Bookvault has finally launched their US printer, and so now we lowly little indie authors have another option for ordering POD author copies! Bookvault has been touted in the UK as having superior quality and customer service from IngramSpark, so I’m, of course, going to run a comparison and write about it!
Note: BookVault has said that they are slowly rolling out all the features from the UK printer to the US printer. Some features and trim sizes may not currently be available, but they are coming.
We’ll be comparing these two on 5 factors: ease of setup, customer service, unit printing cost, bulk order cost (including shipping), and quality.
While Bookvault does offer distribution services, they have personally admitted they’re nowhere near IngramSpark (yet), so we won’t be comparing those today. Just authors ordering copies their own books for whatever reason (conventions, signings, to sell, etc.)
I’ll be using my paperback version of The Syren’s Mutiny, which is 5×8 inch on 70lb cream paper, and is 482 pages long. The formatting is the exact same for each place, and the cover was uploaded using their provided templates (which are similar but not quite the same, so you may need to mess with your formatting on your cover).
Alright, let’s go!
EASE OF SETUP
IngramSpark has been around for a while, and though clunky, their setup process is fairly intuitive. They do have help guides, but they’re not super useful if you’re not moderately tech savvy, and do not include screenshots.
Bookvault was a bit more of a learning curve due to a different set up and completely different look, but was ultimately still easy, and was made far easier by their extremely detailed instruction guides that includes screenshots!
WINNER: IT’S A TIE!
IngramSpark customer service has historically and notoriously been…well, awful. Though they recently made a commitment to improve it, they’ve removed the chat help function, and when you submit an email request for help, the page says expect a response in 5-10 business days. Yikes.
That said, I did recently submit a help ticket and had a response that was 1) actually helpful and resolved my problem, and 2) came within 24 hours. So maybe they are working on it!
Overall, IngramSpark has decent customer service (when it’s not related to Amazon issues), they are just extremely slow. Any issues with my orders (printed upside down, damaged, totally wrong, etc.) have always been resolved, it just takes several weeks to get there.
Bookvault is new, they’re fresh and spunky and they want to be a viable competitor. And it shows in their customer service. Alex, one of the head honchos, is in several Facebook groups where he provides customer service via comment section! He is extremely quick to respond, and extremely patient as I watch him answer the same questions over and over and over.
They have a LiveChat feature, but it has hours (UK hours for now), so it’s hit or miss if you’ll have an issue while it’s live. But their email response times have been within 24-48 hours consistently and they’re very helpful answers.
That said, Bookvault is still a small team, and I imagine as authors start to use them more, especially in the US, that response time might slow some. I don’t imagine it ever becoming as slow as IngramSpark, given Alex’s prolificness in author Facebook groups, but it could happen!
UNIT PRINTING COST
This is a more objective measure of things, so it’ll be a quick section. For one unit, not including shipping, here’s the breakdown:
BULK ORDER COST
This is also a more objective section. For each order, I selected 100 books, standard processing time, and Standard UPS Ground Shipping.
IngramSpark total cost: $855.99
Bookvault total cost: $847.78
Not a huge difference, I admit. It seems like IngramSpark might have an in with UPS and can get cheaper shipping rates, but the printing difference works in Bookvault’s favor. Bookvault is cheaper by a small margin.
If you want anything faster than standard ground shipping (5-7 business days), IngramSpark does offer 2 day shipping, and Bookvault does not (yet). Bookvault will also give you an estimated dispatch date, whereas IngramSpark gives you a very vague “estimated 5 business days to print**” where the ** means that if there’s high demand it might take longer, but they have no clue. (Psst: It always takes longer.)
Since the US printer just launched on July 5th, it’s hard to tell yet if their dispatch dates are accurate, but we’ll see! I’ll come back and update here once more data comes in.
Update Aug. 16th: When I placed my first multi-book order on August 4th, it spit out August 15th as the estimated delivery date. I am pleased to report that the books did in fact arrive on August 15th! It was nicely packed and none of the books were damaged in transit or packing.
If you’ve ever ordered from IngramSpark before, you know that opening that box is a heart pounding experience. Will they even be your books inside the box? Who knows!
I’ve had books printed upside down, books with the dust jacket completely bent and torn, the right dust jacket and cover but the wrong interior book, books with the spine on the paperbacks just totally wrong. It’s really a crapshoot.
And even though IngramSpark does fix these issues (except for misaligned covers within their laughably large margin of error), it’s still frustrating because authors often have to order more than they need to account for the near-guaranteed messed up copies.
When they get it right… IngramSpark’s quality is okay, about a 7/10. The hardbacks often come with residue on them that needs to be wiped off, and the paperbacks often come dusty and smudged and need to be wiped as well. Additionally, if you have darker covers and are doing a matte cover, you often need to adjust the brightness to get the colors to look right on the Ingram covers. But they feel nice, the paper is nice, and they’re sturdy, professional looking books.
Bookvault was like a breath of fresh air when I opened that package. There was no residue, it wasn’t dusty, the spine was perfectly centered, the COLORS WERE BRIGHT AND GORGEOUS, it felt soft (my husband’s words, not mine), and while to someone who doesn’t obsess over this stuff, it might not look much different, it definitely was. The quality was amazing. I know it’s only one book, but compared to one books I’ve gotten from Ingram, it was night and day.
Speaking of that, I actually ordered a proof copy from Ingram for a different paperback the same day I ordered my single copy from Bookvault’s UK printer. And guess what… That’s right, as of July 18th, I still haven’t gotten that Ingram copy I ordered back on June 21st.
I’ve only ordered one copy from Bookvault, but I’ve heard from others in the UK that they rarely have quality issues from them. I won’t speak to that yet, but for a one vs. one copy, Bookvault’s quality is so amazing. I’ve set up my hardback and ordered a copy from BookVault, and I’ll be back to update on that comparison too!
WINNER: BOOKVAULT… HANDS DOWN.
While I don’t think Bookvault is going to replace IngramSpark, or even be a viable all-around competitor anytime soon (I’ll hold out hope though), I do think they are going to be an amazing option for authors doing POD for themselves, or to sell direct (Bookvault integrates with Shopify for dropshipping… but that’s another post).
IngramSpark is the devil we know, and it’s tough to take on that risk with a new company. But given Ingram’s quality, is it really that big of a risk to take? That’s up to you to decide, of course. But since this is my blog…
Overall, I think it might be too early to tell with any degree of certainty, but I’m giving the edge to Bookvault and my next order for shop stock will be with them! I’ll make another post once I get an order of more than one book, and we’ll see if this holds true!