[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 71 (Wednesday, April 15, 2009)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 17399-17403]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-8532]



39 CFR Part 111

New Standards for Letter-Sized Booklets

AGENCY: Postal ServiceTM.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: The Postal Service adopts new Mailing Standards of the United 
States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM[supreg]) to reflect 
changes to the construction and sealing of letter-sized booklets mailed 
at automation, presorted machinable or carrier route letter prices. We 
also adopt a definition of booklets and clarify weight standards for 
letter-sized mail.

DATES: Effective Date: September 8, 2009.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Krista Finazzo, 202-268-7304; Bill 
Chatfield, 202-268-7278; or Susan Thomas, 202-268-7268.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On December 29, 2008, a proposed rule was 
published in the Federal Register (73 FR 79430-79435), that provided 
information on changes to tab placement and construction of folded 
self-mailers and booklets. The proposed rule followed two years of 
collaborative work with mailers to analyze and test a wide variety of 
letter-size booklets and other letter-size mailpiece designs. In 
response to the proposed rule, the Postal Service received more than 
    On February 3, 2009, a revision to our original proposal was 
announced in the DMM Advisory and PCC Insider indicating that the 
design and tab placement changes for folded self-mailers would become 
optional recommendations instead of requirements. Current standards for 
folded self-mailers will remain in effect and we will continue to work 
with the mailing community to test various folded self-mailer designs. 
Mailers' Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC) member associations that 
have an interest in folded self-mailers will coordinate the opportunity 
to participate in our research. We will publish recommendations 
regarding folded self-mailers in September 2009. An additional proposed 
rule for folded self-mailers will be published upon completion of the 
test of mailer-supplied sample pieces.

Changes for Booklets


    This final rule includes the new required DMM standards for design, 
preparation, and sealing of machinable and automation letter-size 
booklets. We also describe in this final rule, recommended upgrades to 
the new requirements. We base these recommendations on observations of 
a wide variety of booklets tested and observed over the past several 
years. Following these recommendations will minimize mailpiece damage 
and maximize the efficient processing of booklets.


    Booklets consist of bound sheets or pages. Binding methods that are 
compatible with machinable processing include perfect binding, 
permanent fastening with at least two staples in the manufacturing fold 
(saddle stitched), pressed glue, or another binding method that creates 
a nearly uniformly thick mailpiece. Spiral bindings are not machinable 
so booklets prepared with spiral bindings do not qualify for automation 
prices. Large booklets may be folded to letter-size for mailing if the 
final mailpiece remains uniform in thickness.

Physical Characteristics

    The maximum height for all machinable and automation booklets is 
six inches and the maximum length can vary between 9 and 10\1/2\ 
inches, depending on the booklet design. The minimum thickness for 
booklets is 0.009 inch and the maximum thickness is 0.25 inch 
regardless of size. Thickness is measured at the spine of the 
    The current maximum weight of 3 ounces has not changed and is 
applicable to all mailpieces prepared without envelopes. However, to 
improve machinability we recommend reducing the length of 3-ounce 
booklets to a final trim size of 9 inches.
    Cover stock requirements vary with 40-pound minimum basis weight 
for folded booklet designs and 60- or 70-pound minimum basis weight for 
pieces longer than 9 inches. Lighter-weight paper tends to be easily 
damaged in processing equipment. The use of paper that is 10 pounds 
heavier than the required minimum basis weight is recommended for 
better processing performance. We strongly recommend using a minimum of 
70-pound paper as cover stock on mailpiece designs that approach 
maximum booklet dimensions. References to paper weights are for book-
grade paper unless otherwise specified. A paper grade conversion table 
is included in DMM Exhibit 201.3.2 for reference.
    The bottom edge of booklets must be a bound edge or fold unless the 
mailpiece is prepared as an oblong booklet. Oblong booklets must be 
prepared with a spine on the leading edge. Booklets with a spine on the 
trailing edge are nonmachinable.
    Tabs used to seal booklets must not have perforations. Generally, 
booklets need three 1\1/2\-inch tabs as closures. For larger or heavier 
booklets, we recommend 2-inch paper tabs. Glue spots or a continuous 
glue line may be used to seal some booklet designs.
    Booklets that do not comply with the new standards will not be 
eligible for machinable or automation letter prices. Nonmachinable 
booklets will be assessed a surcharge (for First-Class Mail[supreg]), 
pay nonmachinable prices (for Standard Mail[supreg]), or pay 
nonbarcoded prices (for Periodicals).

