9.28 Lulu (Lulu Enterprises, Inc. & Lulu Press)

Lulu provides PoD (print on demand) services and is headquartered at Raleigh, North Carolina, United States. The company also has staff in 12 countries, and offices in Raleigh, London, Toronto and Bangalore.

The company also provides online order fulfillment, ISBN assignment, and distribution of books to retailers requesting specific titles (returns not being accepted).

Lulu Enterprises was started by Red Hat co-founder Bob Young in early 2002. OpenMind Publishing was started by Bradley Schultz and Paul Elliot to publish college texts. The two merged in the second half of 2002, with Bob Young as CEO. The company announced a new ecommerce platform in March 2012, allowing authors to simply upload content and sell resulting books through a variety of outlets. {12} In March 2013 the company partnered with Author Solutions to offer more expensive services. {13}

Business Model

Lulu is one of the better-known PoD publishers, and (with CreateSpace) offers the cheapest rate for simple conversion of manuscript into PoD form. {9}

The company has grown rapidly through: {1}

1. New technology that can print books one copy at a time. {10}
2. Online marketing: everything is done through the Internet..
3. A simple-to-use but complete service: just email the manuscript and the company will do the rest: proofing, typesetting, cover, conversion, marketing and distribution.
4. Competitive rates for the simple conversion (around $100).
5. Much control left in hands of author.
6. Promotion as a creative community, with over 1.8 million members in 80 countries, and 12 thousand new members (i.e. clients) added every week.
7. Use of social media: Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.


1. PoD technology, improving and becoming more affordable, is expected to become available in High Street print shops in the next ten years.
2. General decline of publishing industry, and of reading as a preferred activity. {4}
3. Growth of blogs and social media platforms as popular means of expression, possibly moving publishing towards a community model with increased opportunities for feedback and marketing.

PoD Generally

On-demand-publishing, also known as print-on-demand, PoD, or publish-on-demand, allows details of a book to be stored electronically for later printing on a one-off basis. The advantages: are:

1. Costs start somewhere around $100, compared with the $1000+ for conventional printing.
2. Turnaround is a few weeks rather than the customary 18 months.
3. Content can be sent by e-mail, ftp or on a floppy through the post, and the PoD company does the rest.
4. The book can feature on Amazon and other on-line bookshops.
5. On-demand-publishing can produce books of a specialist nature that would otherwise never see the light of day.

Equally important are the disadvantages:

1. Authors are giving up their copyright, often for a smaller return in product quality and guarantees.
2. Some of the cheaper versions look poor: garish covers and fuzzy pages.
3. No quality controls exist, unless the author specifies and pays for them.
4. Editing, proofing, typesetting, illustration, warehousing, marketing and reviewing can all be skimped, which impacts on sales figures.
5. Formats tend to be standardized, which may not suit all publications.
6. Publishing rights stay with the PoD publisher, rather than with the author, at least for a period.
7. Bookshops may refuse to stock these products because they are not generally returnable on a sale-or-return basis, and discounts offered are less attractive.
8. The books themselves are more expensive than their conventional counterpart, sometimes 50% more.
9. Sales are often disappointing. Publishers Weekly found that of 17,000 titles produced by iUniverse, only 83 had sold more than 500 copies.
10. PoD does not lead necessarily to recognition. A 2004 NYT article reported that only 20 of the 10,000 titles published by Xlibris had been picked up by commercial publishers.
11. Royalties are generally based on net revenues and not the cover price. $1.00 per copy is a fairly typical figure. {8}

Points to Note

1. Coming together of Internet, digital and printing technology to meet a need imperfectly addressed by the traditional printing model.
2. PoD is an example of the Long Tail model, with small numbers of copies sold into increasingly diverse market segments.
3. Speed at which the PoD market has grown, and the speed at which it is changing into a creative community.


1. What are the advantages of Print on Demand?
2. Why has Lulu been more successful than many in this field?

Sources and Further Reading

1. Lulu Fact Sheet. Lulu. Details on the company and its services.
2. Lulu.com adding thousands of e-books by traditional authors by Alan M. Wolf. New Observer Blog. March 2009.
3. Does Lulu.com Pose a Serious Threat to the Major Publishing Houses? Wharton University. January 2007.
4. Be Your Own Publisher by Tom Johnson. Slideshare.
5. Electronic-books: Threat or Opportunity? by Howie Fenton. Napl. December 2010.
6. Lulu.com: Publishing for the Future by Bob Young. Lulu. June 2011.
7. Fast Facts. Lulu. Short sales pitch.
8. Practical Publishing Handbook. Ocaso Press. 2010. 69-74.
9. An Incomplete Guide to POD Publishers. Books and Tales. Tables and sites for advice.
10. Expresso Book Machine. Wikipedia. One of several such PoD printing machines.
11. Lulu (Company) Wikipedia.

12. Lulu.com, A Self-publishing Site Launches New Ecommerce Platform by Thomas Oppong. All Top Startups. March 2012.
13. Lulu Signs Deal With the Devil — Now Partnered with Author Solutions by Nate Hoffelder. The Digital Reader. March 2013.