Attention, Bookworms: Here’s How to Pack Your Books Properly for a Move

published May 29, 2020
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Credit: Lauren Kolyn

If there’s anything my friends have learned from helping me move, it’s that I have a lot of books. They come prepared to move about 30 book boxes—and I come prepared to repay them with entire pizzas for the hard work. Although books might be a pain to move, they’re a fairly straightforward packing job. Here, moving professionals share their top five tips for properly packing books.

Use the best possible boxes

Eric Welch, training director for Gentle Giant Movers, and Rachael Lyons, director of marketing at Olympia Moving, both agree that the best book box is a small one—a 1.5-cubic-foot box to be exact, or smaller. Boxes bigger than that (Lyons has seen people use huge plastic totes to move books) aren’t meant to hold the weight and will either break open on the bottom or break the back of whomever lifts it.

Believe it or not, don’t pack them like they’re on a shelf

Once you have the proper size box, you want to make sure your books are going in the right way.

“One of the most common methods is to pack books as if they’re on the shelf, standing up,” Welch says. “But that’s the wrong way to pack books.”

You want to lay the books facing flat, and build them up in columns. Lyons says to start with your bigger books on the bottom and go up from there. Make sure you pack binding to binding, so the spines support each other. As you’re stacking books, remember that the layers can overlap as long as they’re level. Otherwise, the books could bend and break.

Use soft paperbacks to fill in empty spaces, but don’t put any book spines on an angle. It will compromise the integrity of the spine and the pages of the book could fall out. Pack right up to the top edge (leaving just enough space for the box to close) and pack into the entire box—meaning, don’t leave any empty spaces if you can help it.

Credit: Elena Nichizhenova/Shutterstock

Fill up those blank spots

Inevitably, you’re going to have some extra space in your book boxes—especially as you near the end of your shelves and are left with all the weird, awkward book sizes. Make sure you’re filling up all that empty space with something, though.

“It can be difficult when you get to the top of the box to find that perfect book that fits the last space available,” Welch says. “Sometimes the best thing to do is get white packing paper, crunch it up into little balls and put it on top of the books. That way when you close the flaps, it still feels like it’s full to the top.”

You should also stuff packing paper down into the corners of the box or between columns. If you’re packing yourself, use something soft and malleable to take up the extra space so you don’t have to spend money on paper. I’ve used old shirts, balls of yarn, and throw blankets.

Take extra care of fragile books

Old, damaged, or expensive books should be packed with extra care. Lyons suggests wrapping them individually in packing paper for protection, especially if you’re planning on putting them in storage. For particularly old books, use acid-free paper so the covers don’t get damaged. You can even line a box on the bottom with a layer of balled up packing paper to make sure the covers don’t get knicked or bent.

Seal the box correctly

When it comes to sealing your book boxes, don’t go overboard. They’re stronger than you think and likely require less tape than you’d guess, too. For the bottom of the box, use three pieces: One to seal the seam down the middle, and one on either side to seal the two exposed edges. Make sure the tape goes about halfway up the box so there’s extra support. On the top of the box, you only need two pieces. One seals the middle seam, and the other should cross it to keep it secure.