Overview of Comments

    We received more than 900 customer comments in response to the 
proposed standards. Of these, 79 noted concerns

[[Page 17400]]

about booklet design changes. Many commenters expressed concerns about 
multiple issues. Below we describe all comments and not those 
exclusively about booklets.
    There were 442 comments concerning tabs without perforations. Of 
these, 287 were form letters or parts of form letters stating that tabs 
without perforations would make mailpieces hard to open for the elderly 
and infirm. Six came from manufacturers of tabs. Two mail preparers 
claim that mail with solid tabs went unread. At the request of a group 
of mail owners, one mail preparer completed a 6-month study of response 
rates to mailpieces prepared with three solid tabs. No appreciable 
change in response rate occurred.
    Booklets with tabs that fail during high-speed processing sustain 
damage and cause damage to other mailpieces. Our tests revealed that 
tabs with perforations are easily broken, often do not maintain their 
integrity, and are damaged in transport prior to entering the 
mailstream. To minimize tab failure, tabs used to seal booklets 
claiming automation or machinable prices may not be perforated. Solid 
tabs made of plastic, vinyl, translucent paper, opaque paper, or 
cellophane tape is acceptable.
    Tab placement generated 401 responses. Commenters cited the lack of 
machinery capable of applying two tabs on the leading edge and one tab 
on the trailing edge of each booklet, the cost of upgrading existing 
tabbing equipment, and the amount of extra space required to install 
upgrades as reasons why they objected to the proposed standards for tab 
placement. Three commenters stated that the tabbing systems they 
purchased would become obsolete because they can only apply tabs on the 
top open edges. There were 170 mailers concerned about tab size. They 
objected to the introduction of minimum tab sizes that exceed one inch 
because their equipment couldn't apply tabs larger than one inch.
    We realize that using different size tabs on booklets, adding an 
additional tab to the leading edge, and affixing them in locations that 
were until now optional, will require some adjustments to customer 
manufacturing processes. Some customers are already producing and 
mailing booklets with the tabbing configurations required by the new 
standards despite the obstacles mentioned. In addition, at least one 
manufacturer of tabbing machines is advertising a unit with the 
capability of tabbing mail in the proposed locations.
    Mailer and controlled tests demonstrate that using 1\1/2\-inch tabs 
to seal booklets in place of the smaller 1-inch tabs improved the 
productivity of processing. Sorting booklets sealed with 1\1/2\-inch 
tabs still reduced machine throughput compared to processing other 
letter-size pieces. To improve productivity and processing, 1\1/2\-inch 
tabs are required. We will continue to monitor booklet processing 
    The increase in the number of tabs required to seal booklets 
generated 179 comments. Remarks focused on the absence of notification, 
with some commenters stating that the mailings they present now are not 
generating error reports from the plants that process them. As booklet 
volumes increase in the mailstream, processing operations must divert 
these mailings to manual or flat mail operations to avoid mailpiece 
damage and machine down time. The USPS generated numerous irregularity 
reports concerning poorly prepared booklets over the past several 
years. These reports have documented instances of jammed machines and 
torn mailpieces. Our experiences processing booklets as live mailpieces 
and in a variety of controlled and customer-supplied mailpiece tests 
show that the new standards are needed. Customers who observed their 
own booklets being tested acknowledged that although their mail is 
currently being charged automation or machinable prices, it cannot be 
machine sorted.
    A number of commenters stated that we did not justify the amount of 
added workload applying additional tabs would impose on the customer. 
Testing demonstrated that the machine throughput when processing 
booklets with two 1-inch tabs on the top edge was half the throughput 
for booklets with two 1\1/2\-inch tabs on the lead edge and one tab on 
the trailing edge, and almost one fourth the throughput for enveloped 
letter mail. Therefore, we believe this warrants the changes.
    Many commenters objected to the definition of a folded self-mailer. 
The definition of folded self-mailers will be refined in conjunction 
with a subsequent phase of testing customer-supplied samples and will 
be published at a later date as part of the changes to folded self-
mailer standards indicated by test results.
    Only 31 customers expressed concerns about standards for static 
charge and coefficient of friction. Some commenters wanted to know 
where to buy paper that conformed to the standards while others asked 
how mail would be tested for these characteristics in the acceptance 
units. We recommend this requirement while further methods are explored 
to measure these standards. We recommend testing your mailpieces for 
static charge and coefficient of friction when possible.
    Forty-nine commenters asked that we delay changing standards for 
booklets and folded self-mailers until the economy turns around. We 
believe that implementing standards for booklets will improve the 
processing and cost effective handling of these pieces. However, we 
will work with the mailing community to further refine standards for 
folded self-mailers.
    Some commenters wondered how they could determine if their 
mailpiece was made of high tear strength paper. Paper distributors 
generally recognize which of their products have high tear strength, 
and most papers sold in office supply stores have adequate tear 
strength. High tear strength paper has properties like a high fiber 
length, a low degree of beating, and for machine-made papers, fiber 
orientation. Mailpieces made of high tear strength paper can be sorted 
on automated processing equipment without tearing or shattering.
    Some commenters objected to the increase in required paper grade 
for the covers of booklets. Paper values published in the DMM varied by 
product. Our new booklet illustrations and descriptions are based on 
book-grade paper. Paper grades are printed on the packaging of reams, 
boxes, and rolls of paper.
    The maximum weight of automation letters was a concern for some 
customers. The proposal did not change the maximum allowable weight for 
booklets. According to current standards in DMM, letters 
that weigh more than 3 ounces must be prepared in a sealed envelope, 
therefore booklets weighing more than 3 ounces must be prepared in 
sealed envelopes. Our standards reflect this required mailpiece 
    Based on the results of continued testing, a modification to the 
standards was published in the Federal Register on December 29, 2008, 
increasing the amount of acceptable tab overhang from 1/32 of an inch 
to 1/16 of an inch.
    The Postal Service adopts the following changes to Mailing 
Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual 
(DMM), incorporated by reference in the Code of Federal Regulations. 
See 39 CFR 111.1.

