Today's in-depth comparison of the two major print-on-demand platforms, CreateSpace vs KDP Print, is brought to you by the talented, well-connected (and sassy) Gundi Gabrielle, who is a bestselling author and a blogger of her global traveling adventures.
If you ever published a Kindle book on the most popular book publishing site Amazon, chances are you also created (or contemplated) a print version of your Kindle book and published via CreateSpace, Amazon’s print-on-demand (POD) platform.
In the summer of 2016, Amazon launched a 2nd POD platform – “KDP Print” – right in the KDP backend that most authors use to publish Kindle books.
At that time, only a limited number of authors were invited, but on February 15, 2017, KDP Print – still in Beta testing – was opened to the public.
Now suddenly, authors were scratching their heads trying to decide which platform to use, with KDP strongly promoting their new POD feature right within the author account.
Podcast Episode – Listen to the CreateSpace vs KDP Print Debate
You probably noticed that whenever you publish a new Kindle book these days, a pop-up will appear right after you hit “Publish,” inviting you to add a print version.
If you are happy and familiar with CreateSpace, you have probably been wondering whether you should switch?
While KDP was quick to add a comparison chart for both platforms, a few important aspects were left out. Plus, KDP Print is still undergoing frequent updates – even during the writing of this article, which we'll work hard to keep up-to-date.
In addition, you can’t just switch back and forth at will. Once you move a book over to KDP, the move is permanent. It’s a one-way street.
So, in this article you will learn:
- A point by point comparison of CreateSpace vs. KDP Print
- Which POD is better
- Current and upcoming changes
- How one simple CreateSpace feature ruined the ranking of one of my books
Why a 2nd POD Platform?
While Amazon tends to be rather tight-lipped about their plans and motives, what crystallized during several conversations I had with Amazon reps was that KDP Print had been created to more strongly entice authors to add print versions to their Kindle books. Something many had not bothered with before.
Having a POD option right within the KDP backend seemed to make the process of adding a print book a lot easier for authors, and it allowed Amazon to reach out to authors more directly than ever before.
If you use KDP for your Kindle books, then you have already seen the combined accounting interface. Obviously, that is an advantage, as is not having to manually connect the two versions on the Amazon sales page.
Beyond that though, is it really a good idea to switch at this point? Or does CreateSpace still offer many advantages over KDP that should delay such a move?
Let's have a look.
CreateSpace vs. KDP Print Comparison
We will start with the official comparison chart on KDP’s website and then dig a little deeper into features and differences not mentioned here:
From this chart, it seems distribution across international stores is identical, except that Japan is available only on KDP Print.
Notice any countries missing though…?
What about Canada and other countries worldwide?
Yes, what about our Canadian friends and readers? And our Oz and Kiwi readers, Asian readers, African readers…?
The problem with POD via CreateSpace has always been that ordering print books was only possible through Amazon.com and most of the European stores.
Canada was added to CreateSpace as late as 2015, but is still not part of KDP Print distribution. UPDATE: KDP Print has now included distribution to Canada. Hooray!
While KDP Print books can now be ordered through the Japanese store, which is a nice touch, no official answer was given though as to whether Japan has a local printing plant (which would greatly decrease shipping times and cost for customers in the region) or if the books are still shipped all the way from the US.
Amazon printing plants in Europe are a well-known fact, but when asked about Japan I was given “no comment.” Upon checking with several of my author friends in the region, it seems Amazon POD books are still being shipped from the US, so apparently no printing plant in the region just yet.
Also, there was no confirmation about the Australian store being added to either POD platform soon. The recent opening of Amazon fulfillment centers in both Australia and Japan though gives hope that eventually Amazon POD books will be added as well.
We shall see….
If worldwide distribution is important to you – or getting into (physical) bookstores – you might be better off adding a platform like Ingram Spark or Lightning Source. In that case, be sure to purchase your own ISBN to use across all platforms, so bestseller ranking doesn’t get diluted over several ISBNs. Authors have also reported that Amazon’s ranking algorithm seems to favor Amazon ISBNs, known as ASIN, over external ones if there are two or more options.
Show Me the Money!
One of the most important questions on every author’s mind is, of course, the financial aspect: Is there a difference in earnings and royalty calculation?
