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Moving with Your Books

Most of us have moved a few times in our lives. Most of us have had some books in our lives. But why is it so difficult for people to move with books?

Personally I think there are two aspects to this issue. : First the number of books vs the number of boxes. Second knowing how to pack them.


No one who collects books can comprehend how many books there really are in the collection. You might know the number of books, but that seems to become an abstract point.  For example the first time I moved as a child, my father asked me how many boxes I needed for my belongings. I said 4 boxes.  My valuables were in a suitcase, my toys were in a toy-box and my clothes were rolled & tightly sealed into my dresser. All that was left was my book collection.  Now I knew that I had an encyclopedia set, a 2 volume dictionary set from 1899 and my Star Trek book collection. I had recently complied a list of the volumes I had (as of 2019 over 850 books were in this series) and I knew that I had 400 of them.  So 4 book boxes would work right?

Let it be known that this did not work.

Places that sell moving boxes tend to sell what they call book boxes. This box is intended to hold 65 pounds, and is  16-3/8″ x 12-5/8″ x 12-5/8″ (W x L x H). These boxes are great until you fill them up. Then you can find out just how heavy your collection really is.  First you need to put paper or cloth down to protect the books. Then, only 24 regular sized hardbacks will fit per box and will be about 38 lbs.  An encyclopedia set can almost fit in one box.  That is quite a bit heavier than 38 lbs.  About 50 paperbacks can fit inside the box. I was quickly out of boxes.

Now since I was a child I did not know how to pack boxes of books, and since moving as an adult I’ve found that most moving companies don’t know how to pack book boxes either.

For most people using the boxes that printer paper comes in is a good box for books.  To be honest it isn’t a bad idea for a short move or if you have odd sized books. But those cartons are not stable enough to put more than two or three cartons on top of it. If you’ve ever bought a carton of printer paper you will notice that the stacks of paper are right up to the edge and there is not much wiggle room. Books should not be packed that way. Books need some gaps to prevent getting damaged. Stacking other boxes on top of the books -even if they are other book boxes- will cause the lids to break. But these are great for short trips and quick unpacking.

In college I used plastic milk crates to move from dorm to dorm. These stack nicely and you can pack them in a way that they are their own shelf. But the nature of the design of the crates tends to cause “shelf wear” on the books, so then you need in to bit levels in them and that can take up a bit of room. But these are easy to carry, so there is that in its favor.  But it is getting more difficult to find milk crates, so that might be an issue.

I have used cloth bags, the ones with the square bottoms, but those  are not the most stable and can damage the books if moved around too much. This is a better thing to use in the packing box. More on that later.

For shows I used to use cardboard boxes like printer boxes as they were easy to replace if damaged. One three hour rainstorm made me change to plastic totes. Plastic totes are great- if you can get the correct size and the number you need. The same size and brand will stack perfectly together.  Unfortunately different brands do not stack easily together and will cause the breaking or warping of the lids and sides. Also good plastic totes are between $14 to $30 each. When dealing with large collections you will need to invest in a good way to transport them.

The last time I moved my store. 5,000 titles. I packed the boxes and movers placed them in the truck.  Please remember to check the movers are putting the books against the walls of the vehicle.  Book boxes can be an extra wall of protection for the truck, but if they are used to layer the bottom of the truck there will be massive amounts of broken boxes.

So now you have the number of boxes…what then? You need packing supplies. Books need cushioning. This can be plain paper (as newspaper can create ink smudges) bubble wrap, packing peanuts or cloth. I have found that clean wash cloths, tea towels, hand towels, socks and most infant clothing can work as packing supplies quite well.  You will need to move those items anyway, so why pay for extra supplies and use more boxes for them? Use the towels on the bottom and top, roll the other items to fit snugly  in the black areas. Just remember to label the box so you know what you used. Nothing like having to open 40 boxes to find your infant’s onesie.

There is a video down below that will demonstrate how to pack them properly  in the boxes to avoid damage to the books and to the movers.



Now I like to also use the cloth bags in the box. So I layer the box with padding and place the open,  empty bag in the box. Ipack the books inside the bag like it was in a box. Then I foldthe handles overthe top and make sure there is enough padding around it before sealing it up. This is a good way to keep smaller collections together to easily shelve it later.

Moving is always stressful and the more ways  you can make it easier to do so is good for all involved.

Hopefully this post will help you do you.

Happy Reading.

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