USPS Media Mail Rules Explained

Shipping with USPS Media Mail is the most affordable way to send educational material throughout the country. However, it is often misused and misunderstood. In this post, we will go over USPS Media Mail rules so you will know exactly whether you should use this service for your next shipment.

USPS Media Mail Rules

Using USPS Media Mail to ship can be a little tricky because not all media qualifies to be sent with this service. Unfortunately, there are also many articles out there that have some misinformation. The sources for this article are straight from USPS and can be found at the end. But this article will break it down for you.

The purpose of Media Mail is to encourage the flow of educational material. If you’re in doubt of whether your package qualifies for Media Mail, come back to this article to double check. Let’s go over USPS Media Mail rules.

What Qualifies As Media Mail?

The first USPS Media Mail rule to know is what qualifies as media mail. Media Mail includes books, sound and media recordings, printed music, printed test materials, and educational reference charts. To be more specific, these include the following:

  • Books (must be at least 8 pages)
  • Cook books
  • Graphic novels with ISBN numbers issued by Library of Congress
  • CDs, records, phonograph records – Sound recordings
  • DVDs
  • Instructional flashcards
  • Instruction manuals
  • Atlas maps (but NOT single maps)
  • Postcard, enclosed with eligible media mail items

There are qualified items that can be sent with or enclosed in other eligible Media Mail items. These include:

  • Postcard
  • Personal notes, including greeting cards such as birthday cards
  • Invoices

What Cannot Be Sent As Media Mail?

It is very important to understand what DOES NOT qualify as Media Mail as the qualification is strict. Even if you have been shipping these items for years and you got away with sending them as Media Mail. Here is what you need to know about what cannot be sent as Media Mail.

  • If your book has ANY advertising on it, it will not qualify as Media mail.
  • Coloring books
  • Activity books
  • Comic books
  • Telephone books
  • Catalogues
  • School yearbooks & directories
  • Blank portable devices such as CDs, DVDs, thumb drives, flash drives, jump drives, and USB drives
  • Picture CDs, and DVDs with computer games
  • Magazines
  • Brochures
  • College course catalogs, journals, and albums
  • Single maps
  • Planners and calendars
  • Loose instructional cards
  • Unbound pages
  • Video games

While many may think that any books should be automatically qualified for USPS Media Mail, it is not the case. Paid advertising is prohibited as Media mail content.

The rule of thumb is any books containing advertising do not qualify as Media Mail.

If you consider the list above, you will see that anything lacking in educational material such as coloring and activity books, blank books, and blank portable devices do not qualify for Media Mail. Other things that are used primarily for entertainment such as video games also do not qualify.

Additionally, if you put ANY OTHER ITEM(S) with your eligible media mail, your package no longer qualifies for Media Mail. For example, you cannot sneak in jewelry or coloring books with other eligible educational material. You cannot send eligible and non-eligible items together in one package as Media Mail.

How Often Is Media Mail Inspected?

While how often USPS Media Mail is inspected can vary from location to location, be aware that it is subject to inspection. Any USPS employee may inspect your package anytime.

USPS Media Mail Weight Limit

The weight limit for shipping as USPS Media Mail is 70 pounds. This includes the weight of the box, shipping labels, and tape. If your package weighs more, you must split your shipment to be below the 70 pounds threshold.

What If You Get Caught Misusing Media Mail?

If your package that does not qualify as Media Mail gets caught with the Media Mail rate, one of two things can happen. If your package was caught right away, it will be sent back to you. However, if it has moved closer to the package’s destination, it can be held up at the post office until the postage difference is paid.

If it was an order, the package will not be delivered to your customer until they have paid for the difference. This is a situation you would want to avoid.

How Long Does Media Mail take?

Media mail takes longer to ship than other USPS services. Here’s how long Media Mail takes compared to other USPS shipping services.

USPS Shipping Service TypeDelivery
Priority Mail ExpressNext-Day to 2-Day Guarantee by 6 PM
Priority Mail1–3 Business Days
First Class Mail1–3 Business Days
Media Mail2–8 Business Days
USPS Retail Ground2–8 Business Days

Media Mail Rates 2021

Below are current Media Mail rates as of 2021.

Weight Not
Over (lbs.)
PriceWeight Not
Over (lbs.)

Where Can I Buy Media Mail?

You can buy Media Mail at your local postal counter or online, including PayPal shipping or other shipping software such as Pirate Ship. However, unlike other mail classes, the price will be the same for Media Mail.

What Are Affordable Alternatives To Media Mail?

USPS Media Mail is a cost-effective service for qualifying packages. However, there are plenty of alternatives to ship your packages affordably. The first step is to make sure that you’re using a shipping software to get commercial pricing on your postage. We use Pirate ship for USPS and for UPS, FedEx, and DHL Express.

You can also get commercial pricing through PayPal. USPS Flat Rate boxes are great alternatives that can also ship up to 70 pounds. If your shipping destination is close, USPS Regional boxes is another option.

Last Tips For Shipping With USPS Media Mail

While the price for Media Mail is the same online and at the post office, we still recommend buying your postage online. Why is that? You will be saving a lot of time from not having to stand in line at the post office. Make sure you have a shipping scale with a high weight capacity to accurately measure your package weight. It is a great tool to have, especially when you will be shipping other mail regularly.


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