panthema / 2018 / 1105-Print-On-Demand-Books-Amazon-CreateSpace-KDP-IngramSpark-epubli-Print-Quality

Print Quality of Print-On-Demand Books from Amazon Createspace/KDP,, and Ingram Spark

Posted on 2018-11-05 20:00 by Timo Bingmann at Permlink with 0 Comments. Tags: dissertation

Having just finished my PhD thesis in computer science (see the corresponding dissertation), I ventured to actually print it as a proper book. In this article I want to share some of my experience with three print-on-demand book publishers:

Disclaimer: these are my experiences, yours will probably be different. And I hope print-on-demand quality will improve further in the future.

Below are macro photographs of the various print proof and other copies I received from the publishers. The photographs were taken with a Samsung Galaxy S9 smartphone with a (cheap) macro lens. Hence the colors and blur in the photos should be considered with caution, but the sharpness and detail level is sufficient for some discussion.

TL;DR: Amazon's print proof from the USA has the nicest print and color, but they only produce paperback covers. IngramSpark's prints are second best, have a lower resolution, but they produce hardcovers and consistent quality.

Amazon Print Proof from the USA


Uploading the PDF to Amazon CreateSpace is straight-forward due to the convenient web interface. The Amazon CreateSpace print proof was manufactured in Lexington, KY, USA, it was shipped three days after ordering, and arrived eleven days after ordering. For an international shipment from the USA to Germany that is a very acceptable delivery time.

The print quality of the Amazon Print Proof was in my option the best. It has the highest resolution, bright colors, and solid black. The paper and entire book has the feel of high-quality color laser printer output. Sadly, they the only produce paperback softcover books and I preferred a hardcover. On the plus side, publishing via Amazon gives you a free CreateSpace-ISBN and it is immediately listed in the world-wide Amazon catalog.

Original PDF


As a comparison to the printed books, the pictures above show the same excepts rendered as a bitmap image. Note that the layout of the words in each cover image may differ, because each cover needed to by typeset individually to the individual specifications of the publisher.

Amazon Author Copies from Poland


My second order for author copies from Amazon CreateSpace / KDP was fulfilled by a subsidiary in Poland. The delivery time was extraordinarily fast: the copies arrived two days after ordering them via Amazon.

However, the print quality was somewhat inferior to the first proof. It almost appears as if the text's curves were "retraced" and "compressed" instead of using the original fonts in the PDF. The blackness, color print, and cover quality were however on par with the first proof. Print Proof


The first publisher I ordered copies from was because colleagues recommended it. I ordered one hardcover with matte cover and one with gloss cover, which is why there are two cover pictures. Their web interface is also convenient, uploading is free, and one even gets a free German ISBN. Both my orders took ten days to print (with the cheapest economy pricing plan), and another seven days for delivery. While my colleagues had very good experiences with epubli, the print proofs that I received did not fulfil my expectations.

From the pictures one can see that the print itself has very high resolution. The letters come out very fine, but there appears to be have been some sharpening effect applied. Consider the fine line in the "n" in sorting: the print is overly sharp compared to the PDF image. Furthermore, the overall "blackness" of the text appears to be lower than in the other prints. These two issues make the whole text appear faint and difficult to read. I contacted the staff of epubli about the issue, but they replied in general terms that the actual printing was outsourced and that despite their strict quality controls minor variations in color are possible.

The hardcover quality from epubli was the best of the three print-on-demand publishers.

IngramSpark Print Proof from the UK


The last publisher I contacted was IngramSpark, again due to the recommendation of a colleague. The main hurdle with IngramSpark is that there are many upfront costs: the initial upload costs 50 euro and revisions another 25 euro each. However, with some coupons that one can find on the web you can push these costs down considerably. IngramSpark's author web interface is more technical, less streamlined than the other publishers, but it is still easy to navigate. Compared to Amazon they do not provide a free ISBN. One has the option of buying one, but I consider them to be more expensive that they should be.

My print proof was produced in Milton Keynes, UK, it took ten days for printing (most economic option), and about another fourteen days for delivery from UK (again cheapest shipping). While it took about twenty-four days for the initial proof to arrive, my second batch of author copies was printed in only five days and arrived in four days (UPS shipping, second most economic option and larger package). Hence, it is probably worth spending a few extra euros for the faster shipping methods on the author proof.

The print resolution of IngramSpark is only average, but the letters in the text come out well readable. The colors with the Standard Color option are not very saturated and considerably less readable than in the other prints. IngramSpark also applies a different color dithering algorithm than the other prints, as one can see from the spots in the solid color areas. The cover is solidly manufactured and the glue binding appears to be able to hold for many years. My second batch of author copies exhibits the same quality on all copies, making IngramSpark a reliable print-on-demand service. Sadly they do not have the option of printing with higher color quality on 50lb (74g/m²) instead of 70lb (104g/m²).

IngramSpark was my final choice for hardcover versions of my dissertation.

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