Print-on-demand service providers

Our main format of distribution is pdf, but we also offer printed copies via print-on-demand service providers. In this post, I want to shed a bit of light on the factors which influence our choices in this domain.


The following four criteria are essential:

  1. can accommodate our format of 170mm x 240 mm
  2. listed in the German registry Verzeichnis lieferbarer Bücher
  3. world wide distribution
  4. good quality books with regard to layout and printing

The following other criteria are nice to have

  1. choice between softcover and hardcover
  2. use of own ISBNs
  3. no setup fee.


Our books are designed for the format 170mm x 240mm with regard to font-sizes, margins, spacing etc. Some print on demand service providers only offer A5 or A4. This would distort our books and is not an option

Verzeichnis lieferbarer Bücher

German libraries order their books via the VLB. If you want to sell your books to universities in Germany, you have to be listed in the VLB.

World-wide distribution

Germany alone won’t do it. We want our books to be available in every country in the world.


These three criteria already mean that we cannot rely on only one service provider. BOD books are listed in the VLB, and are technically shipped world-wide (#3), but not in the format we require (#1). We can either have our format or worldwide shipping. (It is not clear to me why that is). Epubli messes up our tables (#4). Createspace accommodates our format and has world-wide shipping, but is not linked to the VLB (#2). In order to satisfy all criteria, we have opted for a combination of two complementary service providers, BOD and Createspace. Given the further criterion of softcover and hardcover (#5), we make a virtue of necessity and offer both softcover and hardcover via different service providers. Hardcover books are provided via BOD and are listed in the VLB. Since this option targets libraries, hardcover is a sensible choice. World wide distribution is assured via Createspace, using the softcover version. Since softcover is cheaper than hardcover, consumers in lower income countries will appreciate this choice. The combinations “harcover & worldwide” and “softcover & VLB” are not available, but there is always the fallback option of the other format, which is better than no physical copy at all.

Availability of softcover versions in German bookstores

Provenance of downloads

Provenance of downloads

Some readers have complained that they cannot buy softcover versions in German bookstores and that they have to resort to Amazon for purchasing that version. Given the criticism of Amazon, this is something some people are not ready to do. We would be happy to work with other service providers which assure world wide distribution of our softcover books, but there are none to our knowledge. And next to readers in Germany, we also have readers in many other countries and we want them to be able to buy physical copies, too. This is why we have to rely on Amazon. Germans always have the option of buying the hardcover book, so buying softcover via Amazon is an alternative which can easily be avoided if desired. There is technically also the possibility of buying via CreateSpace Direct, but this is less comfortable, ships from the US, and CreateSpace is a daughter of Amazon.


5 thoughts on “Print-on-demand service providers

  1. German libraries order their books via the VLB

    Well, that’s not the whole truth. 🙂
    I am responsible for bying books for the modern philologies for a university library, and I rely primarily on the list of recent publications of the German and the British National Library (,,

    Since this option targets libraries, hardcover is a sensible choice

    Whenever possible, I buy the softcover/paperback edition of a book for our library, as it is less expensive.
    And I think most scientific books are not used that intensively that a hardcover edition would be appropriate because of its higher “durability”.

    • as I understand it, the DNB list is populated via the VLB “Alle an das VLB gemeldeten Titel werden automatisch von der MVB Marketing- und Verlagsservice des Buchhandels GmbH an die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek weitergeleitet” (“all titles registered with the VLB are auomatically transferred to the DNB by the MVB”). Our pdfs are made available directly to the DNB for archiving, but this will not make the hard copies show up in the catalog of books to buy.

      As for libraries buying softcover, we are not opposed ;). The question is whether university libraries can buy a softcover book via Amazon, bypassing the traditional supply chain. We would like both libraries and people in Indonesia to buy our softcover books, but it is currently unclear to us how this can be accomplished.

      • the DNB list is populated via the VLB

        Yep, that’s true, except for the Reihe B which lists publications “außerhalb des Verlagsbuchhandels”.

        The question is whether university libraries can buy a softcover book via Amazon, bypassing the traditional supply chain.

        Yes, this might be a problem.

        Perhaps it could be worth talking to pubishing houses like M&V ( who also act as print on demand service providers, offering different formats and bindings and international shipping.

        • Thanks for the suggestion. I just checked their site and their “Starterpaket Print” comes at 99 EUR. CreateSpace charges 0 EUR. Would that be worthwhile?

          • I think the normal packages would not apply, as you do the typesetting etc. on your own.
            I would ask if they offer special conditions for your individual needs.

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