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UniBook Review

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Unibook, short for ‘your own unique book are owned by Peleman Industries, a manufacturer of binding, laminating and presentation products for nearly seventy years. Unibook, formerly known as WWAOW, have offices in Europe as well as the USA. Unibook aim their business and services at self-publishing authors as well as the corporate and government sectors.

http://www.unibook.com/static/blog/

The website has plenty of information, though, it can take a while to find and extract what is needed. They list their authors’ books by bestsellers and new releases linked on the main web page and they have their bookstore prominently displayed.

UniBook gives everyone, including publishers, fiction and non-fiction writers, speakers, schools, corporations, and government groups, the opportunity to print on demand and self publish editions of their own titles, books, manuals or catalogs on an “as needed” basis.”

“You may have previously known us as WWAOW but due to innovation and expansion we have been given a new name. UniBook is the place for writers, publishers and businesses to publish and sell books. With the UniBook services anyone can self publish a manuscript and have it listed in our online bookstore. UniBook will print, bind, and pack your book on-demand and ship it anywhere in the world. No need to carry stock and no set-up fees or fixed costs. Discover the world of self publishing and create your own unique book with UniBook.

Unibook operate their service pretty much along the lines of Lulu, featuring a ‘Publication Wizard’ for self-publishing authors to load-up their book files. The wizard will accept the book file as a PDF or doc file, but Unibook suggest the PDF option is the preferred format to alleviate any glitches which can result in the online conversion of files. There are four book formatting sizes offered, 8.27 x 11.69 inch, 8.5 x 11 inch, 5.83 x 8.27 inch, 6.00 x 9.00 inch and the largest size, 8.27 x 8.27 inch. Authors can separately upload their own covers or design one from available templates on the Unibook site. The cover design wizard is not quite as sophisticated as Lulu’s or Blurb’s, so I would suggest serious authors look at designing their own for upload or using a separate service for this. Certainly, this should be something to give careful thought to if an author is looking to sell copies of their book into local bookstores. Books can be uploaded as a private project, to be changed later with a code, or set for ‘worldwide’ availability on Unibook’s own bookstore.

The set-up of books on Unibook is free but authors should be aware that an ISBN is not provided as a service. Herein is the first conflict I found, and to be fair, it does reflect the changeover from WWAOW to the Unibook branding. A downloadable publishing guide is available on their site, but this document still refers to the company by its older name and indicates that an ISBN and EAN barcode can be assigned by them for the cost of $10.88 (ISBN) and $21 (EAN barcode) respectively (only dollars are quoted as currency in the publishing guide). Anomalies like this are critical to eliminate when presenting an efficient and clear detail of services.

Several times ‘worldwide’ availability is referred to by Unibook. The availability is restricted to Unibook’s own website and is not a full listing on other online retailer sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Books require an ISBN to be taken seriously by the trade and properly distributed and sold with an EAN barcode at point of sale outlets. While selling self-published books—even small-scale publication—some online retailers may not even list books without an ISBN or EAN barcode. Self-published and POD produced books have a difficult enough task without further complications or deficiencies. In reality, Unibook is closer to Blurb, and perhaps a step or two away from them at the moment. Certainly they are, as yet, not on the same playing field as Lulu or Createspace.

Prices starting at $79 vs. competitors at $499. Competitors also often require the purchase of marketing, graphics, and editing services. The price of a hard cover book is about the same as a soft cover (only about $2 more) because we manufacturer our own patented book covers.

Again, we have confusion introduced. We thought it was all free. Yes it is, but the $79/£45 is for the purchase of the first five copies for the author. Unibook have changed their policy here. Up until recently the purchase of the five copies was mandatory, now, you can purchase how little or how much as you want.

This takes us to pricing of the books and royalties. You can set your royalty at anything between 0 – 200% on top of the costs but Unibook are not entirely transparent about the breakdown of print costs, mark ups and the final retail price. They do include an online calculator which tells us that the average 200pp black and white, full colour cover, paperback, size 6 x 9 will retail at £11.66 based on just a 10% royalty for the author (£1.06). I know, I know, that is a little less than 10%, but try telling their online calculator! Now taking it that the retail price is already by my reckoning about £2 – £2.50 over the competitive marker, you really are not going to be able to push that 10% royalty much higher unless you feel the content of your book genuinely warrants it. A degree more transparency is required here.

Remember, you are only getting this book sold in their online bookstore and bulk discounts on units up to 1000 are still in the single percentage digits! From experience on POD, Self Publishing & Independent Publishing, the sample book would cost Lightning Source about £3 to print. So who is getting the balance after the author’s £1.06 royalty? No wholesaler or retailer involved, only Unibook who print the book!

For self-publishing authors, there are a myriad of other details to be taken care of, no less the sales and marketing of the book, also library cataloguing and registration if required, legal copyright deposit, press releases etc. None of this is included here, and while the set up is free, the profits and return for the author are extremely low.

Back in May, I did a brief feature when Unibook had just got up and going and here was my opinion then.

Their website is very visual, community orientated, but I suspect we are dealing with another ‘Display/Publishing’ site which has some of the versatility of Lulu/Createspace/Cafepress, but very little of their on line publishing acument.

I don’t believe in reviewing new start-ups until a year or two passes, and I wonder where Unibook will be with retail prices for paperbacks advertised on their main website page at anything from $14 to $20. Unibooks may aspire to being more of an author bookstore and publisher’s ‘out of print’ short print-run solution than an actual author solutions company.

The last paragraph gives it away. Unibook were around as WWAOW for years but they are still at least one year off polishing and fine tuning their service in this new incarnation. There is a lot already in place, but they are trailing behind even Blurb, if that is what they aspire to, and perhaps for that matter, even Wordclay. Much I have said about Blurb applies here and more so for Unibook if they are to compete with their rivals. If they are content to supply a straight forward print service for self-publishing authors just looking for a few physical books for Aunt Maple, then they will do ok. If they aspire to more, then they need to look at all the requirements self-publishing authors look for in an author solution service.