Print-on-demand (POD) is the ability to print an entire book “on demand” whenever you want to, in small quantities, at a reasonable price.

There are several reasons you might want to do this.

  1. You can produce good-looking advance review copies early in the production process for a reasonable price. They’re way more professional looking than an 8.5″ x 11″ tome.
  2. You can print your final book small quantities, sell what you have, and then print more at the same reasonable price. This prevents you from ending up with a garage full of unsold books. (Most indie authors choose POD as an alternative to short run printers, which require you to print at least 250 copies at a time, and are not competitively priced unless you’re printing 500 to 1,000 copies at a time.)

Amazon’s CreateSpace and Ingram Spark are major print-on-demand suppliers. Comparing them is complicated, because both offer distribution as well as printing services. (There’s a detailed analysis of the differences between the two at the Alliance of Independent Authors website.) Be aware that POD is still a relatively new industry, and both CreateSpace and Ingram Spark are refining their processes. In general, they both do a good job, but I’ve seen poor quality from each of them.

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