Importing books to Canada from the USA

July 20, 2014

Are you a writer or small press in Canada and want to import your books (in order to sell) from the USA? This is a blog post that you may find helpful. Shipping is expensive so for those of us near the US border, it can be worthwhile when ordering in large amounts to drive down and pick up books ourselves.

How do you do that? I’ll use the example of living in Ottawa and picking up packages from Ogsdenburg, NY. That’s about an hour drive depending upon where you live in Ottawa.

How to import books into Canada

*Be warned: This post is based upon my experience and what I remember from having done this once before. Double check if you remain uncertain. Your thoughts or corrections are welcome in the comment section. Importing/shipping details can change, particularly as this post gets older. When in doubt, call the government and ask them directly.

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BUT if you do have questions or thoughts, pop them in the comment section – maybe we’ll try to put together a show of people who have imported before, and can share their experiences/answer more questions. If you want to stay notified of upcoming podcasts, then sign up for the blog in the “subscribe” field, you can also subscribe to the writing podcast. 😉 (Plug!!)

You can subscribe here – we talk about writing, self-publishing, marketing, and more writing! Yay!

With that aside, let’s move on.


1) First, find a US-based location to ship your books. Shipping is way less expensive in the USA, and they have an awesome thing called Media Mail that makes it even cheaper for books.

Right. You are reading this because you live in Canada, not the USA. That’s okay! There are really reasonably priced warehouses that will hold your orders for about 5 dollars a box.

I like to use a service called Kinek. is straightforward, and I’ve been happy with the folks in Ogsdenburg holding the goods.

*Keep in mind, one box from create space holds around 25 ‘ish’ books depending on thickness. Here’s a forum thread where you can figure that out for yourself. So, in this case, if you order 100 books that makes around 4 boxes, which cost $5 each, plus a flat fee. It’s still quite reasonable compared to shipping to Canada, but these costs (including time & gas and tax at border) can add up – so make it worth your while when driving across the border.

Okay, so, you have signed up for a Kinek account? Awesome.

2) Get yourself a business number for importing. There is no special import number, it’s just your business number. If you’re like me – a sole proprietor who really has never needed a business number before, you can easily get hooked up. If you are making enough to need to collect and pay HST, and have registered your business, you have a business number and are set to import. Otherwise . . .

Start with this website and learn a little.

Then you’ll probably go to this website if you need to register.  When you eventually navigate to “Step 2 – Gather Your Information” you can choose the option for Import/Export account. Then click “Register Now” after you are redirected.


3) Order your books, and use the US warehouse as your place of shipping.

4) Print your invoices. Print two copies, and bring them both along when importing your books. If the location of book printing is written on the receipt that is good. If not, read on for ideas.

Get your invoices in order – print your invoice from CreateSpace (or whoever printed your books). I also went ahead and filled out the CANADA CUSTOMS INVOICE, though can’t remember if they actually needed/used this. Invoices should include

  • The address of the company printing books
  • Reference numbers
  • Description of the order, including quantity and price

Print 2 copies, one for you record and one for their records.

4) Wait for the books!!

5) Go pick up the books.

6) Declare at the Border:

A) When you go through the border, they will ask if you have anything to claim. Say yes, and they’ll ask you to park and go into the building. Be prepared for some strange procedures. It’s like red tape come to life: You need to go to this desk, then that computer, then get that form, then this form, then back to that computer.

B) One thing is that you’ll be told to use their computer. Steve Jobs would probably have thrown this thing through a window if he laid hands on it. It’s not a friendly interface. One step, one page, one entry at a time. You’ll be fine. Have your invoices ready for reference.

* Place of book printing. They will for sure be interested in where the books are printed. Create Space does not list its location of printing on the receipt. (boo!) So, I’d email CreateSpace directly to get the location and then print that email. I’d also grab a book from your box and flip to the last page where it says

Made in the USA

Location, Sate


And then if the border folks are not happy yet, they’ll do their own google search and see for themselves.

C) Here are some useful codes when importing books. I’m referring to the CANADA CUSTOMS CODING FORM when mentioning these numbers. And for the life of me, I don’t remember what they are specifically referring too…SO you can either 1) double check it all or 2) let the computer help you when you get to the border or 3) do both. I did both.

1 Importer Name and Address: Your name and address the little computer also put my business number in here too.

2. Sub HRD No.: 2

3 Type: C

4 Office No: 439 (If you are in Ogsdenburg)

7 Mod of: 2

11. Vendor Name: CreateSpace (in my case) UNC 29406

12 Country of Origin: UNC

13 Place of Export: UNY (if in Ogsdenburg, there are codes for locations)

14 Tariff Treatment: 2

15 US Port of Exit: 0701

16 Direct Shipment date: Put the date

17 CRCY CODE DEVISE: USD (I paid in US dollars . . .)

19: 0$

20 Release Date: The date you pick it up

21: 2

22: Printed matter – books, brochures, leaflets, etc

27 Classification No: 4901.99.00.99 (This is a very useful number if you are shipping books that you have had printed. Keep it on hand otherwise you’ll be scrolling and searching and pulling out your hair.)

29 Quantity: number of books

30: NMB

31: 13

33 Rate of Customs Duty: 0.0000

34 ET Rate: 0.0000

35 Rate of Tax: 5.0

36 Value for currency conversion: price paid in USD (the computer you use will assign you the exchange rate for that day)

37 Value for Duty: Same as value for conversation, I would assume

38 Customs Duties: 0.00

39 Sima Assessment: 0.00

40 Excise Tax: 0.00

41 Value for Tax: same vales as 37 & 36

42 GST: This is 5%, but the computer will also calculate this for you.

D) You pay the tax. It’s not too much. I think on my order that cost 700+$ I paid around $35 tax . . . ish? It’s basically the GST – and that is 5%.

7) Cruise home and sell those books! YEAH. 🙂

Do keep in mind it’s much cheaper to ship directly from Create Space to the reader . . . much cheaper, so if you can establish that connection (say if you crowd funded beforehand and these are books you don’t need to sign), I’d say go that way.

Happy importing!

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4 comments on “Importing books to Canada from the USA

  1. Hi:

    I’m from BC and have a couple of titles published through Createspace POD which are listed on etc.

    I recently ordered 150 books for stock to sell in Canada. Shipping to Sumas WA–close to where I live–made the most sense from a shipping cost standpoint, but I was surprised to find that I was charged WA state tax (about 7%) on the shipment.

    I queried CS about this and they said regardless of the fact that the books would end up in Canada if they were shipped to a WA state address they had to charge the state’s sales tax.

    I’m wondering if others have experienced this surprise and whether they have been able to recoup the tax from the government of the state in which they picked up the books. I looked at the state’s appropriate website and didn’t see much hope there.

    Also, I would prefer to have the books I stock in Canada produced here, but so far even with 14% exchange no printer I’ve used has come close to CS’s pricing for short runs (circa 100-200 books). Has anyone found a Canadian (BC, if possible) printer that comes close?

    Tom Hamel
    The Chartwell Press

  2. Melissa Oct 28, 2015

    Exactly what I was looking for. *Thank you*!

    • Write Along Radio Oct 28, 2015

      Good luck! It’s a bit outdated, Melissa – but a good start 🙂

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