• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

Amazon's Createspace versus Lulu

Spellslinging Sellsword

Registered User
Validated User
I haven't seen any mention of this on the boards, so I thought that I'd start a post about it. It seems that Amazon is trying to get the business that Lulu currently has.

Here's the official site:

http://www.createspace.com/

Publishers Weekly has two articles about the new business:

Article by Rachel Deahl from 8/10/2007

Article by Jim Milliot from 9/10/2007

Createspace's book pricing example uses a 100 page B&W soft cover book with a MSRP of $25. Of the $25 charged to the customer, $12.35 would pass on to an author and Amazon would get $12.65 for the printing fee and share of royalties. With Lulu, if you sell the book through their market place for $21.97, then your profit would equal the profit you get on Amazon (i.e. it would be $12.35) and Lulu would get $9.62 for the printing fee and share of the royalties. Although the consumer would pay less at Lulu for the book, they'd have to pay shipping which would be free from Amazon because the book hits the $25 Super Saver minimum.

One of the things that makes this attractive is you get to sell through Amazon's website which has a much more functional search engine and better listing than Lulu's site. The pricing and ease of publishing seems to be on par with Lulu for soft covers, but I couldn't find a way to do hard covers at Createspace. Large full color books also seem to be out. Customers who have an Amazon Prime membership can use it to order books printed through Createspace. As someone who has used Amazon Prime for the last 12 months, that is a nice perk. Essentially the customer can buy POD titles with free 2 day shipping.
 

Avaenuha

Master of Procrastination
Man, this seems totally awesome if it's all above-board with expenses and whatnot...

Hey - nice:
Do I need to purchase an ISBN?

No. If you do not already own an ISBN, we’ll automatically assign one to your book. There is no additional charge for the assignment of an ISBN to your book.
I have an ISBN for my book; can I use it?

Yes. If you have an ISBN that you purchased from R.R. Bowker or the International ISBN agency specifically for this book, you may use it in publishing your book through our tool. Please note that you will be required to also enter an imprint (or publisher) name and that we will verify the ownership and authenticity of the ISBN you enter.
Nice change from Lulu's "please pay us craploads of money to have an ISBN we assign entered in the databases...."

It seems to have less format options than Lulu (eg, it's all perfect-bound trade paperback, with five to seven trim options, and some fairly generous page-count limits (although full-colour maxes out at 100 pages, unfortunately) so it won't handle people's stranger publications, perhaps, but it still seems to be a good deal - especially when you consider that Amazon runs a program where publishers have access to a list of the top-selling self-published authors, so you get double the exposure, if you're doing well.
 
Last edited:

Matt-M-McElroy

What Are You Afraid Of?
Validated User
There has been some talk about this on a couple of forums and blogs.

Naturally at the moment I cannot locate any of the threads...

If I happen to locate them I'll post the links.

Basically, some small press folks like what they offer, others don't.

Regards,

Matt
 

Akyna

The Gray Witch of Bellmaw
I currently use both services.

If your only concern is getting listed on Amazon, and you have all of the tools to create print ready materials yourself, then Createspace is the better choice. Keep in mind that the ISBNs are not "true" ISBNs. They are not listed in Books in Print. As it was explained to me by a sales rep for Createspace, the company simply bought huge bulk ISBN numbers and recycles them. So if someone deactivates a product, that ISBN will be reassigned to a different project. However, since ISBNs aren't a big issue for RPGs anyway, it's only a minor concern. Also, the books are ONLY available on Amazon.com, not the other sites.

They are working on adding new sizes, but it will be some time before there are 8 1/2 x 11 size available.

The quality is not quite as good as Lulu's, however. Createspace uses Booksurge to handle it's printing. B&W art on white pages sometimes looks washed out or photocopied. The result looks much better on the creme paper (which they only added after getting several complaints, BTW). Also, the covers tend to be slightly darker. Most casual customers won't notice the difference, but some will. The darker covers can impact the look of certain colors, particularly pastels. So you need to be careful.

There were some early problems with inconsistent cutting, but those seem to have been resolved. At one point, the Createspace books were being cut too small. Again, the casual customer probably wouldn't have noticed, but when compared to LSI or Lulu copies it was obvious.

If you want greater distribution, however, Lulu is the better choice. Lulu's Publish By You program is only $50 if you are in the U.S., and that includes an ISBN in your name (which means it's portable and you can use it with multiple printers) and listing in Books in Print and on all the online retailers. If you aren't techno-savvy, Lulu also has tools to convert your files into PDFs and help you design your covers to the right size. Lulu also has more size options.
 

madelf

Stubborn as a Dwarf
As it was explained to me by a sales rep for Createspace, the company simply bought huge bulk ISBN numbers and recycles them. So if someone deactivates a product, that ISBN will be reassigned to a different project.
I hope to hell the rep explained that wrong.

If it's just some sort of internal Amazon inventory number, great. If not, they're using ISBNs in a way they aren't supposed to be used. ISBNs are supposed to be permanently attached to a book (specifically to indentify that unique book), not "recycled."
 

