Every book I have self-published has been either print-on-demand or a Kindle or Nook ebook. I have no experience with off-set printing and the challenges of distribution using that approach to having a book printed.
A question e-mailed to me by an author who plans to self-publish made me think about the requirements of self-publishing using an off-set press run. Part of the argument for using print-on-demand is the pluses of not having to pay for a press run, store the books, ship the books and all of the assorted costs involved in that approach. Yes, the cost per copy is higher, but you have none of the other costs associated with the traditional approach to printing, both in terms of actual cost and time and labor.
So much is made of this part of the business model of print-on-demand that I think many authors have overlooked a key element of the model, distribution. I know I take for granted my books will magically appear on Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble and Barnes & Noble Nook. Were it not for the distribution systems and networks of CreateSpace and Lightning Source, this would not be possible.
The author whose question triggered this thought process wanted to take advantage of the lower cost per copy of an off-set press run and wanted to learn how to gain access to distribution networks other than Amazon Advantage. I realized I have no idea of how to do this without the aid of CreateSpace or Lightning Source who simply provide this service as part of the overall package. I don't intend to learn how either. There are plenty of other things I have to master to be a success as a self-publisher.
Self-publishers have it good right now. Yes, there are big hurdles to overcome still to be financially successful but the availability of print-on-demand WITH distribution provides access to readers never before available.