Tuesday, November 22, 2011

PressBooks eBook publishing service opens its doors to the public

PressBooks, a Montreal-based startup, took its eponymous online eBook production service public today. There are lots of services and software for creating eBooks, but PressBooks has some interesting features for self-publishing authors (and even for established publishers--more on that in a minute.) PressBooks is an online service built on top of WordPress. If you're familiar with the WordPress dashboard, you can jump into PressBooks right away. The service creates fully-formatted EPUBs and PDF files, as well as HTML online eBooks and XML documents. It's primarily designed for text-intensive trade-style eBooks; if you're planning to create picture books or heavily-formatted multi-column text titles, there are better tools than PressBooks. However, you can import book covers and images into a built-in media library.

PressBooks uses a simple WYSIWYG editor for creating and editing text; text can also be edited offline and then uploaded. A small variety of templates are available for automatically formatting eBooks; PressBooks is working on more designs. Multiple authors and users can be defined, and the site can be public (anyone can read the eBook) or private (only specified users can access the site). Users can enter metadata in the Book Information section, including title and subtitle, descriptions, names of editors and translators, print and eBook ISBNs, and prices.

PressBooks has already been used for creating two commercially-published eBooks: "Book: A Futurist's Manifesto", which was edited and published by the PressBooks team for O'Reilly Media while the software was under development, and "Nine Things Successful People Do Differently" by Heidi Grant Halvorson, published by the Harvard Business Review Press.

At the present time, PressBooks is a free service, but that's likely to change once it exits beta. Here's a presentation that demonstrates most of the service's features:
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