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What is Lulu?

Lulu Press, Inc. (Lulu.com) is a U.S. based print on demand printer and book distributor for electronic books, print books, and calendars. It is used by self-published authors and small presses.

 

Is it a ‘vanity press’? No. Lulu press, Inc. is a legitimate provider of services to small presses and self-published authors.

 

Is it cost effective to publish with Lulu? That depends. Their pricing model is based on the size of the book and volume of the order. Like other PODs, the printing cost per book is calculated on a minimum base rate plus a cost per page. So, with equal trim sizes, a 325 page book will cost more to print than a 300 page book. As the author/publisher, you can order copies for yourself to slog around stores and book events with to sell face-to-face. Like Amazon KDP, they charge a reduced publisher rate to you. You are not paying the retail rate you set for copies of your own book. Lulu does have bulk order discounts. They are more expensive than Amazon KDP for your printing cost per book if you are ordering smaller  print runs, but the good news is a search of those fabulous online click-bait coupon sites will probably produce a coupon code to reduce the cost. Comparing costs of Amazon KDP to Lulu, I only order books through Lulu if I have a coupon code. Otherwise, with shipping, the higher cost would eat up most of my small profit margin on face-to-face sales. (I use Couponfollow.com).

 

What does it cost to upload my book to Lulu?  Nothing. Like other POD and distribution companies, they do have service packages you can buy if you want someone to do the work for you. I’ve seen mixed reviews on these. But if you do the work yourself, there is no cost to upload your books to Lulu.

 

But I want to buy Canadian and/or publish Canadian. Lulu is a U.S. company. However, being in Canada you would be going through the Lulu Canada store. Those books are printed in a facility in Ontario, Canada.

 

Does Lulu distribute the books to brick and mortar stores? Yes and no. Your book (eBook or POD print) must meet all of the distribution requirements in order to be available for sale beyond the Lulu online marketplace. This includes being one of the eligible trim sizes. If it’s available only on the Lulu marketplace then people can buy your book only through the Lulu site.

 

Why is my Lulu book only available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and not in any brick and mortar book stores? Because, under Lulu’s globalREACH program, you met the distribution requirements for those two online stores. Maybe you did not meet all the requirements for the global distribution program, leaving you with limited distribution. Also, globalREACH creates a listing with the Ingram Book Company, making it available to book stores to order it. But then it’s up to the book stores to actually order it. There is no guarantee they will and Ingram’s catalog is massive.

 

Photo by Webaroo.com.au on Unsplash

Photo by Webaroo.com.au on Unsplash

Do I need an ISBN to publish with Lulu? Yes. Lucky for us, ISBNs are free in Canada and easy to get. You also need a different ISBN for each copy of your book. I.e.) you need a different ISBN for the book published through Lulu from the book uploaded and published through Amazon KDP (Amazon will provide ISBNs, Lulu does not).

 

Can I just upload my Amazon KDP book and cover files to Lulu?  No. While your trim size and page count don’t change, the dimensions of your book spine will. You will need to redo the cover. This is because Lulu uses a lighter weight gauge of paper (thinner paper), so trim and page count being the same, your book will be thinner.

 

How is the quality of Lulu print books?  I’ve heard mixed reviews. As with any POD printer, there can be variations from batch to batch. After all, they are completely resetting the printer for every print batch run for every customer. Some swear by their quality. Some have reported issues with the spine glue in the heat. I found covers that are lighter with more colors work better, but mostly black glossy covers did not hold up to minimal handling. The cover finish on black glossy covers rubbed off, marked easily, and chipped just transporting them carefully packed to and from book events, leaving the books unsellable. Amazon KDP books stand up better to transporting them to sales with the dark glossy covers.

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Photo by Aliis Sinisalu on Unsplash

Starting November 1st a number of large libraries in the US have begun boycotting Macmillan Publishers, suspending all electronic book purchases from them. The same day was the start of Macmillan’s library embargo, the limitation of public libraries and consortium to the purchase of a single copy of new e-book releases for eight weeks from the date of publication.

 

Libraries, in collaboration with partners in the Digital Downloads Collaboration, are fighting back against this limiting of access to a segment of society that may rely on libraries for access to literature in all its forms.

 

In an open letter, Macmillan’s CEO John Sargent said that a surge in e-book borrowing circumvents the assumed obstacles to free access to library books, ie transportation to and from the library and the requirement to physically return the book. Apparently he feels the digital age of e-borrows threatens the economic value of the books they invest in by making them more easily available to those who borrow them at no charge. In what could perhaps be categorized as an attempt to offset this restriction, Macmillan sells libraries perpetual access to the e-books they purchase and cut the price to libraries.

 

Publishing a book is not a costless undertaking by any means, so minimizing losses will be on every publisher’s to-do list. Meanwhile, libraries and their like are in the business of making books accessible at no or minimal cost to their members. Two sides with opposite takes on the situation who have not yet come to an agreement both are happy with.

 

Looking from the outside in are the writers, who naturally want to be paid for their blood, sweat, tears, and very souls they put into writing those books, and those who do rely on libraries for access to literary enrichment they cannot afford to buy at retail prices.

 

We are yet to see how this standoff will play out.

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