5 Using Pressbooks

Pressbooks is a web-authoring tool that can be used to create online books and make them available to readers for free. While there are lots of platforms and tools used to create OER, Pressbooks is a great choice for text-based resources that have the general look and feel of a book. It handles more than just text, though. You can embed or upload media such as images, videos, and web content, and because the platform supports H5P, you can even add interactive content like labs, simulations, quizzes, or anything else you might want to incorporate. Pressbooks is an open-source platform based on WordPress, so if you’ve ever worked on a WordPress website or blog, the interface will look familiar to you.

At University of Iowa, we have a site license for the platform, which means that if you sign up for an account through the UI Pressbooks site, you’ll have access to back-end support from ITS, as well as some additional features. I would encourage anyone thinking of using Pressbooks to sign up through our institution at the link above.

In this chapter, you will learn some tips and basic information about getting started with Pressbooks. This material is excerpted from Pressbooks User Guide by Book Oven Inc. (Pressbooks.com), which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. I would recommend that you bookmark this user guide to have as a reference source, particularly if you decide to use the platform for developing your own OER project.

Quick Start Guide

The guide has a quick start chapter which can help you set up Pressbooks in five steps. Please note that the process for getting an account is a little different for us here at UI, since we have a locally hosted and supported Pressbooks instance. Here are our five steps:

  1. Request an account from ITS through this page on their website. The site request form is available here.  (Note: This step is different than what is described in the guide.)
  2. Add book metadata (i.e., title, author(s), etc.)
  3. Add and organize your text
  4. Choose your theme
  5. Export book

Book Info

Including robust and accurate information about your book (metadata) allows others to find and use it. From Pressbooks:

“The ‘book info’ page is where you put information about your book. In the book publishing industry, this is called ‘metadata,’ or, data about the data. Metadata allows bookstores and libraries categorize a book and make it easier for readers to find. It answers questions such as: What is the title? Who is the author? When was it published? And what is the book about?

The “book info” section is also where you display your copyright and licensing statement. Near the bottom of the section, you can find a “copyright” area that allows you to choose the appropriate Creative Commons license from a drop-down menu. There is also a textbox that you can use to include attributions for your source material. This can also be included at the chapter level, too. More info on displaying licensing and copyright info can be found in this section of the Book Info page.

For detailed information on entering metadata in Pressbooks, follow the instructions on the Book Info page.

Parts of a Pressbook

As you are preparing to write and compile the content of your book, it is important to give some thought to how it will be organized. By default, Pressbooks provides three sections—front matter, main body, and back matter. The dashboard allows you to add, delete, or edit content in each of these three sections. The chapters and most of the substantial content of the book is usually structured into chapters and sub-chapters in the main body.

The Create and Edit Parts section of the guidebook tells you more about working with each section of the Pressbook.

Adding Content

To add text and media content to your Pressbook, you’ll need to use the built-in editor. This allows you to add content in two modes, visual or text.

The visual editor is the default tool. It is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface that allows you to see styling and formatting as they are applied. You can also work in a text editor, or switch to it as necessary for specific needs. Here, you can view and edit the HTML version of any text written and formatted in the visual editor, and you can also write directly in HTML, using the toolbar as necessary.

The Edit Content with the Visual and Text Editor section of the guidebook tells you more about these features.

Embedded Media and Interactive Content

From Pressbooks:

“Embedded media is media that is hosted outside of Pressbooks and linked to through your webbook. You will have encountered this kind of content all over the web – YouTube videos in blog posts, for example, or social media posts in news articles. This same kind of media can be dropped into the editor of your webbook on Pressbooks. Your readers can watch videos, take quizzes, view interactive maps, and more without ever leaving the book.”

There are a few different methods to embed media in Pressbooks:

  • Copy/paste the URL
  • Use a shortcode
  • Use the iframe embed code supplied by the content provider

The Display Embedded Media section of the guidebook gives you more information.

Uploading Media

In addition to embedding content from the source, you can upload images or other media to be housed in the Pressbook itself. All uploaded media must be under 10 MB. You can upload files from your computer or from a URL, or you can add them first to the Pressbooks media library.

Once you’ve uploaded an image, you can also control the appearance and placement of image by customizing size and alignment. You’ll need to title your image and add alt-tags so that screen readers can display and read all the content properly.

The Media section of the guidebook has more detailed information on how to do this.

Exporting (Publishing) Your Book

Exporting your book is how you make it available in different formats, so that it can be accessed across different platforms on different types of devices. Besides the default webbook format, Pressbooks supports four different export file formats. The links at the left take you to the part of the guidebook that explains that format more fully.

Print PDF Export a print PDF file if you plan to publish your book in print format. This file meets the requirements of printers and print-on-demand services.
Digital PDF Export and download the digital PDF instead if you do not plan on printing the file. These can be used online and can contain hyperlinks for easier navigation.
EPUB Export EPUBs to submit to any popular ebook distributor. This is the file you’d use to submit your ebook to Amazon, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and others.

This section of the guide provides step-by-step instructions for exporting your Pressbooks: https://guide.pressbooks.com/chapter/export/.


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Getting Started with Open Educational Resources Copyright © 2019 by Mahrya Burnett, Jenay Solomon, Heather Healy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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