The Tale of Two Paperbacks: Amazon vs Ingramspark
Having accidentally published my paperbacks, I did the only thing that made sense: contacted a bunch of independent bookstores to see if they'd stock them. I didn't expect this to go particularly well. After all, I published through Amazon, the largest competitor of the bookstore. I only heard back from two stores: Big Story Bookstore in Bend, Oregon and the wonderful Ballast Book Company located in the town next to my hometown in Washington. The latter politely informed me that I didn't have a chance of getting picked up unless I published the book through Ingram. Which... fair. (For normal people who aren't buried in the world of publishing, Ingram is the largest distributor of books in the U.S. and where most bookstores purchase books.)
After patting myself on the back for purchasing ten ISBNs (a book's unique identifier, which has to be different for the be book vs the Amazon paperback vs the Ingram paperback) so that I had some to burn, I navigated the maze that is the Ingramspark website. I cannot say whether I found this website more intuitive than Kindle Direct Publishing or if I had learned from KDP so it felt easier, but either way I was soon up and running. I decided to request a proof copy before notifying any bookstores that the books were available through Ingram, mostly because I was worried that Ingram's slightly lighter paper would result in an off center spine. Turns out that the spine looks fine, but I found the physical differences in copies interesting enough to be worthy of a blog post.
The following is a breakdown of my comparison of the physical books I received from Amazon and Ingram. (Note: My husband says he can't tell the difference between the two so I might be about to sound crazy...)
The first thing I noticed upon getting the Ingram book (right) is that the cover is much darker/browner than the Amazon version. I think the colors pop much better on the Amazon version (left). Oddly, the Ingram version also seems be slightly smaller. This results in a little less breathing room around the backmatter.
Getting into the interior, the difference in white space is even more obvious. The Amazon book (top) has margins that look more like what I intended when I was setting up the file. I feel like the page is able to breathe a little more, which is important because I chose a small font (11 point vs the 12 or 13 point that I maybe should have gone with).
Amazon uses 55 lb paper vs Ingram's 50 lb paper, which makes the Amazon book feel a little more substantial in your hand. I selected cream paper for both version, which I think is easier on the eyes. The Ingram paper feels nicer to the touch, but you can just barely see the ink bleeding through the text.
When it comes to who did a better job with the binding, Ingram wins hands down. I'm not sure if my Amazon copies (top) got a bit bumped around during shipping, but the Ingram (bottom) binding feels tighter and more professional-looking.
Overall, I like the Amazon book better. The colors and layout look much closer to what I intended, and I prefer the thicker paper. This is a bummer because if any bookstores do pick up the books, it'll be the Ingram version on the shelves as people judge the books by their covers. That said, it looks good enough that I'm excited to send a follow up email to the bookstores I reached out to letting them know it's available!