List of Subjects in 39 CFR Part 111

    Administrative practice and procedure, Postal Service.

Accordingly, 39 CFR part 111 is amended as follows.


1. The authority citation for 39 CFR part 111 continues to read as 

[[Page 17401]]

    Authority:  5 U.S.C. 552(a); 39 U.S.C. 101, 401, 403, 404, 414, 
416, 3001-3011, 3201-3219, 3403-3406, 3621, 3622, 3626, 3632, 3633, 
and 5001.

2. Revise the following sections of Mailing Standards of the United 
States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) as follows:

Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail 
Manual (DMM)

* * * * *

200 Commercial Mail Letters and Cards

201 Physical Standards

1.0 Physical Standards for Machinable Letters and Cards

1.1 Physical Standards for Machinable Letters

* * * * *

1.1.3 All Machinable Letters

    [Revise the first sentence of 1.1.3 as follows:]
    All pieces of First-Class Mail and Standard Mail machinable letters 
must meet the standards for automation-compatible letters in 201.3.0. * 
* *
* * * * *

3.0 Physical Standards for Automation Letters and Cards

    [Revise text of 3.1 as follows:]

3.1 Basic Standards Automation Letters and Cards

    Letters and cards claimed at any machinable, automation, or 
Standard Mail carrier route price, must meet the standards in 3.0. 
Unless prepared as a folded self-mailer, booklet, or postcard under 
3.14 through 3.16, each machinable or automation letter must be a 
sealed envelope (the preferred method) or, if unenveloped, must be 
sealed or glued completely along all four sides.
    [Delete current 3.4 through 3.6 in their entirety.]
    [Renumber current 3.2 through 3.3 as new 3.3 through 3.4.]
    [Add new 3.2 as follows:]

3.2 Paper Weight

    Mailpieces should be constructed from high tear strength paper 
stock. All references in 3.0 to paper basis weight are for book-grade 
paper unless otherwise stated. The conversion table in Exhibit 3.2 
provides a paper basis weight cross-reference.

Exhibit 3.2 Paper Basis Weight Conversion Table

    Note: Paper basis weight is based on the weight of 500 sheets 
of: 25 x 38 inch sheets of book-grade paper, 17 x 22 inch bond-grade 
paper, 20 x 26 inch sheets of cover-grade paper, 24 x 36 inch sheets 
of newsprint. For example, if 500 sheets of book-grade paper weigh 
39 pounds, the paper is considered 39-pound book paper.

