Ever since I was very young, the idea of self-publishing was very
appealing. I recall thinking at around age 11 that everyone should be
able to publish "book(s)" even if the potential audience size for it
was very small. I was frustrated at the large and (at the time)
mysterious barriers in the way of someone publishing something. Since
then, the web has partially filled that niche. Anyone can publish
content to the entire world at very low cost and independent of the
size of the audience for that content. It's still not a book, though.
About two years ago, I researched various self-publishing options.
Several were around, and while the barrier to entry was dramatically
lower than traditional publishing, they were still a bit prohibitive.
Set-up fees in the ballpark of $500 were typical. If you have a book
that has an audience of a few hundred, this makes a lot of sense, but
if the audience is tens or fewer, that setup fee dwarfs the marginal
cost of the individual books. I gave up on the idea.
Earlier this year, I decided to give it another look and discovered href=http://www.lulu.com/>lulu.com. They were offering exactly
what I had always imagined: Zero up-front cost on-demand production of
books from a user-supplied PDF file with a real book binding at
a reasonable price, even for color printing. So, I decided to create
a test book. I created a 40 page photo book of a recent vacation and
had Lulu print it. The result is remarkable, with a couple notable qualifications.
I got a 41-page full color 8.5"x11" photo book with a real ("perfect
bind") book binding printed for under $16 including shipping. The
quality of the printing is outstanding. The paper is heavyweight, the
binding is professional and the photo quality is extremely high. The
photos are almost photographic print quality. In that regard, I'm extremely satisfied.
The qualifications, however, are several, but none overwhelming.
First, the book contained very little text, but much of it is simply
missing in the printed copy. In particular, the text that were in
their own seperate text boxes (I used iWork Pages for the layout)
didn't appear at all. Text that was simply on the page in the usual
way appeared fine. This is relatively avoidable in the future, but it
makes me somewhat nervous about what else might simply not appear.
The other qualifications are more in the vein of RTFM: Lulu
warns you that you should embed your fonts or use a standard font. I
didn't do either and while the text came out mostly fine a couple of
punctuation marks ended up a bit odd and the letters "fi" together
became a hyphen. I'll listen next time. Finally, for the covers,
they have very high resolution requirements. The picture I wanted to
use wasn't that high resolution, so I simply upsampled it. The
resulting cover actually looks fine, but it isn't quite as sharp as it
clearly could be.
Overall, highly recommended. I expect to do at least one more
(larger) project with them and will comment here on that experience.