I have used Lulu.com for several self-publishing projects over the past several years. I consistently use them for a yearly calendar that I produce as gifts and for sale. Since I tend to order 20 or less, the price is reasonable and they often run a sale in early fall to bring the price down further. They have several themes available to use, each with a few layout options. I choose the simplest one, with captions. You can include the most common holidays and add your own (such as birthdays and anniversaries).
However, if you’re interested in printing a book, Lulu does that, too, with options for hardback or paperback. There are a variety of sizes, too. While you can choose to print and distribute the book through places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I don’t generally recommend them for the distribution part. Their website doesn’t prepare you for pricing until it’s too late. You’ll need to set a price and create a barcode before you get to the page that calculates your income from selling your book through Amazon and other sites. [Other companies have a calculator you can use to experiment with different amounts before you need to commit to a final price.]
I think Lulu is perfect for creating a travel journal, a story written by your child, or a compendium of family stories. When you need a few copies to share amongst friends/family and you don’t need to distribute to the entire world through Amazon or any other bookstore, Lulu prints a very nice quality book at a reasonable price.
For people who are comfortable using programs such as InDesign(R) and PhotoShop(R), it’s relatively easy to set up your file with their recommendations for page size and margins. If you’re including any images, remember that print uses a different color space than your digital camera: you’ll need to convert everything to CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) from your original RGB (red, green, blue) images. Lulu has a cover generator program or you can create your own. You’ll need to know how many pages the book is so that Lulu can provide the correct dimensions, including where the spine begins and ends.
Lulu accepts pdf files – one for the interior and another for the cover, if you created your own. You can save some money by getting your ISBN for free from Lulu. They will be listed as the publisher and you won’t be able to publish the same book with another company later unless you get another ISBN (either provided by the other company, or purchased through Bowker in the US). When you’re ready to get your book printed, you’ll upload the files, provide some information like keywords, a short description of the book, set the price, and order a proof copy to make sure it all looks good. If you want/need to make any changes, update the file and re-upload to Lulu. I recommend ordering another proof, just to be sure everything looks great before ordering multiple copies to give away or sell.