Why Createspace Is Better Than Lightning Source

This post, by Robin Sullivan, originally appeared on her Write to Publish blog on 2/13/11.

I promised this would be my next blog post and since I have others I want to get to it’s time to do this one. Let me start by saying that I was Lightning Source’s biggest cheerleader. When they came onto the scene they literally changed overnight the ability for an author to get a printed book at a reasonable price and for that I’ll be forever grateful. But…business is business and CreateSpace has one up’ed Lightning Source…I’m sorry my friend but I have to align with what will make the most money for my business.

For those that don’t know these are the two big players in the POD (print on demand business). They work similarly in that they are not publishers they are printers/distributors. They take your book and put it in dead tree formats. Both offer extensive services such as editing, layout, and cover design but you should NEVER purchase these services from either organization (You can get it better and cheaper elsewhere – sigh…another topic for another day). So for the sake of this post we’re going to talk about what you SHOULD use them for.

  • Producing high quality printed books
  • Distributing printing books.

Let’s first talk about the quality. They are nearly indistinguishable. (I suspect they are using the same equipment). The covers and interiors come out as good as any book you’ll find in a bookstore. Yes the covers are done with laser “toner” rather than “cymk” ink but unless you have a printer’s loop you’ll not notice. If none of my previous sentence made any sense to you, don’t worry – it just says that the quality is very good for both and you should not be concerned.

One difference….CS (CreateSpace from here on) uses a slightly thicker paper which I like marginally better. It’s not that big of a deal but gives a “slight” nod to CS on a point that is not very important in the grand scheme of things.

Another point that should be made…especially by people who publish through the likes of iUniverse and Xlibris etc. These companies use CS and LS for their printing. In the past I believe most of the big publishers used LS but I’m sure they “shop this around” frequently and I can’t say for sure who they use now but I’d lay dollars to donuts that it is one or the other of these two companies.

DISTRIBUTION – Lighting Source
The one very attractive thing that LS (Lightning Source from here on) has over CS is they are associated with Ingram. For those that don’t know this is the elephant in the publishing industry supplying the majority of the books to major bookstore chains. (Bookstores don’t want to write 10,000 checks to 10,000 publishers – the publishers all use Ingram and the bookstores write one check to one source). The whole reason I went with them is by being in the Ingram channel your books can be in any bookstore. A great “theory” but doesn’t really translate in practice. Being distributed through Ingram doesn’t mean store shelf space it means the “ability” to buy the book (How distributors work with book stores is again a whole new subject too big to get into today – another topic on the TBW (to be written) pile.)

Since I can’t get into the nitty-gritty details of distribution let’s just say that being in Ingram means that if someone walks into a store…doesn’t find the book on the shelf…they can go to the information desk and order it. That’s how it should work but it doesn’t always. Being POD has some issues in that the “payment” needs to be made at time of purchase and in general most bookstores pay after the fact – (or in the case of Borders not at all – but again a topic for another day — sigh) sometimes 60 – 120 days later. Again…in theory…if the person at the information desk is wiling to pay now and pickup later then they MIGHT be able to get the book this way but in my experience most stores say “we can’t order POD books”.

All this is a long way of saying being in Ingram should make it easy for your books to be purchased with bookstores but my testing has shown that this is not really true.


Read the rest of the post on Robin Sullivan‘s Write to Publish blog, and for an opposing viewpoint, see this rebuttal from Zoe Winters.