Friday, January 29, 2010

Amazon's CreateSpace Compared To Lightning Source As A POD Printer - Updated May 18, 2011!

Amazon owns CreateSpace and has merged its author services company, BookSurge, with CreateSpace.  You can use CreateSpace as a POD printer to self-publish by purchasing your own ISBN, uploading your interior and cover files after opening an account, paying your $39 Pro Plan fee (optional but the benefits of paying the fee are so large it is silly not to) ordering and approving your proof copy and viola, your book will appear on or you can order copies for yourself. CreateSpace also acts as a book distributor in a limited sense for self-publishers with distribution to online retailers and Barnes & and for those who take advantage of the Expanded Distribution Service, bookstores.

Many authors have become self-publishers by purchasing their own ISBN, preparing the files for their book and using Lightning Source Incorporated, a POD printer owned by the book distributor Ingram, to print and distribute their books. The fee to take advantage of LSI's services is $70 plus a $30 proof copy fee.

Which company is better to use for an author who desires to self-publish? The answer to that question is it depends.  Both companies have similar advantages such as distribution, POD printing and access to Amazon and other online retailers. Both allow the author to be the publisher and keep more of the profit from each book sold than in a traditional trade publishing business model.
Setting aside the initial cost to set up the book title, the difference between the two companies lies in cost. The cost per copy for a book printed by CreateSpace is lower than that of a book printed by LSI. The difference in cost is not great but at about .20 to .30 cents a book for a book over 200 pages in length, this fairly small difference can add up if the book sells.

LSI has two different levels of pricing, one for books sold wholesale for distribution and a slightly higher price for copies sold to the author for resale.  This becomes an issue of the primary source of sales of the book is direct sales by the author as the author's costs per copy are higher with LSI than with CreateSpace.

LSI's advantage is it allows the author to set the discount, the amount of the price taken off the list price that the retailer must have in order to make a profit. The normal discount is 55% to 40%.  LSI allows authors to "short discount," setting a discount as low as 25%, allowing the publisher to keep a significantly greater portion of the profits from the sale of the book.

CreateSpace does not allow authors to determine the discount granted to the retailers.  Authors who use CreateSpace must grant the retailer, almost always Amazon, a 40% discount.  For authors who take advantage of the Expanded Distribution Service, the discount is even higher for books sold in book stores.

Both companies have advantages and disadvantages.  The key for the author is to determine in advance where the majority of the sales will come from.  If most of the sales of the book will come from Amazon or other online retailers, it makes sense to use LSI.  If the bulk of the sales will be direct or through a variety of means that involve the author purchasing copies and then reselling the books, CreateSpace is probably a better choice.

UPDATE! For authors considering using either CreateSpace or Lightning Source and struggling to decide which company best meets their publishing needs, I have a new concise book comparing the two companies.  As much pertinent information as I could gather has been collected and organized to help authors planning to use print-on-demand for printing and distribution to select of the two companies.

The title of the book is Selecting a Print-on-Demand Company: Comparing CreateSpace and Lightning Source for POD Self-Publishing. It is available now as a print book on Amazon for $6.95.