Finding Free Boxes for Shipping the Books You Sell Online


If you’ve been reading my interviews with buyback companies like and CKY Books, you’ll know that one of the biggest pet peeves these companies have is when people send them books in flimsy boxes that get damaged during shipping.

Amateur book sellers have been known to stuff books into cereal boxes, shoe boxes, even used pizza boxes, only to have those packages get torn apart and shredded mid transit – resulting in a bunch of damaged and lost books that buyback companies can’t pay you for.

It seems these sellers are just too lazy or plain clueless when it comes to selecting good cardboard boxes for packing and shipping books. They just grab whatever box is lying around the house – no matter how flimsy or dirty – and then act surprised when their books get damaged during shipping.

Please don’t adopt these bad habits! None of the buyback companies you’ll find on Bookscouter will accept books damaged in transit – meaning you need to find strong boxes to ship all of your books in!

Fortunately, sturdy cardboard boxes are not only incredibly easy to find but also 100% free – if you know where to look.

Here’s how I find, select, and store my free boxes for shipping books.

Visit Discount Retailers

If you’ve ever shopped at a big discount retailer (particularly Walmart and Target), you know they unload boxes of merchandise every day to restock their shelves.

Guess what? Once the merchandise is unpacked, employees are more than happy to let you have the boxes for free. It makes their job easier (since they don’t have to throw out as many boxes) and gives you a steady supply of sturdy cardboard boxes for shipping books. Win-win!

These stores unpack most of their boxes late at night (around 11pm or midnight) so be prepared to make a few nightly visits two or three times a month to load up on boxes. Be polite and ask the employee on duty if you can take a few boxes (I haven’t met an employee yet who said no).

Selecting the Best Boxes for Shipping Books

Be sure to get cardboard boxes made of corrugated cardboard. This is a thicker type of cardboard made from two layers of cardboard with a third ridged layer sandwiched between them. It’s very sturdy and will easily support the weight of all the books you’ll load into them.

Do not get boxes made of a single layer of cardboard (like cereal boxes). These are way too flimsy and will tear apart during travel.

Also, make sure the flaps on the boxes fold up completely to seal both the bottom and top (some boxes used for storing canned goods and cereal have open bottoms and/or tops, which makes them impractical for shipping books).

Choose small and medium-size boxes that can hold anywhere from 2 to 20 paperback books. Refrigerator-size boxes and most computer boxes are too big for shipping books.

I’ve found my best boxes for shipping books in the office supplies and plastic utensils sections of discount retailers. These boxes (which were originally used to ship notebooks and plastic forks) are sturdy and ideally shaped to securely transport several books.

Do not get boxes that were used to ship detergent, scented candles, or other items with strong odors. These smells cling to cardboard and will get into your books.

This is especially important when you ship books to companies like Powells and Sell Back Your Book which insist the books arrive in the same excellent condition they were in when you packed them – even if the box protected the books, any strong odors will damage the books and prevent you from getting paid.

(Be sure to double check your boxes for any strong odors when you’re ready to store them – strong smells can seep into other boxes and make them unfit for shipping).

Storing Your Boxes

Most of the boxes you’ll find at Walmart or Target will have the tape on their bottom and top flaps cut off, allowing the boxes to be folded flat. Keep your boxes this way – they’ll be easier to transport in your car and store in your house.

Find a cool, clean, dry place like a closet to store your boxes until you need them.

I like to divide my boxes into two piles – small boxes (that fit 1-3 books) and medium boxes (that can fit anywhere from 5-20 books). This’ll make it easier for you to select the type of box you need when you’re ready to start packing.

Finally, keep a supply of strong packing tape in a container near your boxes to seal them up again when you’re ready to start packing your books. You’ll also want to keep your other packing materials in that same container I’ll cover exactly what you need and how to use them in my next article How to Pack Your Books and Ship Them to Buyback Companies.

I hope this article informed you on how to find better shipping materials for your books. Want to receive more tips and tricks for how to sell books online for extra money? Subscribe to my blog!

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