Lightning Source

Lightning Source is part of the Ingram Content Group, the largest book distributor in the United States. Lightning Source is their program that allows medium to large publishers to have books printed and shipped directly to customers. No books are held in inventory, since the books are not printed until the order is received from the retailer. This is the key feature that differentiates a true POD printer from an ultra-short run book printer.  Lightning Source prints all of the books for the IngramSpark program, but only publishers with significant volume can use Lightning Source directly. Since Lightning Source is part of the Ingram Content Group, its very easy to upload your book files and have the book made available for sale through thousands of book stores, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and your local independent store.

  • The books printed through Lightning Source are printed using a variety of digital printing equipment. While this is very acceptable for the black text in most books, color printing, including covers, may suffer from slightly more color variation than is found in offset printing or digital printing through one of the Top 5 Book Printers. We have also seen some light and dark printing in books produced by Ingram.
  • The binding of books produced by Lightning Source may not be as as accurate as books bound by the Top 5 Book Printers. While Lightning Source can produce a hardcover book, the binding and cover options are very limited and moderate quality.

Print-On-Demand may offer significant cost savings over using traditional printers for ultra-short runs (under 100 copies). However, the most significant advantage of using a true POD printer is the direct tie-in with the distribution system which allows your books to reach markets otherwise unavailable to most self-published authors and small publishers.

Only IngramSpark, Lightning Source, and Amazon's CreateSpace offer true Print-On-Demand service. Any other company that claims to offer POD is either re-selling the services of these companies (at a higher price to you) or are only offering short-run printing without distribution through Ingram and Amazon.

We do not recommend using Lightning Source to upload and distribute eBooks. While their services are good, there are better options to distribute your eBooks.

For print runs of more than 50 copies, you should get quotes from some of our Top 5 Short Run Book Printers. Never use Lightning Source or Amazon CreateSpace for offset printing or print runs over 250 copies. They out-source all offset printing to traditional book printers.

Overall Printer Evaluation

Print Quality
Binding Quality
Customer Service
Bind and Print Options
Self-Publishing Support
Value for Your Money

Best Print Run Lengths

True P.O.D.
25 to 100
100 to 500
500 to 5,000
 5,000 and up

Printing Capabilites

  • Offset Black Text
  • Offset Color Text
  • Digital Black Text
  • Digital High Quality Color Text
  • Digital Standard Quality Color Text

Binding Capabilities

  • Softcover (Perfect bound)
  • Hardcover (Case bound) - Limited
  • Mechanical Binding (Spiral Wire, Plastic Comb, Etc.)
  • Flexible Binding (Otabind RepKover™ or similar)

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