When I began my publishing company, Silver Sands Books, in 2008 I used Lightning Source to print and distribute my books. I also tried Lulu.
For the last dozen books I've used Amazon's CreateSpace subsidiary (now called KDP) to print and distribute. It does good work, quickly, with no upfront cost and good tech support when needed.
Every author needs copies of books, for error-checking, gift-giving, reviews and just keeping around.
As the book's publisher, I earn a royalty of $5.96 per book, lowering my delivered cost to just $9.94 if I buy a book at "retail" from Amazon.
Naturally, I could order a book "wholesale" directly from KDP. My direct price per book is a very reasonable $3.01, but shipping and handling add $11.18 for one book, and sales tax is 90 cents, for a total of $15.09. That is significantly more than ordering from Amazon with a royalty.
Strangely, KDP does not seem to offer quantity discounts. Prices for one, 100 and 500 books are the same $3.01 each, but the shipping cost per copy goes down to just 82 cents each for 500 ($409.99 for 500). Total is $1,914.99.
- BookBaby charges $2,551.04 for 500 180-page 6-by-9-inch books including shipping.
- Steuben Press wants just $ 987.49 (plus shipping).
- 48hr Books charges $2,231 plus $280.21 for shipping to me here in Connecticut.
- Lightning Source's price is $1,983.90, delivered.
- Whitehall Printing Co. charges about $3,100 plus shipping.
- The Book Patch wants $1,938.75 plus shipping.
[I apologize for any errors above.]