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I'm writing a player's handbook for a game I'm producing. The game is fully open source, and the manual itself will be online. However, I would like to offer a hardcopy version of the manual for those who might want it. What are my best options?

Some more info:

I'd probably be going for the nicest quality for the lowest price (who isn't?). Hardcover would be nice. Glossy paper with nice colours would also be great.

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To help you get better answers, maybe you could go into a little more detail. For example, by best options do you mean a cheap print house or high print quality or a balance of both? Will you be making a hardbound reference manual with color printing on nice glossy paper, or an inexpensive black-and-white manual? Are you willing to print a large run (cheaper per unit) or do you want a smaller, print-on-demand setup? –  Neil Fein Feb 14 '13 at 5:11
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My hunch tells me one of numerous print-on-demand services but since I never used these myself, I can't provide anything to back that up. –  SF. Feb 14 '13 at 10:58
    
@NeilFein: updated my question, thanks –  maxmackie Feb 14 '13 at 11:20

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It's been several years since I investigated alternatives, but I think your main choices are:

Create Space: low cost, minimal start-up fees (I think now the only up-front cost you have to pay is the cost of proofs, which depends on size, color, etc but would be on the order of $30). Now owned by Amazon so you can sell through Amazon very easily. They don't do hardcover, though.

Lulu: More expensive than Create Space, but does hard cover. As of several years ago, I think it was basically a $100 set up fee, and they keep a bigger share of the selling price than Create Space but it's in the same ballpark.

Lightning Source: more up front costs but lower oveall costs. Owned by Ingram, which is the biggest book distributor in the country. Geared to working with big publishing houses with large volumes so they're complicated to work with, not really meant for somebody with one book, though people have done it.

The above are all print-on-demand, that is, you don't have to order and pay for hundreds or thousands of copies and then hope you can sell them. They print a small number of copies at a time, sometimes as little as one, as people order them. With all of these, you can order copies yourself and sell directly, or you can direct people to Amazon and other on-line sellers.

There are many self-publishing companies out there that charge substantial up-front fees, often thousands of dollars. I'd investigate these carefully before going with any of them. In my humble opinion, they don't appear to offer any value for this money that you don't get with the minimal-setup folks. I'm sure if you ask them they will disagree strongly.

You can still go the old-style route of doing a small conventional print run of a few thousand copies and stocking them in your garage. The per-copy print costs are lower. But then you have to pay the cost up front, take the risk that you won't sell them, manage the inventory, and do the shipping yourself. Again, my humble opinion, while I can think of circumstances where this would be a good idea, not the best alternative for most authors today.

Apologies to any printers/publishers in the same ball park that I didn't mention. There are others out there, but not all that many.

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Thanks Jay, I think I'll look into Create Space for now. –  maxmackie Feb 14 '13 at 19:20

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