Converting ebooks is a BitLit-exclusive series where we cover the many platforms in which publishers can use to produce their own ebooks — frontlist or when digitizing the backlist. With so many options out there, this series digs deep into the ebook publishing platforms that are cheap, easy, and quick to use.
BitLit doesn’t provide book or ebook production ourselves. We’re a print and ebook bundling service! But, we have a dedicated interest in showcasing the best platforms for publishers (prospective and partnered with BitLit)!
First up in the series is PressBooks, founded by Hugh McGuire in Montreal, Quebec. PressBooks makes it easy to produce beautiful books — in any format. PressBooks goes beyond ebook production to provide books in PDF for print, EPUB, MOBI, and print-on-demand services are offered as well. It’s free to create ebooks with PressBooks watermarks and only $25 for watermark-free MOBI and EPUB files. (Watermark-free, print-ready PDFs are $100). Thank you PressBooks for setting a price point publishers can afford!
My favourite part about PressBooks? No coding knowledge is required, but the system is sophisticated enough to make you think you’re coding by the beauty and customization of the output. I created an ebook using PressBooks for a Master of Publishing course. I was extremely impressed by how easy it was to convert H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine to a fully formatted ebook for Kindle and Kobo.
Publishing professionals are passionate people who often have more than one role on the go. How many times have you heard of the website designer also being the ebook designer? PressBooks has managed to make these two roles a seamless transition: There is a PressBooks plugin for WordPress. Learning new software is good, but navigating a familiar interface is even better. This plugin shows a tech startup mindset with the keen knowledge of how a publishing business operates.
In producing The Time Machine, copying the text into PressBooks was as easy as copy and pasting several blog posts. This is the new way to produce books. Hugh spoke with me saying, “The real value of using Pressbooks is creating print books more efficiently, and getting ebooks at the same time. Actually, I think of the ebooks as almost a fringe benefit. Reducing the cost and complexity of making a print book is the real thing we do: You create your ‘book’ once, and get print and ebook out the other end.” PressBooks has a short instructional video that details the simple process.
Similar to choosing a theme in WordPress, PressBooks offers a variety of themes from modern sans serif designs to traditional serif designs. The live preview option made it easy to see what my book would look like before I committed to that theme. PressBooks has a number of samples to check out too. Here’s a screenshot of my own project:
Part of my school project was to test out the image functionality. If you’re publishing beautifully illustrated books or those with diagrams or photographs, you know that converting ebooks can be unnecessarily difficult. Why must every device override your CSS in a different way?
The PressBooks team jumped on this challenge early. They test all kinds of devices in the marketplace. From various Kindles to Kobo to Readmill, they’ve covered the gambit. For a publisher producing non-fiction titles, this expertise alone might be the reason you jump to PressBooks.
PressBooks has worked with many publishers and authors to create custom books as well. Hugh says that PressBooks has “a growing number [of publishers] who hire us to do the heavy lifting of getting the book set up, and then they can go in, make changes they want, and export their books as they like.”
Publishers rarely have the time to innovate with new production workflows. It involves interrupting a tight schedule planned years in advance. I’d venture to say that testing the PressBooks platform is one of the few options that doesn’t require upheaval to test. Hugh’s take on PressBooks is that their “approach saves a lot of time, and a lot of complexity from your print process, and then you get your clean/valid/tested ebook outputs as well.” Yeah, I can’t argue with that either.
Have an ebook platform you want BitLit to check out? Comment below. I’m listening with eager ears!
Thanks to Hugh McGuire who took time out of his busy schedule chat with us about the beauty of PressBooks!