Help Center - FAQs about Printable Postage

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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 from your outgoing mailbox or a blue dropbox or from the "postagepaid dropoff" location at your PO.  The USPS regulations that require packages over 10 ounces (or more than 1/2 inch thick) to be handed to a postal worker do not apply if you use Printable Postage!
  • 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 Printable Postage?

  • 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 by checking the "postage" box (it's the top, green, option).
  • 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 or annual charge to use this option?

  • No. The only fee is the Printable Postage fee, charged for each postage printing. There is no automatic recurring charge for the service.

How is the postage estimated?

  • It's estimated from the dimensions of the book (which are provided to our database compiler 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:  Media Mail rate is the least expensive to use for books.

Is the postage estimate always correct?

  • Usually, but not always.  Database inaccuracies do occur -- the information we get isn't perfect , unfortunately -- so it's important to check that the estimated weight showing on the screen is correct before printing.
  • It is wise to have a postal scale to check the package weight.  You can correct the weight estimate on the Wrapper Settings page if you need to, and this will adjust the postage that prints out.

Does the least expensive postal rate always print automatically?

  • Yes.

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 rigid enough to fit this stipulation)
    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 very heavy cardboard or other heavy material, or put rocks in the package with the books, this extra allowance should cover normal packaging materials.  Note: That was a joke. 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 online postage.

How do I track a shipment sent with Printable Postage?

  • There will be tracking information on the transaction on your My Account page, accessible by clicking the Details button. The tracking information will also show on the transaction when it is past and has moved to your Transaction Archive, on the request details page there.
  • Also, Printable Postage can be tracked at Endicia.com. The link to use is:  http://www.endicia.com/status/

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 -- if not, you will get Quick Credit as soon as USPS transmits a barcode scan to our system confirming that the package was mailed)
  • When credit is granted, you will get an email telling you that you have received credit
    • You will also get a courtesy 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 received my credit for using Printed Postage?

  • You will get an email from PBS telling you that you have received 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 "credits" at the top of any page on the site.

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 before printing. 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, 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. 
    • If you are using Internet Explorer, you can change your browser 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 simply avoid the download, 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 earlier than the date specified; 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 endicia.com, 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? It wastes printer ink. 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 can print your wrappers with Draft Quality, which uses less ink.

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?

  • Not really. You might try to avoid creating too many wrinkles in the barcode area of the address label, as that can sometimes interfere with scanning. Transparent tape over the barcode (one or two layers) does not interfere with scanning.
  • See the Help information on wrapping books (How to Wrap a Book) for more about that.

Can I put tape over the printed postage? 

  • Yes, you can apply clear, transparent tape over the printed postage square. 
  • 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.
  • If you do make a mistake and you need a refund, contact us ASAP -- USPS gives a short window in which we can refund, and we will try!

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. (Printable postage, like postage stamps, can't be re-used.)

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 is not automatically refunded. USPS gives us a short window in which they will refund, so if this happens, please contact us right away after you realize you won't be using the postage. We will try to get the refund for you!
  • 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. 

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

  • Yes.  You need to mark every book you mail as "mailed" from your My Account page, before the deadline to do so, in order to prevent the transaction from cancelling.
  • Instant Credit is given when you mark your book mailed with printable postage.

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 USPS scans the barcode and transmits the scan information 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.