The short answer is: yes and no.
For the US store: Same royalty rate of 60% and same calculation of production/printing costs
For Europe: Same as US store except for books with fewer than 110 pages.
Let me show you:
Cost of Printing
These are the two charts that explain how each platform calculates production costs:
On both platforms, the production/printing cost is a combination of “fixed cost” and an “additional per page” charge.
Those costs are identical on both platforms for sales on Amazon.com. They are also identical for books with more than 110 pages sold on the European stores. For books with fewer than 110 pages, however, CreateSpace tends to have a slight advantage in Europe:
EXAMPLE A: 100 Page Book Sold on Amazon.co.uk
KDP Print: £1.70 fixed cost, no additional per page cost – TOTAL Production cost = £1.70
CreateSpace: £0.70 fixed cost + (£0.01 per page charge x 100 pages) = £1.70
=> exactly the same
With fewer than 100 pages, CreateSpace will cost slightly less than KDP, while books containing between 101-108 pages will cost slightly more on CreateSpace.
EXAMPLE B: 100 Page Book Sold on Amazon.de
KDP Print: €1,90 fixed cost, no additional per page cost – TOTAL Production cost: €1,90
CreateSpace: €0,60 fixed cost + (€0.012 per page charge x 100 pages) = €1,80
=> only at 108 pages is production cost the same. With fewer than 108 pages, CreateSpace pricing gets lower.
Both platforms apply a 60% royalty rate for books sold through the Amazon stores. The calculation is based on the “List Price”.
CreateSpace clearly defines “list price” as the price set by the author.
On KDP, the definition isn’t quite as clear. List price is defined as the price the customer sees on the Amazon Sales page.
You probably noticed that the author price is often crossed out on the sales page, and Amazon instead sells the book at a different – usually lower – price. This price is whatever the algorithm deems the best converting price at any given time.
After some conflicting answers I received earlier this year, Amazon now confirmed that KDP will also base royalty calculations on the author’s set price, regardless of how much the book is actually selling for.
In this context, here is a great hack I learned from Derek Doepker that doubled – and in some cases tripled – my print income:
Start with a list price that you feel most appropriate. Leave it for a few weeks and let the Amazon algorithm use it as a base to find the best converting price.
Then, once the sales price has stabilized, raise your list price. Oftentimes, Amazon will continue with the lower price in the range that you initially established, while you get paid royalties on the much higher list price.
So, if you set your list price at $22.99, and Amazon sells it for $18.99, your commission is based on the $22.99…which is nice 😉
Obviously, this should be done within reason and ethically, but even raising it by a few dollars per book can significantly raise your print income.
The obvious advantage of KDP Print is the combined accounting interface where all sales and royalties – for both Kindle and Print versions – are presented together in the same chart.
Up until recently though, KDP's accounting backend was frustrating at times. Particularly disappointing was the fact that you could only access sales figures for the last 90 days.
Beyond that time frame, you had to download an Excel report – for each month separately! – and then have Excel add it all together. This was tedious, impractical, and frustrating for tax purposes.
While I was writing this very article, KDP rolled out a major update to its accounting interface, which now allows easy online access to sales numbers all the way back and monthly accounting at least until October 2016. Monthly periods before this still have to be exported to Excel.
This evened the score between the two platforms significantly, and clunky KDP accounting is no longer a reason to stay with CreateSpace – which doesn't have the most practical accounting backend either, but at least it allows for online access to your entire paperback accounting.
One major difference that remains is the payout schedule…
CreateSpace: 30 days vs. KDP: 60 days
Getting paid every 30 days is obviously better than 60, so at this point it becomes a question of preference between faster payout vs. combined accounting interface as far as the financial aspects are concerned.
Author Copies, Print Proofs, & Expanded Distribution
Looking further down the official comparison chart, there were three features missing on KDP Print, but two of these features were recently added:
- Wholesale Author Copies = Authors can order copies of their books at production price **Available on KDP Print now**
- Physical Print Proofs = If you'd like to see a physical proof of your book to make sure it meets your standards before publishing, this feature is currently only available at CreateSpace **Available on KDP Print now**
- Expanded Distribution to other online and offline bookstores like Barnes & Noble, distributors like Ingram, as well as certified resellers (CreateSpace Direct), libraries, and academic institutions **still not available on KDP Print**
Turns out the rumor that KDP Print was going to add these features was true. We are still waiting for expanded distribution to bookstores and non-Amazon websites to be available, but the proof copies and wholesale author copies are now available for authors using the KDP Print platform.
