How to Pack Books for Moving

Michael Miller is a reputable author at Great Nation Moving and an expert in moving, packing and storage topics.

How to Pack Books for Moving

Whether you love to read or need books for work or study, you will probably want to take your hardcovers and paperbacks with you when moving house

Books, however, are extremely heavy, so they’re not easy to pack and move. You need to be very careful not to overload the boxes when packing your reads as the cartons may become too heavy to handle safely or may even break under their own weight. Besides, moving a lot of books will significantly increase the weight of your shipment which will result in higher moving costs.

So, when preparing for your move, you need to consider whether all of your books are really worth relocating – and, then, decide what to do with the ones that aren’t and find out how to best pack the books you’re taking with you. After all, you don’t want to see any volumes damaged in the moving process – or have an accident because of an improperly packed box of books.

Read on to find out how to pack books for moving the right way:

Decide which of your books to take with you

If you’re a book lover, you will not want to part with any of your volumes. Yet, moving all your books to your new home is not a good idea:

  • The more books you have for moving, the more time and effort it will take to prepare them for shipment (so the packing process will be longer and more difficult) and the more boxes you’re going to need (so your packing expenses will be higher);
  • Loading and loading will also take longer and will be much more difficult as you (or your movers) will need to carry a lot of heavy boxes from your old home to the moving truck and, then, from the truck to your new home upon arrival. If you’re moving locally and using professional moving help, your movers will charge you by the hour – so longer loading and unloading times will result in higher moving costs;
  • Books are heavy, so they will quickly add up to the overall weight of your shipment. If you’re moving long distance, your moving costs will be based on the weight of your shipment – so, they will be higher.

All in all, the more books you decide to relocate, the more difficult and more expensive your move is going to be. So, you need to optimize your book collection before the move.

Go through your books and sort them into three groups:

  1. Books you’re definitely going to take with you – your favorite reads and your most useful books;
  2. Books you’re not sure about – ones you like but rarely (or never) reread or don’t actually need;
  3. Books that can be left behind – books you don’t really like and ones that have no special value to you.

When you’re done, take a second look at the books from the second group – you may not want to part with them, but moving them to your new home only to put them on the bookshelves and never open them again is not worth it. It will be better to give them to someone who will appreciate them and save yourself the trouble – and the cost – of relocating them. So, assess each and every volume from that group and take only the ones that have some special meaning to you. 

Find a new home for the books in good condition that you’re not taking with you – give them away to friends or donate them to local libraries, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, day care centers, etc.

Throw away for recycling any books that are too damaged to continue to serve their purpose.

Pack your books in a safe and efficient manner

Now that you know which of your books you’re going to take to your new home, you need to find a safe and efficient way to pack them for the move.

The best way to pack books for moving is to arrange them in small, sturdy moving boxes:

Step 1. Prepare the boxes

When packing books for moving, it’s crucial to use small boxes. (Large boxes can fit a lot of books – and since books are quite heavy, a large carton full of books will be extremely weighty and, therefore, very difficult to lift and carry. This may lead to all kinds of accidents and/or injuries during the move – strained backs, pinched nerves, pulled muscles, damaged floors or stairs (if the heavy box is accidentally dropped), damaged doors, windows, or household items (if the heavy box is accidentally bumped against them), etc. Besides, the overloaded box can collapse under its own weight and it may result in damage to your books and/or personal injuries.)

So, you need to get small cardboard boxes for your books (specialized book boxes typically measure 12” x 12’’ x 12’’) and make sure they’re strong and sturdy (brand new moving boxes are your best bet, but you can also use second-hand boxes provided that they’re strong, clean, and dry).  

Reinforce each box with packing tape and line the bottom with a sheet of packing paper.

Step 2. Prepare the books

Dust all your books before packing them for moving.

Wrap your most valuable volumes in soft packing paper for better protection.

Step 3. Arrange your books in the boxes

So, your boxes are ready and your books for ready – it’s time to put the books in the boxes.

But how to pack books in moving boxes? You have three options:

  • Pack your books upright – place your books in the box standing upright, one next to the other, with their open parts facing the side of the carton. This method is great for hardcovers and thick books;
  • Pack your boxes flat – stack your books one over the other along the sides of the box. This method is your best choice when packing thin paperback books. (Needless to say, when stacking your books in the box, you need to put the largest volumes first – still, make sure you put heavier books as close to the bottom as possible);
  • Pack your book with the spines down – arrange your volumes next to one another, with their spines facing the bottom of the box. Keep in mind that this method is slightly riskier (it’s more difficult to safely take the books out of the box when unpacking) and not recommendable when packing more than one layer of books in the same box (paperbacks can get damaged by the pressure).


  1. Never pack your books with their spines facing upwards as it will increase the risk of damage to their bindings;
  2. Do not pack your books too tightly against one another because they can get damaged when you’re taking them out of the box after the move.

Step 4. Consider packing a second layer of books over the first one

If you’re placing your books upright and a lot of space remains to the top of the box after you’re done with the first row, you can pack some more books in the carton.

Place several sheets of packing paper on top of the books from the first layer and make a second layer of books – arrange them flat, so they’re more secure and their weight is evenly distributed over the books from the first layer. Be sure to put heavier books on the bottom row and lighter volumes on the top row.

Be careful not to make book boxes heavier than 40 lbs. though – even if there is empty space in the box, do not pack more books in it if it already weighs more than 30 pounds. You can pack some soft, lightweight items (such as plush toys) over the first row of books – to optimize the space in the box, ensure a tight pack, and avoid making the carton too heavy.

Step 5. Fill in any empty space and seal the boxes

Fill in any remaining space in the box with crushed paper or pieces of bubble wrap to provide some extra cushioning to your books and prevent them from shifting during the move. 

Place a layer of packing paper on the very top, close the box and tape it shut with packing tape.

Step 6. Label the boxes

Once you pack a box with books and seal it, don’t forget to label it properly – write BOOKS (or John’s books, or encyclopedias, or fiction, etc. – whatever is appropriate and will make unpacking easier) and HEAVY with big bold letters and include the destination room, so you (or your movers) know where to take the box upon arrival.

If you still have any questions about books moving, you can call us at (800) 403-7552 or you can get your free moving estimate here.

Bonus tip: How to pack heavy books for moving

Although packing books in small, sturdy boxes is the best way to pack books for moving, you can use a different strategy for your heaviest volumes – pack them in wheeled suitcases.

Use the same packing techniques as described above – arrange your heavy books in the suitcase as if it were a big moving box. The advantage is that you won’t need to worry about the weight and will be able to pack as many books in the suitcase as it can accommodate (you won’t need to lift and carry the suitcase – you will be able to simply wheel it to and from the moving truck, so it won’t matter how heavy it becomes).

Knowing how to pack books efficiently and safely will make your move smoother and easier. Just be sure to hire experienced and reliable movers to transport your belongings (including your books) to your new home in a safe and timely manner.

Happy new life – and happy reading – after the move!

By Michael Miller

Michael Miller is a reputable author at Great Nation Moving and an expert in moving, packing and storage topics.

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