PressBooks – An Online Authoring Platform

One of the biggest obstacles to personal publishing is finding affordable copyediting support. It’s always a good idea to have several sets of eyes look over a publication for typographical, grammatical and content errors. PressBooks offers an online platform where you can write your book and invite others to review, comment and even edit your content before you publish it.

PressBooks dashboard

PressBooks dashboard

WordPress users will be right at home with PressBooks because it has been built with WordPress as its foundation. Each book project begins with a dashboard. Although the dashboard is familiar to WordPress users, this one has been customized to suit the needs of an author rather than a site manager. There are details about the book and its author(s) along with a customized menu.

PressBooks project workspace.

PressBooks project workspace.

Instead of the lists of pages and posts found on a normal WordPress site, your PressBooks project contains text items organized into parts and chapters. Two parts – Front Matter and Main Body – are automatically built for each project. Front Matter is where publishing, copyright and legal information is included along with optional content like preface or acknowledgement pages. The Text screen shows you who authored each chapter, if there are any comments associated with it, chapter status and if it is to be included when the project is exported to a published format. Chapters can be dragged and dropped to reorganize their order of presentation.

Editing screen

Editing screen

The editing screen will also be familiar to any WordPress user. One interesting addition is the Footnote shortcode which makes it easy for family historians to include necessary citations in their content. Notice in the right sidebar that this chapter can be easily moved to a different part by selecting the new part from the drop-down list. Adding images and other media work just like it does with WordPress.

Reading view

Reading view

On the front-end, you’ll find your publication set up as a private site accessible only to those individuals you include as project users. You add users just as you would with any WordPress site, giving them whatever rights your want. A subscriber can only add comments to the chapters in your publication. Contributors, authors, editors and administrators have the same rights as they would in WordPress.

You may only want reviewers to have subscriber rights and to add their remarks as comments on each chapter. Collaborators with author/editor rights can edit chapters within the actual work area. PressBooks maintains WordPress’s revisions component giving you the ability to see who made updates and when, and you can even roll back edits to a previous revision if you wish.

Export screen

Export screen

When you are ready to publish, you have several options. In addition to PDF, ePub and Mobi formats, there are several intermediate formats that are used to export to other applications – InDesign, for example – for additional layout work. PressBooks currently offers a small selection of themes giving you more style options than most conversion services.

Theme options

Basic themes available in PressBooks

Like themes for your WordPress blog, these PressBook themes offer several customizable options for the formats associated with them.

Theme options

Theme options

Print-ready PDFs have them most options and there are options to export to ICML and Wikibook XML formats. Using the ICML format creates a file that can be finished off in InDesign and Wikibooks XML is used with WikiPublisher, an open-source typesetting engine for building print-ready books.

Exported page in PDF format

Exported page in PDF format.

PressBooks is a great platform for building a writing co-op where multiple family history writers build their individual book projects and support each other with review and copyediting support. Once the book is finished and published, your PressBooks project site can become a preview site providing links to your book pages at the booksellers where you book is available.

To learn more, check out their 4-Step Guide to Making a Book with PressBooks.

6 comments for “PressBooks – An Online Authoring Platform

  1. January 10, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Wow, Denise! This is just tooooo cool! I have started a project to create a how-to manual from my recent website remodeling and have been struggling with LibreOffice. I can create simple documents but am having trouble with setting up an entire book. PressBooks looks PERFECT for my needs! And I absolutely love WordPress! What great timing on your part….WOW!

    And thanks!
    Ruth

  2. January 10, 2012 at 10:36 am

    P. S. Now I’ll never get my housework done… :)

    • Denise Barrett Olson
      January 10, 2012 at 6:16 pm

      One of the advantages of old age – and old eyes – is the dust bunnies and hair balls (dogs) aren’t as noticeable. LOL!

      I’m delighted you’re interested in PressBooks! Now, to recruit a few more and create a mutual editing group . . .

      • January 11, 2012 at 12:46 am

        Excellent idea about the mutual editing group. I’m up for it!

        • Denise Barrett Olson
          January 11, 2012 at 4:17 am

          Super!

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