CreateSpace, Blurb, & MagCloud - Which is the Best Print on Demand Service?
Are you a self-publishing author, want to print your photos in book form, or just want to make money with your creativity? If you answered yes, you're probably familiar with self-publishing and printing on demand.
For those who don't know, print on demand services allow you take an original work (art, writing, photographs, etc.) and design your own publication which is then sold by a particular provider (CreateSpace, Blurb, MagCloud). When someone comes across your publication, they order it, where it is then printed just for them and shipped to them.
While there are many print on demand services (more even than discussed here), this article will take a look at the pros and cons of each service, allowing you to choose the best one - depending on your motivations - for yourself. Let's begin.
CreateSpace is a great provider for print on demand services. They offer the production of not just books, but music as well as video publications. (This article will just explore the books).
Ultimately, CreateSpace is perhaps the easiest print on demand service to use. While other companies push the use of InDesign (a program many are unfamiliar with), CreateSpace pushes using Microsoft Word for designing your book. While you can use InDesign, the company does not offer much help in figuring out the proper sizing, nor does it provide an InDesign template for books (as Blurb and MagCloud do). For fiction and non-fiction books, CreateSpace is perfect.
While pictures can be used with CreateSpace, they are often difficult to implement, especially when using Word to design your book.
The other major plus of CreateSpace is that it is sister company of Amazon. When you publish your book with CreateSpace, it is sold by CreateSpace, but it can also be listed on Amazon.com - allowing you to reach immense audiences. One can also easily convert their PDF book into a Kindle file, to be sold by Amazon as an eBook.
The major downsides of CreateSpace are very few choices. Yes you can choose book size and paper type, but you are stuck with perfect binding, and only paperback. Also, if you have pictures, the quality is not the best (though far from bad). CreateSpace.com is also somewhat difficult to navigate, and when you have a problem, good luck in finding a help page about what to do.
In the end, CreateSpace is perfect for fiction and non-fiction writers looking to sell their books to large amounts of people. It is good for those who don't have the time or ability to really design their book according to their own creative needs.
Used heavily by photographers, Blurb is almost the opposite of CreateSpace in its abilities.
To begin, Blurb offers a heck of a lot more choice. Anything from book size, to various paper weights, to paper finishes, to covers (dust cover, image wrap) to hard and soft cover books.
Blurb also pushes the use of InDesign, offering those who know how to use it the ability truly design their book. And on top of that, you will find great help articles on any problem you might have.
Blurb is known for its ability to publish photos. Photos can be full page, or spreads, and the final quality and color is near exact to what's on your screen.
While there are fiction and non-fiction books on Blurb, most of the books are photography. This is where the downsides of Blurb arise.
Because of the amount of choice and worthwhile options, Blurb is very costly. A soft cover book of 200 pages will cost roughly $65 on Blurb, where it would cost roughly $15 on Amazon. This ultimately leaves less room for royalties.
Another downside is that, as a company for photographers, the Blurb eStore is nothing but photography (many of which are good, most of which are bad). The result? At such high prices, not many people will be buying your book. Not to mention, when was the last time you went to Blurb.com to buy a book? Virtually no one does, at least compared to Amazon.com.
In the end, if you're a serious photographer, Blurb is an excellent choice, although it is recommended that you market your book with your own website. If you are the type of person that frequently has problems with computers (computers + you = not good bedfellows), Blurb might present some difficulties.
If CreateSpace is one end of a spectrum, and Blurb is the other, MagCloud falls somewhere right in the middle.
Made for magazine type publications, MagCloud is perfect for clubs, families, and groups to keep up with each other through monthly or yearly publications.
The pros of MagCloud? First, the price. For the most part, you will pay around 20 cents a page. On top of that, you pay for the pages you have (unlike Blurb, which uses groups - i.e. $x for 100-200 pages, $y for 200-300 pages).
Like Blurb, MagCloud pushes the use of InDesign. Image quality and color prints great - a lot better than CreateSpace, but not as good as Blurb.
Whereas you have many choices with Blurb, and not many with CreateSpace, again, MagCloud falls in the middle. You have the option of paper, but you get staple-binding. And publication size is almost not an option.
Overall, if you're looking for a profit on pretty good quality photos, MagCloud is the way to go. But again, as with Blurb, who goes to MagCloud to buy books? Not many...
If you're a writer trying to make it (and some money), CreateSpace is the way to go. It's fairly cheap, you get a good chunk royalty, and it has the most visitors through Amazon.com. It's also easy to use for computer illiterate people.
If you're a good (and I stress the word GOOD) photographer, and you care about your published images, Blurb is the way to go. But expect to be paying quite a bit for you final book, both in time and money. And also expect to really be marketing your book. Skills in InDesign required.
If you're looking for a fun, laid back way to print images and few words for a small group of people at a low price, MagCloud is perfect. Some people are even using it to print 2 page poster spreads (not a bad idea).
Thus, it depends on your motive as to the best service. From personal experience, having use them all, here are the ratings based simply on service and making a profit:
Good luck and god speed.
Matthew Gordon is the author of & The Thin Blue Line: An In-Depth Look at the Policing Practices of the Los Angeles Police Department. To Live, To Think, To Hope - Inspirational Quotes by Helen Keller
© Matthew Gordon, 2011
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