About a month ago, Lightning Source International announced the introduction of its Standard Color, a full-color print-on-demand service that prints and delivers in the same time as its black and white option. So how does this new option stack up?
Reviews on the various forums indicate the quality is acceptable, though the thinness of the paper does result in some image bleed through, not sufficient to penetrate the paper but sufficient enough to create a shadow image on the reverse side. For most publishers this is an acceptable flaw in relation to cost: a 7” x 10”, perfect bound, 200-page graphic novel can now be printed for $7.30, compared to $14.85 at CreateSpace. It is generally still more economical to print color using an off-set press and by printing in bulk, but this requires the author to handle their own warehousing and distribution, which is what print on demand is supposed to help us avoid.
Where authors are still frustrated with the print-on-demand process with regards to color is when printing a book with only a handful of color images: there is still no option available to be charged for individual color pages even though the bulk of the book is printed using only the lower cost B&W ink or toner. By way of comparison, a 7” x 10”, perfect bound, 200-page B&W book costs $4.80 at LSI and $3.50 at CreateSpace, which means the author with only a handful of color images is paying an additional $2.50 at LSI for those images and a whopping extra $11.35 at CreateSpace.
There is one important caveat to the new Standard Color option: it is currently only available in the U.S., meaning any books sold on sites outside of the U.S. are still printed and shipped from there, which can result in lengthy delivery times.
I expect to see CreateSpace respond to LSI Standard Color with some variation of their own in order to remain competitive. Will keep you posted.