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:
- can accommodate our format of 170mm x 240 mm
- listed in the German registry Verzeichnis lieferbarer Bücher
- world wide distribution
- good quality books with regard to layout and printing
The following other criteria are nice to have
- choice between softcover and hardcover
- use of own ISBNs
- 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.
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
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.