Wednesday, August 29, 2018

WARNING to authors about hidden dangers of Media Mail

Benjamin Franklin was the first American Postmaster General. Before the American Revolution, Ben was a colonial postmaster who competed with the English post system. U.S. Route One, also known as the Boston Post Road, was established to ease mail delivery from New York City to Boston and later expanded up and down the east coast of the country.

I am typing this about a mile from the "Post Road" in Milford, CT. In the Bronx, NY, where I was born, it's called "Boston Road," and has other names in other places.

The United States Post Office (USPO) was created on July 26, 1775, by decree of the Second Continental Congress. That date is interesting, because it's about a year before the Declaration of Independence was signed.

In addition to his role in building the postal service and the federal highway system, the very versatile Mr. Franklin was also a printer, publisher and author. Appropriately, from its earliest days, the Post Office provided special low rates for newspapers—which were vital for uniting the colonies and then the states.

The discount continues today.

Media Mail is a service provided by the USPS (United States Postal Service). It replaced "book rate" and provides a substantial postal discount to shippers of books as well as  other media. Your package must
weigh less than 70 pounds. Although you won’t pay as much to send something via Media Mail, it can take longer to get to the destination. USPS estimates that your item will arrive in 2 to 10 days. (I did not know about the possible time loss.)

Here's the USPS's list of permissible media:

  • Books (at least 8 pages).
  • Sound recordings and video recordings, such as CDs and DVDs.
  • Play scripts and manuscripts for books, periodicals, and music.
  • Printed music.
  • Computer-readable media containing prerecorded information and guides or scripts prepared solely for use with such media.
  • Sixteen millimeter or narrower width films.
  • Printed objective test materials and their accessories.
  • Printed educational reference charts.
  • Loose-leaf pages and their binders consisting of medical information for distribution to doctors, hospitals, medical schools, and medical students.

Media Mail packages may not contain advertising. Comic books do not get the discount. Books may contain incidental announcements of other books and sound recordings may contain incidental announcements of other sound recordings. Media Mail packages must have a delivery address and the sender’s return address and are subject to inspection by the Postal Service. Upon inspection, matter not eligible for the Media Mail rate may be assessed at the proper price and sent to the recipient with postage due, or the sender may be contacted for additional postage.

Media Mail cost is based on weight and size, not the zone-based distance system that other postal classes use. The savings with Media Mail can be big. If you're a customer (as I am) sending a 1-pound package will cost $6.35 and up with Priority Mail and only $2.66 with Media Mail. Using Media Mail in this situation will save you around 53 percent in postage costs.


About three weeks ago I mailed out a book that I hoped would be reviewed. I heard nothing from the recipient (which sometimes happens), but after two weeks the package was returned to me with $3.17 POSTAGE DUE.

This made no sense (or cents) so I visited my local Post Office. I was told that I had the address wrong (that was bullshit, but a different issue) and that Media Mail, unlike other postal classes, DOES NOT INCLUDE FORWARDING or RETURN-TO-SENDER.

Not only did I have to pay for the package to be returned to me, I had to PAY A THIRD TIME to re-send it to the same address
(which I confirmed was correct) with safer, more expensive Priority Mail. I spent more money, for a package that took longer to be delivered and had worse service than if I had not used Media Mail.

Media Mail may save you money, or it may be better to use Priority Mail or the Pony Express. Decide carefully. I probably won't use it again.

Post Road sign from Thanks.

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