What Is Media Flat-Rate Shipping?

The U.S. government has always had an interest in the education of its citizens. It’s no wonder that in 1938, the U.S. Post Office began offering lower rates to ship educational materials. This was the start of media flat-rate shipping.

Today, this category has been expanded to allow for the shipment of a variety of materials, including books, DVDs, CDs and digital recordings.

Media flat-rate shipping offers a huge advantage to those looking to ship materials in a cost-effective manner. Here’s everything you need to know about media flat rate and how it works.

How Does Media Flat-Rate Shipping Work?

If you want to ship education-related materials, you can get a low price by going with media mail U.S. Postal Service (USPS) shipping. It’s almost always the cheapest option.

Are there faster options? Yes. Are there options that will treat your package with greater care? Also yes. Remember that the media flat rate is the cheapest option. For less than $3, you can send a pound of materials anywhere in the country.

What Can You Ship by USPS Media Mail?

If your materials are educational in nature, media flat-rate shipping is an ideal choice. You can use this delivery service to ship each of the following:

  • Books over eight pages
  • Sheet music and other printed music (such as guitar tablature)
  • Reference charts
  • Play scripts
  • Book manuscripts
  • Audio and/or video recordings on CDs, DVDs or other digital storage media
  • Maps
  • Educational periodicals
  • Camera film (as long as it’s not blank)
  • Paperwork for distribution to medical students and doctors
  • Printed testing materials

You can mix and match all of the educational materials you want in your shipment, too. The only thing USPS cares about is that the package meets its weight and size requirements.

What Can’t Be Shipped by USPS Media Mail?

If it’s not educational, it can’t be shipped by media flat-rate shipping. The following items are not eligible at this rate:

  • Entertainment such as comics, newspapers or magazines
  • Puzzles
  • Games, whether video or board
  • Blank CDs, DVDs, tapes, paper, journals or any other unused media
  • Picture books (must have text as primary focus)
  • Crosswords, sudoku and other such pattern puzzles
  • Any cards, from greeting cards to playing cards
  • Marketing or advertising materials

You might think, “I’m just including some quick pointers on how to best use the materials,” but this won’t qualify for media mail. The USPS will not put these items into a media flat-rate shipment either:

  • Greeting cards
  • Bills/invoices
  • Instructions or directions
  • Descriptive notes
  • Corrections for the media

If you include a note that reads, “Play DVD 2 first,” it violates the rules. Media shipping requires senders to put such supplements into a separate shipment.

Is Media Mail Open to Inspection?

To prevent people from abusing the rules, USPS reserves the right to open and examine all media mail packages. At best, you’ll be slapped with a notice telling you to pay the regular shipping rates. At worst, you can be charged with mail fraud.

How Long Is Media Flat-Rate Shipping Time?

Media mail shipping time can be as short as two days or as long as eight. However, the average is four or five days.

How Do You Calculate Media Mail Cost?

Here’s the easy part. Media flat-rate shipping is calculated by the pound. The first pound costs $2.80, with each pound after that adding only 53 cents. The media mail weight limit is 70 pounds. All pounds are rounded up. If you have a 2.1-pound package, it’s going to be treated like a 3-pound package.

Benefits of Using Media Mail Shipping

Because of the need for cost-cutting measures, educational institutions such as schools often choose media mail shipping over more expensive options like First-Class Mail or private couriers like UPS and FedEx. Private companies may offer faster delivery services, but they can also be up to 10 times more costly than media mail shipping. Take a look at some of the other benefits to media mail shipping.

Package Media up to 70 Pounds

As long as your package is less than the media mail weight limit of 70 pounds and comes in under 108 inches of combined length and height, you’re golden. This limit is quite high, and you should be able to fit a number of books or media within these confines.

Drop Off at Any USPS Store

Any post office can receive and ship your media flat-rate package. All you have to do is visit your local post office and purchase the necessary materials. The USPS offers a variety of sizes and shapes of boxes and envelopes, so you can find the perfect solution for your needs. Drop off your package, and wait for it to arrive at its destination.

Additional Features

Another advantage for your budget is that services you usually have to pay extra for are now included in the cost. All media flat-rate packages come with signature confirmation, delivery confirmation, collect on delivery and free tracking — all at no additional charge.


There is no cheaper alternative to ship educational materials, especially if they weigh a lot, need a large box and have to travel long distances. Even better, the rate is the same whether you’re sending the materials to your neighbor’s house or across the country.

Disadvantages of Using Media Mail Shipping

For anyone wanting to ship educational materials, media mail shipping sounds like the way to go. But you must realize that everything has its downsides. You just have to decide whether they’re dealbreakers.

Longer Delivery Times

Media mail shipping is not what you use when you want fast shipments. First-Class Mail will be more expensive but also faster. Remember that two- to eight-day window mentioned earlier? That time can get longer — even up to weeks. And there’s no international flat-rate media shipping. You can send packages only within the U.S.


Packages going through flat-rate media shipping shouldn’t be fragile. The USPS isn’t intentionally rough with the packages, but it’s not known to take extra care with them, either.

Lack of Insurance

Because of that famous lack of caution, it’s a good idea to add extra insurance. Insurance starts at $2.25 and increases depending on the weight of the package.

Shipping Made Easy

Media mail shipping is an affordable way to send educational materials. Even though it may take longer than other delivery services, this service offers numerous benefits that could outweigh the potential cons.

If you want to circumvent going to the post office to ship out your freshly printed educational books or DVDs, Print Bind Ship is ready to make that happen. We not only print and bind but we also store, package and ship. We also can send your materials anywhere in the world. To find out how Print Bind Ship can become your printing and shipping partner, contact us today.


How do I know whether my package qualifies for media flat-rate shipping?

To qualify for media flat-rate shipping, your package must be within the maximum size and weight limits, and it must be sent to a domestic address.

Is there a way to track my media flat-rate package?

Yes, media flat rate comes with both free tracking and delivery confirmation.

Where can I find out more information about media flat-rate shipping costs?

You can contact your local USPS branch for more information on specific shipping costs and policies.