Lulu.com (printers and distributors)Edit
Lulu.com was one of the first companies to offer a POD (Print On Demand) printing and distribution service to writers or small press book or magazine publishers. Once an account has been set up, publications are sent to Lulu.com in the form of PDF files, and individual copies are printed as required and sold from the Lulu.com website. The person or organisation with the account pays nothing for this service, Lulu's profits come from sales alone, so it is the customer and not the publisher (or account holder) who pays all the production and distribution costs.
The person holding the account gets a free service and can set their own commission, which is collected by Lulu and paid to them quarterly. Lulu sets a basic price for the item (e.g. £4.20 per copy) and the account holder adds an amount which then becomes their commission or royalty on each copy sold. The account holder might want a £2.00 commission on each sale of a £4.20 book. The cover price to purchasers of the item would therefore become £6.20. Since all sales are postal sales, a further amount is added to each order for postage and packing, which can be quite substantial. At time of writing the postage charge for our hypothetical £6.20 book (within the UK) would be of the order of £3.00, so the actual cost to the customer would be about £9.20 per copy. This is a little higher than might be expected if the book were published in a more conventional way, but the publisher would then incur considerable risks and expenses, and would need to set up an ordering and distribution system of some kind to deal with sales.
While the above is a description of the basic service offered by Lulu, other variations are available which can include an ISBN number, distribution through Amazon and similar on-line bookstores, cover design, promotion and editorial services.
Lulu.com offers a wide range of sizes, formats and bindings for the items they print, and In the past has also printed and distributed music and data CDs, but this part of their business has been discontinued.