thoughts on Lulu vs Lightning Source

Started by reason, August 05, 2009, 05:57:48 PM

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Publishing The Later Tome of Amaxathroth the Cursed is as much a learning endeavor as anything else. Learn layout, learn the PDF culture, learn POD, learn printing culture. So here are some brief thoughts on two destinations for printing, Lulu versus Lightning Source.

On tools, I started from the perspective of writing in Word, image work in GIMP, and layout and PDF creation in Scribus. To finish up with Lightning Source I need to move to Adobe Acrobat for final PDF creation (I can move documents from Scribus to EPS, and then convert those to PDF via Acrobat). Investing in InDesign really doesn't seem worth it, for all that it makes one step much easier with Lightning Source.


- signing up for an account is instant
- they work on RGB-based colors, so people who don't want to figure out (or are completely ignorant of) color spaces in printing can breeze through with the images generated by default that look good on their screen.
- Lulu's visualization tools make it a breeze to build covers and get the thing assembled, etc. The WYSIWYG nature of the system means you can learn by experimentation what works and what doesn't.
- The only thing you have to do yourself is add the ISBN/EAN barcode to the cover under some circumstances, and there are tools online that generate these images for you.
- Once you're done, it's done and available to sell. It took me about an hour to put a layed-out book on Lulu, and of that time, 15 minutes was wrestling with uploads, and 35 minutes revising the bleed on the cover image several times.
- You'll pay for all this convenience in the final pricing, in terms of if the customer is prepared to pay X, how much of X you'll see.

What you need to know going in: what bleeds are and how they work. How to create a PDF from scratch in layout software.

Lightning Source

- signing up involves faxing contracts, much reading.
- they work in CMYK colors, like most printers. If you don't understand color spaces, this is going to be a hurdle.
- LS is deliberately set up to accept PDFs created using Abobe Acrobat and nothing other than Adobe Acrobat. (There is a particular format that at the present time only Acrobat produces). Unless you are some kind of open source wizard, you are not going to be able to create files that LS will accept with any other tool. Be prepared to shell out for Adobe Acrobat.
- Generation of the cover is up to you, and the LS tools will give you a perfectly sized template plus EAN/ISBN barcode image. If you're using Adobe InDesign or Quark then this is no harder than Lulu's method of accepting PDF covers. If you're using free open source layout tools, this will be a series of hacks and format conversions to get where you'd like to go. If you're comfortable doing layout and touching up images then you should be able to do this in GIMP and Scribus - but it is much harder than it should be.
- Regardless of whether you're laying out in open source tools, you still need Adobe Acrobat to produce the final PDF files. This in and of itself can be somewhat daunting; setting up the right filter in Acrobat requires some reading around and knowledge of color spaces.
- You will benefit from all this inconvenience in the final pricing of the book, in terms of if the customer is prepared to pay X, how much of X you'll see.

What you need to know going in: color spaces, and how to make a CMYK PDF via Adobe Acrobat. How bleeds, spine size, and other sizing issues work. How to read contracts. How to create a PDF from scratch in layout software.

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