My experiences printing a small batch of books

A comparison of four online printing services: Blurb, BookBaby, Lulu, and Nook Press

  • 100 pages or so (still working on it)
  • 6"×9" (or even smaller if possible), hardcover
  • black-and-white text, no photos
  • cream (natural) paper, uncoated, 50# or more if available

Printing services I compared

I wanted to find a printing service that would allow you to get a small batch of 15 copies, preceded by a 1-copy proof print, relatively cheaply. I found these four:


Printing prices were as follows (per one copy, excluding tax and shipping):

  • Blurb:
    One copy: $15.75. Fifteen copies: $14.18.
  • BookBaby:
    One copy: $19.00. Twenty-five copies: $17.83.
    Note: BookBaby doesn’t allow you to get 2–24 copies, only one or 25+.
  • Lulu:
    One copy: $14.65. Fifteen copies: same.
  • Nook Press:
    One copy: $8.50. Fifteen copies: same.
  • Blurb: 3–5 business days for print (I think… I inferred it), delivery options from economy for $3.99, to one-day for $21.99.
  • BookBaby: 7 business days for print, delivery options from economy for $15.49, to next-day for a staggering $56.90.
  • Lulu: 3–5 business days for print, delivery options from mail (2–6 business days) for $4.99, to express (1 business day) for $39.99.
  • Nook Press: 3 business days for print, delivery options from economy for $5.50, to 2–3 business days for $20.50.


I’m only listing options related to my project; many of the services have more possibilities including large dimensions, glossy paper, photo books, etc.

A few of the Lulu options. A lot of graying out happens as you switch between them.
A few of Nook Press options

Print sharpness

I was most impressed with BookBaby, with Lulu coming in a very close second. These two look like print.

Print quality: Blurb and BookBaby
Print quality: Lulu and Nook Press

Paper quality

Paper felt relatively similar in all the cases. When I investigated the archival quality of paper and inks, here are the answers I received:

Cover and dust jacket

Blurb has a nice glossy dust jacket with nice print quality. The cover is a classic, ascetic dark gray linen.

Blurb: Dust jacket and cover
BookBaby: Dust jacket and cover
Lulu: Dust jacket and cover
Lulu cover spine text embossing (lowercase is also available)
Nook Press cover and all the covers (sans dust jackets) together: Nook Press (bottom), BookBaby, Lulu, and Blurb (top)


Some of the websites are more oriented towards printing and selling, some of them allow for just printing on demand for personal use. Printing-and-selling requires barcodes and ISBNs, and they need to appear somewhere in the book.

Barcode in Blurb on the last page (identical as in Nook Press), on Blurb’s cover, on Nook Press’s cover


None felt really great, but maybe that’s not unexpected. None of the four services glued the front page to the front cover completely straight. The binding seemed most robust for Blurb and BookBaby, but I’m not an expert.

Blurb and BookBaby misalignment
Lulu and Nook Press misalignment
BookBaby misaligned glue + crease on the cover

Creation and uploading experience

Blurb: There’s a Mac app called Bookwright that I completely ignored. But you can also use an InDesign plug-in, which generates the right template for you in-product. As far as I understand, web-only option is not possible. You get print proof downloads to approve, so you can see exactly what’s going to get printed.

Blurb Mac app (Bookwright), and its InDesign plug-in UI
BookBaby user interface
Lulu user interface
Nook Press user interface

Customer support

Didn’t have to experience much of it — most of the process was straightforward and automated. In the case of BookBaby, there was a little back and forth about copyright. It wasn’t all bad, but delayed the project by a few days, owing mostly to their support email instructions being confusing.

BookBaby customer support email. I followed the instructions to “Complete Project” unsuccessfully a few times. I then replied to an email saying I don’t know what to do. Only then, I was told what the problem was. That could’ve been said in the above email, sparing us both a week.

What did I choose?

I did not want to compromise on print quality, so that meant Blurb and Nook Press were out, leaving Lulu and BookBaby in the running.

Available cover colours at Lulu
The books without dust jackets

Addendum: My dreams and suggestions for each service

Blurb: Please make printing better, and add more cover colour options? Don’t shame me into accepting a barcode I never wanted.



Designer/typographer · Writing a book on the history of keyboards:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store