What Is the Cheapest Way to Ship Books to Europe From US?

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Shipping books across continents can be costly. But if doing so is a core part of your business, it’s essential to do it as inexpensively as possible.

The cheapest way to ship books to Europe is to use the US Postal Service (USPS). On average, it’s about 1/5 the price to ship books to Europe using USPS instead of UPS or FedEx. Here are some prices for comparison:

  • USPS price: $24.50 with First-Class Package International Service
  • UPS price: $123.45 with UPS Worldwide Expedited. Although the service says expedited, this was the cheapest option I was able to select.
  • FedEx price: $122.54 with FedEx International Economy

To learn exactly how the USPS rates compare to the other two main shipping options, and how packaging and other factors can impact the cost of shipping books to Europe, read on.

Why Is USPS the Best Option When Shipping Books to Europe?

There are two reasons why USPS is better for shipping books than FedEx and UPS:

  • They have lower prices.
  • There are no hidden fees.

Lower prices

If you send a parcel below 2lbs with USPS (which encompasses most books), you will pay less than you would if you opted for UPS (United Parcel Service) or FedEx (Federal Express).

To test this, I used the shipping cost calculators on each of the three shipping providers’ websites to calculate the cost of sending a small two-pound package from New York to London.

  • USPS price: $24.50 with First-Class Package International Service
  • UPS price: $123.45 with UPS Worldwide Expedited. Although the service says expedited, this was the cheapest option I was able to select.
  • FedEx price: $122.54 with FedEx International Economy

As you can see, USPS is the clear winner in the price comparison. It’s about five times less expensive to ship a book to Europe with USPS than it is to use UPS or FedEx.

The only reason you might want to use one of the more expensive services is if you need to get your book to Europe in a couple of days. If speed is the priority, UPS would be your best bet, as they guarantee your book will get to its European destination within a few days.

No hidden costs

This kind of falls into the category of lower prices, but I thought it was distinct enough to get its own section.

While the cost of a package beyond two pounds may increase when you use USPS based on distance, size, and weight, the initial cost charged on the parcel remains constant.

FedEx and UPS may charge additional costs in delivery fees, penalties for improper packaging, awkwardly or oversized packaging, and fuel surcharges, all of which make for extremely high international shipping prices.

Does packaging matter when shipping books to Europe?

While your choice of shipping provider will determine the majority of your shipping cost, your packaging material matters too.

There are two major cost-related factors when it comes to packaging books for shipment to Europe:

  • Shielding your book from damage (which would mean a loss rather than a profit)
  • Ensuring you meet packaging standards to avoid additional costs from your shipment provider

To make sure your packaging both effectively protects your books at an affordable price and meets shipping provider guidelines, use this step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Wrap your book with protective material

Whether your book is paperback or hardback, the first thing you should do when packaging is to cover it with a protective layer of plastic wrapping. Not only will this protect the exterior from dings or scratches during transit, but it will also ensure that the pages stay dry if any leaks should occur.

If you want to be extra careful, you can add pieces of cardboard to both sides, as this will fortify the protection provided by the padded wrap. Make sure you don’t overdo it and upset the weight requirements, though.

After this, you’ll want to secure your protective wrappings with brown Kraft paper to keep them in place and add extra protection. A seasonal wrapping could be an alternative for a gift-book, though this isn’t necessary.

Step 2: Choose your shipping box

After you add protective wrapping to the book, you’ll want to choose a shipping box. The ideal shipping box will be one that is slightly larger than the book, as this will both leave room for cushioning material and ensure the recipient doesn’t damage the book when they open the box with a knife.

The best cushioning material includes paper shreds, biodegradable packaging peanuts, and bubble wrap. You can also use air pillows designed specifically for packaging, but these might be hard to use depending on how much space there is between your book and the sides of the box.

Once you think the book is safely packaged inside the box, double-check that you did a good job by shaking the box a little. There should be very little movement inside the box; if the book seems to move around a lot, you need to add more cushioning material.

Once you’re satisfied that the book has been safely packaged, you can tape up the box and prepare for the final step: printing and attaching the shipping label.

Step 3: Label your package

Adding the shipping label should be pretty straightforward, as most shipping providers will automatically generate a label for you after you pay for the shipping. All you’ll need to do is print this label and attach it to the box with tape.

Once your package is labeled, you can drop the package off at the nearest drop-off point and move on with your life, secure in the knowledge that you’ve shipped your book in the least expensive way possible.

Is Buying Shipping Insurance Worth It?

Most shipping providers allow you to pay extra to insure your package. If the package gets lost or damaged, you can apply for a refund equal to the value of the item you’re shipping.

In most cases, buying shipping insurance for a book you’re sending isn’t worth it. Almost all shipments end up arriving at their destinations, and you can essentially eliminate the risk of damage to your book by packaging it properly. So if shipping a book in the cheapest way possible is your primary goal, buying insurance simply isn’t worth it.

However, if your book is particularly valuable or fragile, you might want to consider investing in the insurance. It’s only a few dollars extra to insure your package, and it might be worth the peace of mind if you really care about the book you’re sending.

To help you decide whether insuring your package is worth it or not, here are the USPS insurance costs:

  • Items with a value up to $50 cost $1.65 to insure.
  • Items with a value of $50.01 to $100 cost $2.05 to insure.
  • Items with a value of $100.01 to $200 cost $2.45 to insure.
  • Items with a value of $200.01 to $300 cost $4.60 to insure.
  • Items with a value of more than $300 cost an additional $0.90 (on top of the base $4.60) per $100 of value to insure.

Final Thoughts

If you use USPS, shipping books to Europe is surprisingly inexpensive. It might take a few weeks for the book to reach its destination, but the postal service is your only real option if you’re trying to save money on cross-continental book shipment costs.

Steve Rajeckas

Hi! I'm Steve. I've been selling books using Amazon's fulfillment service for more than two years. I love learning new things about the online bookselling world, and I hope my tips help you build and expand your own bookselling business.

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