From the very beginning, Lulu had two goals: to free authors from publishing constraints and to do so in a community and eco friendly manner. For the latter, we focus on using print-on-demand technology along with an interconnect network of printers to ensure our books have the smallest carbon-footprint possible. We realize this commitment as a B Corp, something everyone at Lulu is very proud of.
In 2002 Lulu made publishing available to everyone through the use of print-on-demand technology. Our free, online tools allow authors to publish and distribute their work to online bookstores around the world. There are no upfront costs for publishing, other than the purchase and approval of a proof copy, there are no inventory costs, and authors earn profits on every book sold.
When you place an order in the Lulu bookstore, we send the book’s digital file to an approved printer in our global network. Whenever possible, we choose a printer located closest to the book’s final shipping destination where it will be printed in 1-3 business days and ship directly from the printer – hot off the press. When your books ship, you will receive an email with shipping and tracking information.
Why does Eco Friendly matter?
Lulu’s print–on–demand production model eliminates the need to maintain a huge inventory of books. It also reduces the waste associated with traditional publishing in which approximately 40% of all printed books are returned to publishers for pulping. In 2009, an estimated 77 million unsold books became pulped in the UK alone.
If one 10-inch diameter tree yields 30 books of 200 pages, then in one year 2.5 million trees became books no one in the UK wanted. This number is just for one country. Imagine the number of trees saved each year if we printed if all books using Lulu’s print-on-demand business model.
Eco Friend Facts
As a certified B Corp, Lulu knows how import our Eco Friendly stance is. But let’s go a step beyond that and look at how print-on-demand impacts the planet without disrupting normal business practices.
Lulu never prints book before it is bought and paid for. This differs from the traditional method of offset printing. Publishers historically print thousands of copies before ANY of them are bought. This “print & pray” approach involves an unnecessary risk because of the large capital expenditure involved in offset print runs for publishers. And it creates massive waste potential.
Near Zero Waste
Lulu aims for minimal waste in the manufacturing process. Printing on-demand enables Lulu’s network of printers to conserve paper and ink, while still ensuring your book is always available to potential readers. Offset printing churns out books by the thousand, regardless of sales. This adds up to considerable waste for a publisher. And the printer passes on the cost of this waste to the publisher, who passes it on to the buyer.
Spotting the reduction in waste for paper and ink is easy. Each book has a purpose when printed because it’s already sold. But the impact of warehouses on the environment is harder to spot. Thousands of books printed before the book even goes on sale means those books have to be stored somewhere. That somewhere is a secure, climate controlled warehouse. Which gobbles up energy and spews greenhouse gasses.
Eco Friendly Supply Chain
The one aspect of print-on-demand that may seem less eco friendly is shipping. Rather than a mass of books sent to a bookstore, each book is individually shipped to the buyer. That adds up to a lot of miles. But we minimize this impact by sourcing our printing as close to the delivery location as possible. And through innovative partnerships with our printers and shippers, we keep the cost to ship low and the delivery times fast!
Writer extraordinaire and generally amazing guy, Glenn is the technical and content writer for Lulu. He also makes sure that every day is the best day ever.