PressBooks for writing and publishing your family history

My latest writing project, The Researcher’s Digital Toolbox, is written and is now in the editing stage. This project has been a very interesting exercise thanks to PressBooks, the online publishing platform for self-publishers. Geneabloggers, especially those using WordPress, will be right at home in PressBooks. It is a highly-customized version of WordPress where you build your publication one chapter at a time. Instead of posts and pages you’ll find parts and chapters, but most everything else is straight out of WordPress.

A Book Project

In the Text section you see all of your content items listed with their status and a checkbox to identify the chapters to be exported when you are ready to create your ebook. The cross-arrows to the left of each chapter’s title let you drag chapters around should you want to reorganize your content. The Front Matter section at the top is created automatically and is used to house “fine print” items such as copyright, acknowledgements and introduction.

PressBooks Editing Screen

The editing screen is pure WordPress including media management and editing tools. You add images just as you would in WordPress. You can work in either the graphical editor or the HTML editor and once you’ve saved your work, hit the Preview button to see how it will look to the reader.

Where PressBooks differs from other platforms is that it supports the entire book-building workflow: concept, writing, editing, graphics, publishing. That’s were the WordPress side of it is such a beautiful choice. It takes advantage of the collaborative features of WordPress and builds onto that. You can give others access to your project to help you with writing, editing and providing images or graphics. When the project is ready, PressBooks will provide the conversion service to export the manuscript to your chosen formats – including some print-ready options.

Speaking of collaboration . . . it’s easy to give others permission to come look at your manuscript for editorial support. WordPress’s comment platform is fully functional and can be used for editorial comments.  There is an online “front end” that can be opened to all or just a selected few. This front end only displays published chapters which means you could also use it to offer previews of your book online.

PressBooks Front End

Carrying things even further, PressBooks supports multiple authors and could easily be used to build e-magazines with a group of contributors. One user account can support multiple publications so you can be working on more than one book – or magazine issue – at any given time. And, if you want to spend the time and effort customizing the style of your project, PressBooks supports the use of custom style sheets as part of the export process.

As impressive as it is already, PressBooks is still a work in progress. Creator Hugh McGuire and his staff continue to improve the platform and are very open to ideas and suggestions from their users.

Oh, did I forget to mention that it costs nothing to create on PressBooks?  To learn more and set up your own account, stop by PressBooks today. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  • Hugh McGuire

    Thanks so much for the lovely write-up! One note: we’ll be enabling WordPress (and Tumblr & Blogger) import shortly….just testing on dev and doing some cleaning up of the feature! Should make it a LOT easier to go from blog to book.