Professional publishing services, such as cover design, editing, formatting, and marketing, are no longer available on CreateSpace at the moment. They discontinued it in 2018. However, for most authors, this was probably the least important distinction as there are plenty of other platforms that provide these services.
One Major Difference That Can Affect Your Ranking
While many of the above features seem to favor CreateSpace over KDP Print – at least for the time being – there is one major difference that might outweigh them all:
Every time you upload an update, CreateSpace takes down your print/paperback version, which is an entirely separate entity from your Kindle book as far as ranking is concerned.
On the other hand, KDP – both print and Kindle – keep your old version up and available for purchase until the new version is approved.
Having your print version taken down can be a big deal when that version is selling well (e.g., when you are “riding the algorithm,” and Amazon naturally promotes your paperback book).
I experienced this firsthand with one of my travel books. Over several months, print sales were consistent and actually increasing, without extra promos needed.
Then I had to upload an update and the print version was taken down while the updates were in review. The paperback completely disappeared from the Amazon store for almost a full day. While that may not seem like much, it was enough to interrupt the great run this print book had enjoyed, and it reset the algorithm to some degree.
Yes, there are numerous factors that contribute to ranking and sales fluctuations, but the change was so sudden (and permanent) from one day to the next that there is no question of a correlation.
And once the damage is done, it's not easily repaired. This book still has decent sales and occasionally outranks Lonely Planet at #1, but there is no comparison to the way it was thriving before the update.CreateSpace vs KDP Print...who wins this epic POD battle? #SelfPubClick To Tweet
Taking a book down during the review process is standard practice with CreateSpace, and there are no plans to change that procedure.
Since KDP keeps your old version available until the new one is approved, there is no interruption. The print version never disappears from the Amazon store, and your ranking is not affected or interrupted.
So if you have a well-converting paperback, switching to KDP Print will be the better option, certainly, once you need to update.
As I mentioned in the beginning, moving your print version over to KDP is irreversible. Once you switch, you cannot move back, at least not for that particular book.
Of course, you can always create a new print book in CreateSpace, link it with your Kindle book, and then delete the KDP Print version…but you cannot switch an existing paperback back and forth.
CreateSpace or KDP – What's it Gonna Be?
Looking at all the above factors, CreateSpace – for the moment at least – still presents a few more advantages, though they are slowly eroding as KDP Print keeps adding new features in the coming months.
For now, the pros for CreateSpace are:
- 30 Day Payout
Distribution in Canada(now available on both) Wholesale Author Copies(now available on both)
- Expanded Distribution
Physical Print Proofs(now available on both)
- Professional Publishing Services
- Slightly lower production costs for Europe (for books of less than 110 pages)
KDP is quickly catching up with most of the above, however, and currently…
KDP's advantages are:
- Combined Publishing and Accounting Platform for both Kindle and Print Versions
- Easier to setup straight from your KDP platform
- Distribution in Japan
- Keeps Your Older Version Available during Updates
A lot of effort seems to be invested in making KDP a superior POD platform. Keep in mind that KDP's print feature has barely existed for a year and only been open to the public for the last few months – and it is still in beta testing.
Aside from the above-mentioned additions, it will be interesting to watch what other features KDP will add over time. For now, I will keep my books mostly in CreateSpace until the announced updates have been made, but over time – and also for future books – I will gradually move over to KDP Print.
How about you? Also, if you want to look for other options, you can find a bunch right here for better print on demand companies out there.
About the Author
Gundi Gabrielle, aka SassyZenGirl, loves to explain complex matters in an easy to understand, fun way. As a Top 100 Business Author & Entrepreneur, she's helped hundreds of newbie authors reach #1, outranking the likes of Tim Ferris, John Grisham, Hal Elrod and Liz Gilbert.
When she is not writing books or enjoying a cat on her lap (or both), she is passionate about exploring the world as a Digital Nomad, one awesome adventure at a time.