How to Pack Books Like a Professional

Stack of books next to packing materials and houseplant

The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

Project Overview
  • Total Time: 1 - 3 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to $20

For book lovers, packing up to move to a new home can be especially challenging, since books are among the heaviest household items for their size. And true book lovers may have to pack hundreds, if not thousands, of books. Where possible, try to pare down your book collection before packing for moving by getting rid of any books that you don't use or don't need, hard though this may be. But remember that moving companies generally charge by the weight of the freight they are shipping, so there is a good reason to jettison any books you can live without.

When it comes to packing books for moving or shipping, it makes sense to follow the procedures perfected by libraries, many of which pack and ship hundreds of books across the country each week.


Click Play to Learn How to Pack Books Like a Professional

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Marker


  • Sturdy cardboard boxes
  • Packing paper
  • Bubble wrap
  • Packing tape


Materials and tools to pack books like a professional

The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

Instructions on How to Pack Books

  1. Thin Your Book Collection

    If you're moving a long distance, have hired movers, and are being charged by weight, make sure you carefully go through your books and determine what you want to keep and what you're willing to pay to move. Hardcovers are heavy and even paperbacks can add up to a lot of money. Now is a great time to separate the "must-haves" from the "done-with-that" titles. Identify those books that are unlikely to be read again, then look for a good home for them. Second-hand stores, church and school libraries, neighborhood lending libraries, and used-book retailers are all places that may take your old books.

    Book collection thinned out before packing

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  2. Choose the Right Boxes

    Once you've chosen a careful selection of books to move, buy or scrounge some sturdy, medium-sized cardboard boxes. Check to make sure they can hold the weight (new boxes may be rated for weight) and make sure they are free from dampness—a particular concern with used boxes. Also, buy some sturdy packing tape to seal the box bottom and top, as well as a marker to label the box's contents.

    Medium-sized boxes assembled for packing

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  3. Prepare the Boxes for Packing

    If you buy new packing boxes, you will need to put them together first. Make sure you seal the bottom well with a double layer of tape over all the seams. Where you are sealing the center flap, make sure to continue the tape at least halfway up the sides of the box. If you're using a recycled box, always tape the bottom a third time to make sure it will hold.

    Layer of tape covering seams inside box for packing books

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  4. Pack Hardcover Books

    Depending on the type of book you are packing in a box, you can place books flat or upright. Pack hardcover books by placing them in a box standing upright, spine against the box's side, just like you would place them on a shelf. The books should fit in snugly but not so tight that they might be damaged when they are removed from the box. If desired, protect highly valued books by wrapping each one in packing paper before placing it in the box. Alternatively, less valuable hardcovers can be packed flat and stacked.

    Protects old books of great value when packing, such as old photo albums or first editions, with stiff cardboard placed between each volume to keep the spines straight and to prevent any movement. Also, wrap each book in paper and line the inside of the box with bubble wrap or balled-up packing paper. Bubble wrap is especially good for protecting edges, corners, and preventing damage to a book.

    Hardcover books packed standing upright in box

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  5. Pack Paperbacks

    Pack ordinary paperback books in flat stacks, or set them in spine-first so that the paper edges face up. Packing them with the paper edges facing down causes the pages to bend. You can also pack books using multiple methods in one box. Just make sure you don't pack them at odd angles.

    Paperback books packed in flat stacks inside box

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  6. Secure the Boxes

    Before closing the box, use wadded-up paper to fill any remaining spaces. Books can shift easily during the move, causing damage. Tape the box closed and label it "Books." If you are reusing old boxes, make sure to cross out any previous markings so there is no confusion about what the box now holds.

    Box labeled 'books' after securing with tape

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  7. Pack the Truck or Trailer

    Pack boxes of books and other heavy items on the floor of your moving truck or other vehicle. Do not stack the boxes unless you can properly secure them so they can't shift or tip over. Books are heavy, and if the boxes should topple, they can cause a lot of damage to furniture or other breakable items.

    Boxes labeled 'books' standing upright on floor

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

Tips for Long-Term Book Storage

If you need to store books for any length of time, make sure the storage facility is dry and cool. And if your books are of high value, you may want to use acid-free paper instead of packing paper to wrap them. Acid-free paper won't deteriorate or turn yellow over time. Make sure the books are clean before packing them.

  • How can I pack books without boxes?

    If you're buying moving boxes, you may want to save a bit of money by using them for items other than bulky books. Pack books in alternative containers you may already have such as rolling suitcases, standard suitcases, and backpacks. You can also pack books in your dresser drawers, along with your clothes, then tape the drawers shut. Reusable shopping bags and tote bags are also perfect ways to move standard books that do not need special care.

  • How heavy should a box of books be?

    Using smaller boxes can help you pack books without making the boxes too heavy. Ideally, a sturdy box of books should weigh no more than 35 to 40 pounds.

  • How should I pack books for travel?

    If you are traveling and want to take along books, place heavy or hardcover books in a rolling suitcase or rolling backpack to make transport easier. Take a softcover book in your carry-on luggage or a tote bag for easy access.