How To Select A Printer For Your Book – Amazon Createspace v Ingram Spark v Traditional Printer

The digital delusion book by doyle buehlerOver the last… 2 years or so, if you haven’t known me, I’ve been writing a book. Yes, a real, actual book. No, not an “ebook”; I’ve written some of those and they don’t always seem real enough. For me, there is nothing nicer than actually picking up and holding a book in your hands. Call me old-fashioned, but something about a book, that makes it really worthwhile to put on you shelf. But yes, I digress.

This blog post is simply about some of my experiences in getting the book actually printed. I’ll leave t he writing and other stories for another post.

What I found was that there really is quite a large difference in the quality of printing and a number of other factors, based on what printer you select.

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The 3 printer tests. L-R: Griffith Press (Australia), Createspace, Ingram Spark. Note the full colour printed proof in the background.

Hopefully I have captured most of the details here. Please email me or comment below if you have had a similar or completely different experience as an author.

I ran my comparison between an Australian traditional printer – Griffith Press from South Australia, as well as Createspace, which is the print on demand printer for Amazon, and finally Ingram Spark or Lightning Source, which is another print on demand (or POD) printer service.

Here’s a quick video summary that talks about all of the basic characteristics that I encountered throughout this printing process.

Generally speaking, there is a lot to be said about traditional book printing. The quality is exceptional compared to the print on demand versions.

Here is some key criteria that you can look for:

  1. Colour – compare the true colours of what you are expecting, to what is delivered. Ideally it should match a colour-matched proof. Whatever you do, don’t compare it to what you see on your screen. This is another course unto itself, but they are completely different.
  2. Clarity & resolution – compare how clear the cover is. Look for breakdown in the sharpness of the images and title blocks.
  3. Weight – yes, this matters when you are delivering across the country or around the world. Most countries have a cut-off at 500grams, or just over 1 pound. My book is 202 pages, and weighed signifucantly different depending on what printer was used. Createspace was 75 grams heavier than the traditional book printing.
  4. Paper type – cream colour gives the better visual style that most readers expect. White is nice, but cream is better for the eyes. You can of course order full white for all printing types. That said, there are obviously differences in the actual colour of ‘cream’ between all of the printers.
  5. Book size – the print on demand versions need to be a very specific size. There are some variations, but they are slight. Ingram Spark seems to have a broader range of template sizes to work with. I went with a standard 6″ x 9″.
  6. Spine Thickness – yes, this is all about size. Keep in mind that the spine thickness will also dictate how you ship them. If they are too thick, then you will get charged more at the post office (that is of course if you decide to ship them yourselves, and not use a print on demand service)
  7. Cost – cost is key. Keep in mind that print on demand allows you the flexibility to print one at a time. This is absolutely brilliant for small authors and publishers, so that you don’t have to fill a garage with books. Whether you order 1 or 1000, the price with print-on-demand is usually pretty similar (mine was $3.50-$4.60) – and the cost is always the same regardless of the quantity with POD (there are no “efficiencies” with print on demand). With traditional printers you will pay much less from 1 copy compared to 1000+ (but you would probably pay several hundred dollars for the 1st copy).

Print on demand is a wonderful technology. It literally took Createspace about 2 hours to send me the notice that they had printed my book and was shipping it out to me. Ingram Spark was about 1 day, which is still pretty good. Add in shipping time of 4-5 days, and it is a great service – and is completely hands-off.

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The differences in paper colour and thicknesses. Top to Bottom – Ingram Spark, Createspace, Griffith Press.

The major advantage as well with print on demand versions is that you can ship them all around the world, and they are printed and shipped from the region closest to the purchaser. Both createspace and Ingram Spark can print your book in the region that you are delivering it to – US/Canada, Australia, Europe.  You can then use this to your advantage, as you can ship a single copy or a bulk purchase to a single point. In a lot of cases, it will be cheaper to send a single copy or bulk order of your book around the world, whether it is to an editor, distributor or customer, through a print on demand service, as opposed to printing and shipping from your location.

Of course the “ease” of printing far outweighs the complexity of setting up the files for the print on demand services. It took quite a lot of revisions to get it right.

Of course, the key advantage to using a print on demand service is that it can be viewed and sold from around the world as well – through Amazon for Createspace, and other online retailers and distributors for Ingram Spark. This is where the true capabilities are noticeable. Amazon is huge, and has a huge audience that you can tap in to.

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Spine thickness and alignment. The alignment was the best with Griffith Press (left). Createspace was a little “out” of alignment (centre), followed by Ingram Spark with the spine being noticeably out of alignment, with too much overlap (right).

Hopefully this has been helpful. Please let me know what you think, and whether or not you have had similar experiences. If you are just getting started, please feel to ask any question as well.

Want to get a copy of it yourself? Click here to get your copy of The Digital Delusion – How to overcome the misinformation and misguidance of online. And yes, you can purchase the print on demand version. Or, get a surprise!

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