What is the Best Way to Pack Books for a Move?

Lilly Milman

By Lilly Milman

Jan 19, 2024

Any big reader knows that one of the worst parts of moving is packing and transporting a book collection to a new home. Books are heavy and tend to take up a lot of space. If you are asking your friends to be your makeshift movers, it can be tough to convince them to help you lug dozens of heavy boxes filled with books. Peter Win, owner of Brookline Booksmith, a new and used bookstore in the Boston, MA area, knows this firsthand. Not only is packing and moving books part of how he makes his living, but his personal library has at times spanned to over 30 boxes of books.

He shares a few of his easy moving tips for book lovers.

Spread your books among smaller boxes.

While it may be more tedious to move a larger number of smaller boxes, it’s worth it, Win says. Filling a large box with books is a one-way ticket to hurting your back during your move. And even if you think you can carry a large box filled with books, you are also risking the bottom of the box falling out. Play it safe by choosing sturdy, small boxes for your books.

Invest in quality packing materials.

Whether you’re using brand-new boxes bought specifically for your move or repurposing older boxes you had laying around, you’re going to want to invest in a sturdy packing tape to reinforce the bottom and sides of the box. At the bookstore, Win and his fellow booksellers are using packing tape constantly — and there’s a big difference between dollar store brands and tapes that are more heavy duty, he says. Even if you’re trying to save money elsewhere on your move, consider springing for a stronger tape.

Don’t worry as much about organization.

If the thought of mixing all of your books together makes your stomach turn, then feel free to ignore this piece of advice, but Win elects to not worry about organization until he’s unpacking and placing his books on his bookshelf in his new apartment. This allows him to focus on packing well. When moving, he prioritizes fitting everything into his boxes and making sure that his books aren’t moving around too much inside them. If everything is packed tightly without much extra space, then it’s less likely the books will get damaged during the move.

Box your books — don’t bag them.

Sometimes, towards the end of the moving process, you’re tempted to just start throwing your items in any receptacle where they’ll fit. Win doesn’t recommend succumbing to this temptation when moving books. While he forgoes more involved packing processes (“Your books don't have to be individually wrapped or anything like that,” he says), he still makes sure to use sturdy cardboard boxes that can be taped shut, rather than reusable bags or bins that don’t close to avoid damage.

Lay your books flat.

Don’t listen to advice telling you to stand your books upright for a move, Win says. He prevents damage by laying his books flat and stacking them on top of each other. “All the incoming shipments of books we receive at the store are packed with books mostly flat,” he says.

Put your heaviest and sturdiest books and boxes on the bottom.

This is a general packing tip whether you’re packing a box or a moving truck: Place the heavy items on the bottom. This will help avoid damaging any of your belongings. If you have a mix of hardcover and paperback books, pack the hardcover books first and pack paperbacks on top. The same goes for bulky or especially heavy books, like photo albums, coffee table books, or textbooks — always pack these types of books first. For more fragile or valuable books, wrap them in acid-free paper and place them toward the top of the box as well.

Fill the empty space.

Finally, once you’ve packed up all your books, make sure there is not too much wiggle room inside your moving boxes. Using specialized packing materials like balled-up packing paper or bubble wrap is one option, but may not be the most cost effective. For Win, using clothing or other fabrics does the trick when it comes to cushioning his packing boxes.

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