This change had an unexpected consequence: On some booklets, the additional fold created a mail piece so thick or so unevenly folded that the tab or tabs failed during processing, resulting in jams and damage to equipment. In response, the USPS announced new standards for letter-sized booklets, including changes in maximum dimensions, changes in stock required for the cover, new requirements for tabbing, and a new definition of booklet. The final rule was published in April 2009. The implementation date for this rule is September 8, 2009, by which time all mailers will have to be in compliance.
New Rules for Letter-Sized Booklets
The new standards for letter-sized booklets apply to any mail piece meeting the definition of a booklet and mailing as letter mail. A booklet consists of sheets or pages saddle stitched or perfect bound to create a nearly uniformly thick mail piece. The dimensions are a maximum of 9-10.5" long (depending on booklet design), 6" high, between 9-point and 0.25" thick (measured at the spine), weight not exceeding three ounces. No perforated tabs are allowed and, in most cases, three 1.5" tabs will be required.
Some publications that might be affected by the new standards are catalogs, newsletters with covers, pamphlets, and perhaps newsletters consisting of two or more sheets stitched together. An unbound newsletter is considered a folded self-mailer, and the requirements for folded self-mailers are being tested this summer.
The options for any mail piece that meets the definition of a booklet are:
- Comply with the new requirements and mail at letter rate.
- Enclose the mail piece inside an envelope and mail at letter rate.
- Omit stitching and mail at letter rate.
- Omit final fold to letter size and mail as a flat (may mean changing the location of the mail panel).
- Give up automation and machinable postage discounts.
Each of these options has associated cost implications (higher printing and mailing services charges, higher postage) or customer preference issues.
Three months remain before September 8, when the new standards become mandatory. Use the time to explain options to customers and come to a decision on which one to implement. And keep current on the USPS proposals for folded self mailers—a very prevalent form for newsletters.
Nancy DeDiemar is president of Printing Resources of Southern California, a quick print shop in Upland, CA, offering printing, copying, electronic prepress, and mailing services. Nancy is the co-publisher of Printips (www.printips.com), a newsletter subscription service for printers. Contact her at Nancy@printingresources.com.