Akyna

The Gray Witch of Bellmaw
I hope to hell the rep explained that wrong.

If it's just some sort of internal Amazon inventory number, great. If not, they're using ISBNs in a way they aren't supposed to be used. ISBNs are supposed to be permanently attached to a book (specifically to indentify that unique book), not "recycled."
No, it was not explained wrong. The ISBNs are NOT listed in Books in Print. I actually asked the question point blank in YES or NO format because he was trying very hard to wiggle around it. The flag for me was that they allow you to upload changes and updates as often as you want without a revision fee. This can't be done if the ISBNs are registered. Generally, if you create a new version of a book, it requires either a revision in Books in Print OR an entirely new ISBN, depending on the extent of the changes. So the fact that they allow you to make major changes to a book and keep the same ISBN was suspect to begin with.

I asked how that was possible if the books were listed in Books in Print? He hemmed and hawed and rambled until I asked it in yes or no format. I then asked how they can afford to give away ISBNs like that. Even if you buy them in huge bulk, they still cost money, and you are giving them away to any Joe Schmo who wants a "real" book. Again, after hemming around the issue, I asked point blank and he confirmed my suspicion.

If it was an internal Amazon number, they could not legally promote it as an ISBN. They are buying ISBNs in bulk from Bowkers. But they are not registering them to specific books.
 

madelf

Stubborn as a Dwarf
No, it was not explained wrong.
--remainder snipped--
Then, IMO, they're playing iffy legal games and I wouldn't touch their printing service with a ten foot pole (at least not without contacting Bowkers to see what their take on these antics is).

Edit:
Thinking about this, it kind of seems like they're just using numbers corresponding to ISBNs as an internal inventory number. Even if they're using numbers which were originally purchased as ISBNs, if they're unregistered they really aren't ISBNs in any meaningful way. The book essentially doesn't exist outside of Amazon, it doesn't identify the book as a unique publication, and it's really nothing but a way for Amazon to identify a given book in their database, so they can keep track of what they're printing. About all using an ISBN for the purpose does is insure that some internal number they assign doesn't potentially conflict with a book that has a proper ISBN and mess up their database.

Maybe on that basis, they can get around things by not ever registering the ISBNs, but it still seems awfully fishy to me.
 
Last edited:

Spellslinging Sellsword

Registered User
Validated User
Reusing ISBNs does sound like a questionable business practice. Since Amazon only took over fairly recently, I think it may take some time before the operation is running full speed enough to be a direct challenge to Lulu.
 

Avaenuha

Master of Procrastination
Okay - slightly less excited with their reusable ISBN policy there, but I can see a fairly simple workaround, if an actual ISBN is really important to you (and a way that you can even make Amazon's system work to your advantage):

Notice Amazon, unlike Lulu*, are quite happy for you to put your own ISBN in there (because, as stated, they're not going to do anything with it anyway). This means you can purchase and register an ISBN yourself (a very simple process, not that expensive, especially if you grab several in bulk, although note that there's usually a charge to set up a new publisher-name) and then use that ISBN.

So, your book is now registered, it's listed on Amazon with no extra effort of yours, and if you really need to, you can quietly make minor revisions to the text without paying the $70 alteration fee - no one will actually know or care that you do, because it's POD, and your printer isnt' the one registering it. As long as the actual book remains the same, no one would even notice.

Admittedly, it's still not going to be distributed. But that's not really any different from Lulu - just because your book's in the catalogue doesn't mean anyone's going to display, order or carry it. And Lulu makes you pay quite a high price for that listing.

So... I think once Amazon work out the kinks in their printing (quality, as someone already mentioned, and broadening their print options - I'd really like to see at least hardcover, if not spiral coil, and more than 100 colour pages.) they'd be decent competition.

*Yes I know Lulu technically allow your own ISBN, but last time I checked, there were a whole bunch of things you couldn't do if you wanted to use your ISBN instead of theirs. Though this may just be for internationals.

A question though, as I'm so far unable to get a response from their sales dept - anyone know if their CD's and DVD's can do anything other than music and video? I have software I want to sell via DVD/CD. Now, I don't see any reason for them to limit themselves (Lulu, for example, doesn't care what you put on the CD's) but nor can I see any kind of option or implication that they do anything but music and vid. Anyone know?
 

Destriarch

Sane Studios
Validated User
This reusable ISBN fiasco sounds a bit dodgy to me, but I think I can see how they're getting around legal problems. The numbers belong to them but are not registered with the agency to identify to a specific book, so registering them in the first place was purely a means of making sure the ISBNs were not duplicated. Now they can use those numbers as internal inventory numbers on Amazon, but they can also program their search engine to treat them in exactly the same manner as ISBN numbers. The end result is that an ISBN search on Amazon would find the book, but nobody else would find any details at all. You're quite right in saying that this would make it not an ISBN. The whole point of the ISBN is to make it possible for anyone with access to the ISBN database to get information about the book in question, even if that information is only that it is out of print.

Ash
 
Top Bottom