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Publishing Open Textbooks to Lulu and Create Space

March 30th, 2012

I am pleased to announce that Elizabeth Hanson and Jenae Kirby,  instructors at Shoreline Community College, have co-authored an open textbook that faculty and students can use for free. On-Ramp to Nursing Assistant Certified is designed for students who speak English as a second language who are beginning their healthcare career training. Previously, Elizabeth authored a Human Anatomy textbook for a major publisher. This time she and Jenae Kirby were funded through an SBCTC grant, and because of the SBCTC Open Policy their NAC textbook is available free to the world.

Yesterday I helped Elizabeth post her NAC open textbook on Lulu.com, a website for digital and print-on-demand publications. We started with the 180-page word document, added a Creative Commons CC BY license to the title page, and the NAC open textbook was published on Lulu.com in about 30 minutes. It’s great that Lulu lets authors select a Creative Commons open license!

A couple caveats with Lulu:
1. Students have to create a free account with Lulu to “order” even the free books (no biggie).
2. There is a 30-60 min. delay to access even free, digital textbooks. I’m not sure why the ordering process isn’t instantaneous, but the user gets an email when the file is ready for download.

Another comparable print-on-demand service is Amazon’s Create Space. I like it because print copies tend to be cheaper and students can download open textbooks more quickly. Both services give you a free ISBN and allow you to add new editions later. Like Lulu, Create Space can convert Word files to make them available via iPad and eReaders like the Amazon Kindle. We were not able to do this yesterday because the NAC textbook contained some text boxes. Once these minor issues are ironed out the NAC open textbook can be made available in a variety of eReader formats. It is currently available as a PDF.

One caveat with Create Space: Setting up a  account requires the author to give it a bank routing number or other financial information (presumably for authors to collect royalties). It would be nice to be able to skip over this part for open textbook authors. I need to experiment a bit more before deciding which service I like best for publishing open textbooks. I’ll post an update soon.

With the NAC open textbook printing in color was important. If your students need a printed color copy of your textbook, Create Space is significantly less expensive than Lulu. For a color 180 page softcover book Create Space charges $13 per book compared to Lulu’s $56 cost. If you have found other good print-on-demand solutions for publishing open textbooks please post them in the comments.

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  • David Lippman

    I really don’t understand Lulu’s change in book downloads.  As an author, you used to be able to provide a free download link on the book listing.  Now they treat the ebook and print version as separate projects.  Quite annoying.  I didn’t know createspace did such cheap color books – if our book was under 500 pages I’d make a color version available there :)

  • David Lippman

    Just a thought – could you put a PDF of the book up on some free/cheap hosting like S3 or filedropper, then put a link to the PDF in the print book’s description on Lulu?

  • http://tomcaswell.com/ tom4cam

    I like it! I’ll play around with CreateSpace a bit more, but that might be the way to go. Hopefully we can talk Amazon into supporting CC and playing nice with open sharing. I shouldn’t have to give them bank info.