I use several printers at my company. While I sometimes use offset runs (as I did for the first edition of Lean Media) for most titles I use print-on-demand (POD) providers. Here’s my short review of the differences between Amazon KDP Print vs. IngramSpark (or LSI, also operated by Ingram)
- Consistent alignment of covers and spines
- Heavier books (6 oz for vs. 5.6 ounces for the same title), which may increase shipping costs for larger orders.
- Thicker paper (which requires thicker spines and leads to heavier books)
- Uses original barcode or at least the original white square my designer put on the rear cover.
- Printing costs are lower – $2.15 is typical – which leads to more profit.
- Uses USPS for large shipments, packs them well.
- Author/publisher orders go through a normal Amazon business account.
- Longer shipping timeline for author copies/drop-shipped orders (currently about 10 days to two weeks)
IngramSpark or Lightning Source (LSI)
- Quicker fulfillment – usually less than one week
- Offers hardcover POD services
- Covers and spines are often off-center
- Uses a bigger white square for the ISBN
- Covers are brighter than KDP Print
- Glossy covers have a more matte feel and appearance (which is good)
- Author copies are more likely to have nicks on edges of spine or other damage (wax, smudges, indentations from machinery, etc.)
- Interior printing seems lighter
- Costs are higher – $2.48 to 2.75 is typical for my books, about 15%-20% more expensive than KDP Print
- Uses UPS for large shipments, and sometimes does not pack them very well
- Hard to reach customer service – sometimes I’ve waited on hold for so long the system kicks me off.
- Convoluted resolution for reimbursement over quality issues.
The damage issue is serious, and it’s been a longstanding problem with Ingram for orders I have placed (see image, below, showing notched copies of books shipped to my office). There are few things more frustrating than seeing 5% or even more of a batch of newly manufactured items showing up damaged, because you know that your customers are seeing it, too.
The one area where IngramSpark really shines is integration with the larger book ecosystem – libraries, bookstores, and others can easily order copies of my books at a wholesale price, something that is not possible with Amazon KDP Print, which only offers retail prices to Amazon customers and some limited “extended distribution” options. Ingram also offers hardback POD services, which Amazon KDP or its predecessor Createspace has not tried (yet).
However, when it comes to author/publisher copies or drop-shipped orders, KDP Print wins hands down on pricing and often on quality for paperbacks. If Ingram works on the quality problems and brings down pricing, though, it will be a different story.