Shipping Solutions
for Booksellers

by Craig Stark

#109, 3 December 2007

The New Multi-D Box

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There's no perfect solution for packaging books, nor is there one that fits everybody's situation. There are simply too many variables - cost of materials, level of protection provided and speed of packaging, to name a few. And of course there are instances when the book itself demands an unusual packaging technique.

In the past I've recommended b-flute (or single corrugated) as a fast, cheap method that provides good protection against damage during shipment, but, like anything else, b-flute has its negatives. If you don't have a local supplier, for example, shipping charges can often double its cost. Also, fragile or otherwise vulnerable books may need a higher level of protection - or a different type of protection altogether - and the stapled ends may be an issue with customers who aren't adept at opening the resulting packages.

Recently, after reading a discussion about packaging on a book forum, I decided to try a different method - boxes. I've always used boxes to some extent, but there were significant negatives that prevented me from using them more generally. For one thing, cost - much higher than b-flute; for another, it's necessary to either stock a variety of sizes or spend more time and money filling the inevitable voids. Moreover, it's more time consuming to properly box a book than it is to use b-lute.

What's changed my thinking on this is an ingenious new product mentioned in that forum discussion - the Multi-D box produced by Packaging Control Corporation of York, Pennsylvania. These boxes are not only multi-depth but also multi-length - that is, within a certain range of book sizes, they will fold to a perfect length and depth, creating a sturdy box that literally freezes books in place and provides a high level of external protection.

There's more good news: I used to think b-flute was a fast packaging method; let me tell you, Multi-Ds are significantly faster, perhaps by as much as half. And cost? Very modest (about half the price of Uline's mailers) - $.20 each for the small size, $.25 each for the large with, respectively, minimum 200- and 150-piece selling units. (cf. that b-flute is about half this). Shipping is additional and may add significantly to the cost, depending on your location. Example: I live in Florida, and shipping added about $.10 to my per-box cost. No biggie. But if you live in Alaska, you'd probably be priced out of the game.

I won't even attempt to explain what these boxes look like or how they work. Instead, go here.

Click the black Multi-D banner in the left column and a short video will play. When it's over, click "Enter" at the bottom and a menu will appear. Click "Multi-D," and a longer video will play. Impressive, huh? It's just as impressive in person.

As noted above, there are currently two sizes available, and these will accommodate well over 90% of the book sizes you'll typically encounter. A third, larger size is planned, and I have to think that this will nearly eliminate the need to use other packaging methods. Also, the smaller boxes can be quickly trimmed to fit inside flat-rate Priority envelopes. Here are the actual dimensions:

Small: 9.5 x 6.75 x 2.75

Large: 11 x 8.625 x 2.75

And the planned larger size:

13 3/8 x 9 3/8 x 2

Note that these boxes aren't self-adhesive - it'd be great if they had a peel off strip! - so you'll need to tape down the outside flap.

Some weight considerations: Approximate weights are 4.5 oz. for the small size, 6 oz. for the large; if you've been using bubble mailers, therefore, your postage costs will go up some.

Finally, a few words of caution: Since word started to get out on this product, Packaging Control Corporation has been inundated with orders. Their original plan wasn't to solicit small orders from booksellers, so their system hasn't been streamlined for this purpose yet. You'll have to call (717) 846-6666 and talk to a real person to place an order.

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