They each have different advantages: And disadvantages. I see no reason for the average self-publisher to take anything but the POD (print-on-demand) route. You can print books as you need them, reducing your inventory risk, and the prices are surprisingly low. Here are three POD companies (websites) worth looking at.
Lightningsource.com. I've put several books up on LightningSource. They're quality is good; they even promise archive quality paper that meets library standards. Their base prices for black-ink-only interiors are not as good as those of CreateSpace, but they offer quantity discounts that reduce your costs whenever you're printing more than 50 copies at a time. If you print 250 copies at a time, the discounts get really serious. Sometimes, they even offer sales. Their prices for color books are surprisingly low. Their service is good, with customer-service reps that you can talk to, and excellent turnaround times for printed books (a week). I also like that they don't pretend to be anything but a printer, even though they are owned by Ingram, a major distributor. LightningSource is a good choice if you value quality and plan to sell most of your books yourself. (You can open a "wholesale account" with LightningSource, but I haven't recommended that any more than I recommend that my customers sign up with any other distributor.)
CreateSpace.com. CreateSpace gets my attention mainly because they are owned by Amazon and offer a seamless way for your book to be distributed by Amazon, with the result that you get a better deal than if you signed up separately for an Amazon Advantage account. They also offer an "eStore" option that lets you use your website to send book orders to CreateSpace to be fulfilled. Obviously, you don't make as much if you fulfilled the orders yourself, but it's a decent deal and a great one for author-publishers who don't want to be bothered with running to the post office all the time. Their base prices for black-ink interiors are less than those of LightningSource, but they don't seem to offer quantity discounts. And their color prices are higher. Also on the downside, they don't promise to use archival paper and their printing may be done by different vendors, with varying quality the result. We're not sure about their service yet, but that Amazon and eStore option is quite attractive. (They too offer an option for getting into bookstores, but the return hardly seems worth it.)
InstantPublisher.com. I'm looking at this one for one reason. If you need to run a few pages of color in an otherwise black-ink book, InstantPublisher is worth looking at. They charge color prices only per color page used. LightningSource and CreateSpace will normally beat their prices, but in this instance InstantPublisher might be the solution.--The Publishing Pro