One of the most successful presents this Christmas was five copies of the same book. Not just some kind of a book. Our daughter got five copies of the book she authored as a surprise. How can this happen ?
I was toying with an idea to try out self-publishing on-demand printing company that would allow you to create and publish book without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars as investment - sort of "pay as go" plan. The only way how to do it is create the the printable book yourself and find publisher that can do print on demand. Most companies that I found were selling packages in price segment $800 to few thousands of dollars, which included professional assistance in book creation: proofreading, editing, graphics design etc. One company however, offered exactly what I needed: a service that allows you to upload content file, design the cover and order as little as single copy - or as many as you need. No setup fees, publishing packages or minimum orders. See www.lulu.com for more detail. So we have decided to give it a try. It was an easy decision because manually printing the color pages and paying for binding would cost about 3 times more as was the price on Lulu.
You do not need any special software to create content - Microsoft Word document, RTF or PDF will do fine. If you upload DOC, Lulu converts it PDF for you and gives you a preview of the final product. Because the files can be big - sometimes too big for HTTP upload, Lulu offers FTP upload service.
I had no commercial intentions with the book, I just wanted to create a great gift. You can, however, decide that you want to publish for profit: Lulu gives you per-copy production cost, you set the price and from the difference, Lulu gets commission. You keep the copyright, you can decide whether the book is private (available only to you) or public - available to everybody. You can also for about hundred bucks purchase a distribution service - your book will get real ISBN and will be available for order from Amazon or Barnes&Noble and independent stores.
The on-demand printing takes about 10 business days for paperbacks, 15 days for hardcovers. We have received our books on time, despite the pre-Christmas volume. I have also exchanged few emails with technical support: their answers were fast professional and actually helpful - a quality not seen so often seen these days (hi there, Internet cable company, speaking of you).
The quality of the books is excellent. Very good printing, great color reproduction and good paper. It made perfect present, made our daughter very proud and me and my wife very happy. Highly recommended. In case you want to see the book, here it is. It is even available for ordering :-). Big thanks to Lulu for making it possible.
Disclaimer: I am in no form affiliated with the Lulu.com. I just liked the idea and enjoyed their great service.