapper has been printed with postage, you can't "go back" and change the postage amount, and the PBS money can't be routinely refunded.

Can I reprint the wrapper?  Will I be charged again?

  • Yes you can reprint the wrapper.  No, you won't be charged again.
  • To reprint, just click Print Wrapper (or RePrint Wrapper, if you have marked the book mailed already) on the request, and reprint from the Wrapper Settings page that comes up.
  • Of course each wrapper can be used only once, to send one shipment.

Can I use the wrapper I printed with postage to send to a different address?

  • No. The address information is encoded into the printed postage. It can be used to send only to that address, and it can be used only once.
  • USPS will not accept a printed postage wrapper that has been altered in any way - that means you can't cross out or change the address, or cut out the postage part and tape it to another package.

What if I print with postage and then can't or don't send the book, or my printer malfunctions?

  • If you cancel a transaction (or the system cancels the transaction if you did not mark the book mailed in time) after printing with postage, the postage and fees can't be refunded by PBS.  The funds are transmitted to USPS when you download the wrapper with the postage on it.  They give us a short window in which they will refund, so if you contact us right away after you realize you won't be using the postage, we can try to get the refund for you. If it's outside the USPS "window" we won't be able to refund.
  • If you download a wrapper with postage and then your printer malfunctions, remember that you can reprint the wrapper (you can download it again) using the RePrint Wrapper button without being charged.  This can be done from any computer that has a working printer attached.  You should try this option if it is at all possible before cancelling.

Do I still have to mark the book mailed if I use printed postage?

  • Yes.  You need to mark the book mailed before the deadline to do so, to prevent the transaction from cancelling.
  • When you mark your book mailed after printing the postage, you will get your credit instantly!

I printed with postage and didn't get my Instant Credit! What went wrong?

  • You may have marked the book mailed before choosing to re-print with Postage.
    • Clicking the Book Has Been Mailed button triggers Instant Credit.  If you have already done this before printing with postage, and then reprint with postage, there is no way to mark the book mailed again.
    • In this case you will get Quick Credit when the barcode is scanned enroute by USPS and the information is transmitted to us, or when the book is marked received by the requestor.
  • If your account has issues with late mailing, nonmailing, or high "outgoing loss" that could mean that you are not eligible for Instant or Guaranteed Credit.
    • If this is the case you will get Quick Credit when the barcode is scanned enroute by USPS and the information is transmitted to us, or when the book is marked received by the requestor.

What if I send multiple books?  How does that work?

  • If more than one book is requested at once in the form of a bulk request, the Wrapper Settings page will have the database estimate for all of the books in the shipment.  (As always, you can adjust this weight estimate, and thereby adjust the postage that will print out.)
    • You will get Instant credits for all books in a bulk shipment if the bulk shipment is sent with Printed Postage--as soon as you mark the shipment mailed, you will get the credits for all the books.

Can we use this for Box-O-Books?

  • Yes indeed!

Sounds great!  Where do I sign up?

  • Just purchase PBS Money in the Kiosk, and you will be able to print your postage for your next book shipment!
    • The PBS Money you purchase in the Kiosk will go into your PBS Money account balance in your account, and each time you choose the "postage" option while printing the postage and fees will be deducted from your PBS Money balance.