How To Pack Books

A Bookworm’s Guide: How to Pack Books for Moving

Whether you’re moving into a new home or switching dorms with a load of heavy textbooks, there’s a right way to pack books. Bookworms, with their impressive collection of novels and tomes, may be especially overwhelmed by the prospect of transporting their precious (and enormous) library. But with the right supplies, planning, and help along the way, anyone can do it! Ready to learn how to pack books for moving the right way?

What Supplies Do You Need to Pack Books?

The first step to any move is gathering your supplies. Packing books is no different. Here is a list of necessary and helpful supplies that will make moving books a piece of cake.

Extra Pairs of Hands

So sure, this technically doesn’t count as “supplies” but having help is crucial for moving heavy books. Whether they are your friends, family, neighbors, or professional movers – having extra pairs of hands certainly makes moving anything more efficient and less overwhelming. Having help means you won’t overexert yourself and significantly decreases risk of injury to yourself (and your books).


Corrugated cardboard boxes are an excellent option for packing books. For heavier books, consider wheeled suitcases (just make sure you don’t overpack as you don’t want to risk damaging your suitcase). If you suspect you might encounter rain while moving your books, get weatherproof containers like plastic bins instead of cardboard. You do not want to end up with water-stained, wrinkly pages. Keep in mind that cardboard boxes that have been used already will be less sturdy, so use those for lightweight books.

A Dolly or Hand Truck

This may be slightly harder to come by, but try borrowing one if you can – it will be well worth it! You can stack boxes on a dolly or wheeled hand truck to transport them easily into elevators and across flat surfaces, like parking lots or long hallways.

Small Essentials: scissors, packing tape, labels, a marker, packing paper, a box cutter, & a scale

Other essentials include:

  • A scale if your shipper or transportation requires boxes to be under a certain weight limit. In general, aim to keep each box of books under 40 pounds.
  • Packing tape to seal cardboard boxes.
  • A box cutter or scissors to unpack the boxes.
  • Labels and a marker to label the box.
  • Optional: bubble wrap or packing paper to shield books from a bumpy ride. If you have a particularly fragile book collection, consider wrapping them in a pillowcase within the box.
  • Acid-free packing paper is handy if you are putting delicate books away in storage for a while. Line the box with it before you put the books in, and use it to fill gaps.

What Size Boxes Do You Need to Move Books?

While you can make most boxes work, there are some box sizes that fit books best:

Small Cardboard Boxes: 16" x 12" x 12"

Small square boxes — 16" x 12" x 12" — are ideal book boxes for moving. Weigh the box on the scale to make sure it does not exceed 40 pounds. Cardboard boxes with double or triple walls may be able to hold more, but then lifting it becomes risky. Know your physical limits or opt for professional movers. Keeping boxes small helps prevent overfilling. Yes, books are made of paper, and many are thin, but they are deceptively heavy. You don’t need to fill the box just because you see extra room: that’s what bubble wrap is for or other lighter items (like dish towels) that also need to make the move.


See if you have spare cardboard boxes around the house, perhaps from a recent Amazon delivery. You can also purchase new ones from the U.S. Post Office or find them for discounted prices on local neighborhood websites like Craigslist or Nextdoor. Use corrugated cardboard for sturdiest protection. For extra heavy books, be sure to use new cardboard boxes to pack them.

Small Suitcases

As we mentioned, suitcases are another method for how to move books. The wheeled bottom will be a life saver! Just keep in mind that you still may need to lift it in and out of a vehicle, so make sure you do not overstuff a large suitcase with books so that it weighs 50+ pounds. Generally it’s best to use smaller suitcases, like carry-ons, to pack books.

Small Plastic Bins

Plastic bins are good options for transporting books because they typically have handles and are waterproof. Flat and long bins may help to create an equal weight distribution. Remember to lift with your knees, not your back!

Small Plastic Crates

These are okay if you are making a quick move with a smaller amount of books, but not ideal for long hauls across the state. The open top and exposed sides leave the books vulnerable to damage and the weather. The holes in the sides will help you pick the crates up, but do little in terms of protection.

How to Pack Books for Moving

The average American household has 29 books, with about 12 books being purchased per year. If you think you can fit them all in one box, think again: it’ll be an unwelcome surprise on moving day when you actually have to lift it! Or if a friend is helping you, get ready for the inevitable: “What’s in here, rocks?


As you sort through your books, you may find you want to start a donation pile for your local library, thrift shop, or charity. The fewer books you have, the easier they are to move. Offer books that you have already read to friends, or have a yard sale. This will help reduce clutter in your new space and potentially bring in a few extra bucks!


If you are moving the books to a storage facility, be specific with your labeling, and use acid-free packing paper instead of bubble wrap. Double check that your storage facility stays cool and dry year-round, and that your books and boxes are clean and dry when you put them in there. This will keep the books in excellent condition and help you stay organized when you return to pick them up. And remember, don’t overfill the boxes!


Without further ado, here are the steps to make the book packing process efficient and successful:

Put the Box Together

If it is a new cardboard box, you will need to put it together. Reinforce with tape around the seams. If you have cardboard boxes with cut-out handles, note that the weight of the boxes once filled with books will make using those handles inadvisable as they will likely tear. You can try to reinforce the handles with tape, but be careful as this option doesn’t always work.

Pack Heavier Books in Smaller Boxes

Use boxes 16" x 12" x 12” or smaller for heavy books. Special hardcovers should be snugly lined up in a row, not stacked on top of each other. Less valuable hardcovers can be stacked flat. The best way to pack books for moving means not straining the box or yourself.

Pack Lightweight Books in Larger Boxes

If you run out of 16" x 12" x 12” or smaller boxes, put lighter weight paperbacks in the larger boxes. You can play a bit of Tetris with paperbacks, since they tend to be different sizes. For paperbacks, the best way to pack books is to stack them flat or in a row – just make sure the pages aren’t in danger of bending or ripping. Do not place pressure on the pages by placing the books page-side down against the bottom of the box.

If Needed, Pack Books of Various Sizes Together

If you want to put books of various weights in the same box, the best way to move books is to put the heaviest on the bottom and the lighter ones on top. You may prefer this method if you organize by genre. Use your extra padding to keep it level: you do not want bent paperbacks.

Label Boxes As You Go

Whether it’s with a label maker, a Sharpie on the cardboard box, or a color coded system, labeling will make the unpacking process much easier. It’s quick and will save you lots of time and confusion later on. Of course, if there are only one or two book boxes, skip this step. You can go with the simple label, “BOOKS,” or be more specific if you have packed them according to a more specific organization system. Note if they are old or delicate with “FRAGILE BOOKS” to indicate to movers or friends that these boxes need to be handled with care.

Pad the Box

Use towels, sheets, bubble wrap, or balled up newspaper to fill any gaps in the box so the books don’t move around in transit. This will keep the weight distribution consistent so that the box is easier to pick up. Alternatively, pack your clothes into the box – everything’s got to make the move, so may as well use the space!

Prepare for Transport

Place the heaviest boxes in the moving truck first. Only stack boxes the moving vehicle if they are secure and will not move. A sharp turn could send them falling and break something else in the truck, or damage the books. Boxes with flat stacked books are better to stack in the vehicle and on the dolly.

Leave it to the Experts at Jubel Moving & Storage

Let experienced SF movers Jubel Moving & Storage make your moving and storage hassle-free! These tips will help you finish packing books for moving before we arrive, so that we can get right to work. We offer both commercial or residential moves. Contact us today to get a free estimate!