Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lightning Source vs. CreateSpace vs. Lulu

Today, blogger/book designer Joel Friedlander said he recommends that his clients use either Lightning Source or CreateSpace for POD books. I agree with his recommendation, and I posted comments about the differences I've found using three printers. I think it makes sense to publish my comments here, too.

I've used LS for most of my book, but CS for two books when my cover artist was busy and I decided to apply my own limited artistry to CS cover templates. I've also used Lulu for printed proofs and for selling PDF eBooks.

A few differences among the companies:

(1) CreateSpace is extremely paranoid about potential copyright violation, and demanded that I show proof that I had permission to use every photograph in a book. I’ve never encountered this, or heard of this, with other printers, and it delayed publication of the book. Another time, CreateSpace did not question the photos, but rejected a book simply because it mentioned the name of corporate parent I complained publicly and got a quick apology. Apparently, the robot censor was hyperactive and needed to be recalibrated. LS and Lulu don't seem to care (or even notice) what you want printed.

(2) It can get very expensive making repeated changes with LS ($70 per proof).

(3) LS needs text submitted using Adobe Acrobat Distiller applied to a Postscript file, but CS and Lulu will accept "raw" PDFs.

(4) CS robots will point out lots of potential problems with an interior file -- many of which are not really problems. Responding to each one can wast lots of time.

(5) Even though CS may use LS to print books in its Expanded Distribution service, it has different requirements. CS rejected an interior bleed on two pages that were identical to bleeds that were acceptable to LS.

(6) File uploads to Lulu are much more likely to go nowhere than uploading to CS or LS, and it can take days to get the problem solved.

(7) Even if you pay for "fast" shipping of a proof from CS, it may not come any faster than if you did not pay extra -- and, unlike LS, no tracking number is provided.

(8) For normal publishing, Lulu's cost per book is MUCH higher than CS or LS. Lulu is inexpensive for proofing (even though it overcharges for shipping). I like to use a UPS Store for early proofs when I don't care about a bound book with a real cover. UPS proofs cost less than LS but more than CS or LL -- but are done in hours, not days. UPs proofs may give a false indication of a problem with a photo (e.g., a white background may be printed as gray), that turn our fine with LS or CS.

(9) Lulu's photo reproduction is better than CS or LS.

(10) These comments are based on my experience with about 20 books. As with most things in life, "your mileage may vary.


  1. I've certainly been happy with LS so far.

  2. As to the differences between CreateSpace and Lightning Source on verification of copyright issues, one thing to consider is that, for many of the books submitted to it, CreateSpace is not a printer, but is, in fact, the publisher of record. Lightning Source (to the best of my knowledge) never is.

    If someone prints Joe Litigator's photo in their book without permission, both the author and the publisher are going to get invited to court to explain themselves, but nobody's going to bother with the printer. So Lightning Source has a lot less reason to be concerned with what's in your book than CreateSpace.

    Bearing in mind, of course, that most of the interactions people think they're having with CreateSpace are actually with robots of various sorts, this easily explains CreateSpace's apparent paranoia, both about photos and about corporate names.

  3. Given how often I've read that Lulu costs more per book than CS or LS, I was surprised to find that for my 5.5 x 8.5" 280-p. novel, Lulu charges $6.69, vs CS @ $7.08.