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POD Printers: Lightning Source vs. Textstream

Updated on October 7, 2010

Choosing the Right POD Printer

Print-on-demand or POD technology is changing the publishing world. As more publishers look to POD as a way to reduce overhead and fill niche markets, two companies, Baker and Taylor's Textstream and Ingram's Lightning Source are positioned to be the major players in this emerging business. While Textstream and Lightning Source offer a similar end product–they print books–they are very different companies.

Lightning Source has invested huge amounts of money into their POD business and the investment shows. They have a web interface that is user-friendly and informative. All instructions are easy to read, easy to find, and have the backing of ample customer support staff. That is not say that they will walk an inexperienced publisher through every step, but they will answer questions related to their business promptly.

Textstream, on the other hand, has a tangle of instructive documents that are not entirely clear. They have no web interface for publishers, relying on a simple FTP site to upload books and email to add metadata. Their staff seems to be an army of one, and their response time reflects that they are understaffed, overwhelmed.

Why would anyone use Textstream, then? They offer two advantages. One, they have lower prices. On almost all print options, they beat Lightning Source both in base cost and per page. Also, they offer paper qualities and sizes not offered by Lightning Source.

Finally, Lightning Source adds a control page to the end of books. This page is a check on their systems and contains a bar code. If you do not want to appear to be a POD publisher, but still use POD technology, you won't be able to hide the Lightning Source control page.

In short, if you want the best price and have lots of time and patience, you might choose Textstream. But if speed and facility are your top priorities, Lightning Source cannot be beat. Now, we wait and see if Textstream improves their services.


Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    8 years ago from Chicago IL

    Thanks for the clarification, Aaron! I have your Aiming at Amazon and Perfect Pages.

  • Woodson profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Minnesota

    Great point. Thanks for the addition. I'll add a link to your book.

  • profile image

    Aaron Shepard 

    8 years ago

    I'm afraid this article misses the most important distinction between the two companies: distribution. Lightning Source's books are automatically carried by Amazon,, and just about every other online bookseller. TextStream's are not. With TextStream, you have to handle all that yourself.

    For a full discussion of Lightning Source, you might want to see the book I've written about working with that company, "POD for Profit."


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