Tag Archives: PressBooks

Serialize your family history

One of the reasons there are so many geneabloggers is that we have discovered it as the perfect platform for creating and presenting our family history one story at a time. Instead of waiting until I have all my research completed, when I have gathered enough on a person or event, I’ll write that story and publish it on my blog. Should I later find additional information, the article gets updated. I’m always surprised at how quickly those stories start adding up. And, those articles are easily accessible for repurposing into any number of other projects.

My two favorite authoring tools are the Scrivener app and the PressBooks platform. I have family history projects set up on both. When I finish a family history post on Moultrie Journal (my personal blog) that fits with one of these projects, I’ll copy it to both platforms. Although Scrivener is a fabulous authoring workspace, it’s also quite private. PressBooks is online and designed for collaboration. When I publish a section of the project at PressBooks, I can invite family – and anyone else I want – to come, read and comment on it. I get lots of good feedback and I’ll often import those remarks into my research notes on the Scrivener project.

While both platforms will export the finished book to any number of formats, Scrivener gives me more control over the formatting details of the export than PressBooks does.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that my family isn’t as fanatical about family history as I am. Oh, I don’t mean they aren’t interested, but they are busy and many aren’t that tech-savy. So, I need a delivery system that puts these stories in front of them with as little effort on their part as possible.

Fortunately for me, just about everyone in the family has some kind of tablet – most of them iPads. I’ve been working to install the free Documents app from Readdle on their iThings. It is an amazing app that lets them view just about any kind of file – from Office documents to PDFs to photos and even videos. It can annotate and/or edit many kinds of files and connects to just about every cloud storage system to provide a very handy file management system. Thanks to this app I can send documents and PDF files to my family as I create them and they can easily open and enjoy them on their iPads. This serialized storytelling suits us all.

A family history is a living, breathing creature that is constantly changing and always amazing. I enjoy capturing whatever story my research presents me and then incorporating it into the growing patchwork that is my ancestry. Thanks to today’s digital authoring and publishing tools, I can also share those stories in many creative ways.


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.

Tech Notes – April 27, 2012

Here’s this week’s collection of interesting tech tidbits:

  • There’s a lot of cloud storage items in the news this week. Both Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Google Drive were hot topics, but Dropbox, iCloud and Amazon’s Cloud Drive got their share of attention too. If you’re shopping for a cloud storage solution, don’t just use price as your decision point – make sure you read the terms of service fine print too.
  • Need some help designing a book cover for your publishing project? Publetariat has a great series showing you how using the free GIMP graphics application.
  • Flickr users will fall in love with the new HTML5 uploader. The new interface sports a drag-and-drop functionality allowing you to not only add images for upload by dropping them on the browser window, but lets you manage and arrange them BEFORE beginning the upload operation. The rollout to replace this as the default online uploader began today. It will take some time before it’s available to all, but be patient – it’s coming your way.
  • Amazon released their Send to Kindle app for Mac this week. It installs to you system’s tray so all you have to do is drag a file onto the app’s icon and select the Kindle device/app that will receive it. Windows users have already been enjoying this app for some time.
  • I just downloaded a trial copy of Flying Meat’s VoodooPad 5 [Mac – $24.99, iOS – $9.99] to take a look. VoodooPad is a desktop wiki that can manage anything from research notes to project management to system documentation. A couple of things caught my eye that would make it well worth the price: 1) Dropbox sync between the Mac and iOS, 2) Markdown support and 3) export to PDF and ePub. Markdown is the lazy man’s HTML (more on that in an upcoming article) which, combined with graphic support and the ePub export, could mean a really easy way to build an ebook. I should have a review published early next week. By the way, Flying Meat is also the developer of the delightful Acorn photo-editing app [Mac – $49.99] that has replaced Photoshop Elements on my desktop.
  • I received a very nice comment that included some great news on my recent article about PressBooks. Hugh McGuire, the force behind PressBooks, wrote that they were about to release an import feature that would make it easy to import from WordPress, Tumblr and Blogger. Heaven!

That’s the latest news from the Creek. Hope you all have a great weekend!

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.

Web-First Publishing

There’s been a lot of “buzz” recently that blogging is dead. Not even close! One of the – many – beauties of blogging is its structure. This structure has allowed us to subscribe to sites with newsreaders and have our favorite sites delivered to our desktops. This structure has fueled the development of many amazing apps that collect content and present it in a beautiful magazine or newspaper format on any number of devices. Now, this structure is being used to develop collaborative platforms for writing, editing and publishing all kinds of content in an almost endless number of formats.

Hugh McGuire is the driving force behind PressBooks – a blog-based platform for building and publishing books – all kinds of books in all kinds of formats. This presentation introduces his vision for building books. Even without audio, his energy and enthusiasm is quite obvious.

Having worked with PressBooks for some time, I’m impressed with the platform. It costs nothing to create an account and start working on a publishing project. Individual authors and small publishers are welcome to publish via PressBooks at no cost. If you want custom epub designs or print templates, you can contact Hugh McGuire for pricing. I have several projects in various stages of completion so the only published copies I’ve created are of rough drafts. Even so, I  was pleasantly surprised with the results.

I see many ways PressBooks can support the genealogy community. It’s collaborative features can help societies build and manage both quarterly journals and larger publishing projects. It easily supports multiple authors and peer review efforts. Add to that the ability to publish in both print and electronic formats – almost in a matter of minutes – and your society now has a very affordable way to extend the reach of their publications.

Individual authors can also benefit from PressBooks’ collaborative features. One of the biggest issues we face in publishing our family history projects is editing. Now you can invite others to review and comment on your manuscript – for both content and grammar. It’s always good to have more “eyes” look over manuscript and PressBooks offers a simply elegant way to do that. And, it tracks every revision to your content, allowing you to return to a previous draft at any time.

WordPress bloggers will immediately feel right at home in the PressBooks platform, but anyone who blogs will find it easy to use.  It’s got a growing community of authors helping each other in the PressBooks forum – with more than just using PressBooks. If you are planning a writing project, take a look at PressBooks and see if its workflow will work for you. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.