After the publication of my book last week I've had a number of questions about how I went about getting it published. I'm using a print on demand service - therefore the book is only printed when ordered and no stock is held. This is great for smaller projects such as my Travel Photography book however the print cost per copy is higher as you cannot benefit from economies of scale. There are two major players in the print on demand market, Lulu and Blurb.
Lulu offers a number of print on demand products including books, calendars, photo books and cook books. What Lulu provided over Blurb was a free ISBN number meaning that people could buy your book through shops such as Waterstones, WH Smiths and Amazon.
My problems with Lulu started when trying to upload my book. I had designed it using Apple's Pages application however Lulu did not support PDF's created this way (as far as I'm aware Lulu won't accept any PDF's created through Quartz based applications - even if the PDF is created through Adobe's Acrobat distiller, it is something to do with the way fonts are embedded into the PDF). I ended up uploading a 1.8 gig postscript file rather than a 300mb PDF to be able to print through Lulu.
When the proof arrived the print quality was poor, some parts were my fault for not adding images at a high enough resolution however ultimately it looked like it had been printed through an ink jet printer on the draft settings. Lulu do have another service just for photo book printing however this was a lot more expensive.
I was originally recommended Blurb over Lulu because of the print quality issues however the extra options (such as an ISBN number) provided by Lulu were enough to convince me to try them first. Blurb have created their own book creation software called Book Smart however there was no easy way to import between Apple's Pages and Book Smart so I ended up recreating the book using this software. This was good in many ways as it solved many of the resolution/DPI issues I had with Lulu. Book Smart also handles all of the conversion/uploading when it comes to publishing the book.
Blurb like Lulu allows you to set your own price for selling a book however they offer no free ISBN number and no way to sell your book as an eBook. Annoyingly there is no way to print from Book Smart without Blurbs 'this is a proof copy' message all over the PDF. Therefore for the eBook version I sell on ImAFish I've had to go back to my original copy created in Apple's Pages.
Prices between Lulu and Blurb are very similar, my book costs almost the same between Lulu and Blurb (though the Blurb book is a couple of cm smaller). Both allow for sales in UK Pounds, Euros and US Dollars and ship worldwide.
If you are creating a text heavy book such as a novel then Lulu's extra features such as an ISBN number are a clear winner. If you are creating a portfolio or photography book then Blurb's superior print quality is much better however if you are like me stuck in the middle between creating a photo heavy based book targeted at a wide audience then its a simple decision between quality and audience - I chose quality.