           Book wt.               Bond wt.    Cover wt.    Newsprint wt.
39............................           15           21              35
40............................           16           22              36
50............................           20           27              45
55............................           22           30              50
60............................           24           33              55
70............................           28           40              64
75............................           30           41              68
80............................           31           44              73
90............................           36           50              82
100...........................           40           56              91
110...........................           44           60             100
128...........................           50           70             116

     [Revise heading and introductory text of renumbered 3.3 as 

3.3 Dimensions and Shape

    Each machinable or automation letter-sized piece must be 
rectangular (see 1.1.1) and must meet the following standards (see 3.15 
for booklets):
* * * * *
    [Add new 3.5 as follows:]

3.5 Maximum Weight, Machinable and Automation Letters and Cards

    The following maximum weight limits apply:
    a. Booklets and folded self-mailers--3 ounces.
    b. Machinable enveloped letters and cards--3.3 ounces.
    c. Automation enveloped letters and cards--3.5 ounces (see 3.6 for 
pieces over 3 ounces.)
    [Renumber current 3.14.4 as new 3.6 and revise heading and text as 

3.6 Heavy Letter Mail (Over 3 Ounces)

    Heavy letter mail (letter-size pieces over 3 ounces) must be 
prepared in a sealed envelope, may not contain stiff enclosures, and 
must have an 11-digit delivery point POSTNET or an Intelligent Mail 
barcode with a routing code in the address block (see 202.5.0).
* * * * *
    [Revise heading and text of 3.11 as follows:]

3.11 Tabs, Tape, and Glue

    Tabs on booklets must be at least 1\1/2\ inches in width. The tab 
placement standards in 3.15 are subject to \1/4\-inch variance in 
either direction. Tabs may be made of opaque paper, translucent paper, 
vinyl or plastic, and must not contain perforations. Cellophane tape 
may also be used as a closure. The following standards also apply:
    a. Translucent paper tabs should be made of paper with a minimum of 
40-pound basis weight.
    b. Opaque paper tabs should be made of a minimum of 60-pound basis 
weight paper with a tear strength of at least 56 grams of force in the 
machine direction (MD) and 60 grams of force in the cross direction 
    c. Tabs in the barcode clear zone must have a paper face meeting 
the standards for background reflectance and, if the barcode is not 
preprinted by the mailer, the standards for acceptance of water-based 
    d. Vinyl tabs and cellophane tape closures are not acceptable 
within the barcode clear zone.
    e. Tabs must be tight against the edge of the mailpiece. A maximum 
\1/16\-inch overhang is recommended.
    f. Glue spots may be used in lieu of tabs and must be placed within 
\3/4\-inch of the open edges (see Exhibit 201.3.11.f).

[[Page 17402]]

Exhibit 201.3.11.f Glue Spot Placement

    g. Continuous glue lines may be used as cover-to-cover seals and 
must be placed along the entire length of the open edge and end no more 
than \3/4\-inch from the open ends (see Exhibit 201.3.11.g).

Exhibit 201.3.11.g Glue Line Placement

* * * * *
    [Revise the title of 3.14 and restructure as follows:]

3.14 Folded Self-Mailers

    [Add new 3.14.1 to read as follows:]

3.14.1 General

    The standards in 3.14.2 for folded self-mailers are basic 
    [Renumber current 3.14.1 as new 3.14.2.]
    [Renumber current 3.14.2 as new 3.15 and revise as follows:]

3.15 Booklets

3.15.1 Definition

    Booklets must have a bound edge. Sheets that are fastened with at 
least two staples in the manufacturing fold (saddle stitched), perfect 
bound, pressed-glued, or joined together by another binding method that 
produces an end where pages are attached together are considered 
booklets. Booklets are open on three sides before sealing, similar in 
design to a book. In general, booklets must be uniformly thick. Large 
bound booklets that are folded for mailing qualify for automation and 
machinable prices if the final mailpiece remains nearly uniform in 

3.15.2 Paper

    Booklet covers generally must be made with a minimum paper basis 
weight of 60-pounds or equivalent. Minimum basis weights are higher for 
some designs (see 3.15.4).

3.15.3 Physical Standards for Booklets

    Booklets must be:
    a. Height: Not more than 6 inches or less than 3.5 inches high.
    b. Length: Not more than 10.5 inches or less than 5 inches long. 
See Exhibit 3.15.4 for some booklet designs with shorter maximum 
    c. Thickness: Not more than 0.25 inch or less than 0.009 inch 
    d. Weight: Not more than 3 ounces.
    e. Aspect ratio: Within 1.3 to 2.5 (see 201.3.1).

3.15.4 Booklet Design and Sealing

    Booklets may be designed with the spine or final fold at the bottom 
or on the leading edge. See Exhibit 3.15.4 for design and sealing 

[[Page 17403]]


    [Renumber current 3.14.3 as new 3.16.]
    [Renumber current 3.14.4 as new 3.6.]
    [Renumber current 3.15 as new 3.17.]
* * * * *
    We will publish an appropriate amendment to 39 CFR part 111.

Stanley F. Mires,
Chief Counsel, Legislative.
[FR Doc. E9-8532 Filed 4-14-09; 8:45 am]