Way back in mid-March, we closed our office as a precautionary measure in response to COVID-19, and since then I have been planning (and planning and planning) to write about Pressbooks and the ways open digital technologies, open content, and open practices can be part of a resilience strategy in the face of upheavals like
We are very very excited to announce that we’re working with eCampusOntario and Ryerson University to improve Pressbooks as an Open Textbook authoring tool, under the just-announced eCampusOntario project: “Open Publishing Infrastructure for Ontario Post-Secondary Educators, Learners.”
Most of the development work we undertake under this grant will be released as open source improvements to the Pressbooks GPL codebase — so anyone using Pressbooks will benefit.
Pressbooks as we’ve dreamed since, well, 2010
This project is going to allow us to develop some of the most exciting capabilities of Pressbooks, something we have been dreaming of since, well, since I started working on Pressbooks way back in 2011.
In particular, we will be making some very visible improvements, including a redesign of the “webbook” interface (for reading Pressbooks books online) and a refresh of the standard catalog page for dedicated Pressbooks instances (such as this one, hosted by BCcampus).
APIs and Cloning
But the more exciting work is going on under the hood, where we’ll be migrating the Pressbooks API (built by Brad Payne from BCcampus) to the WordPress core REST API, extending the metadata capabilities, and building “cloning” of Pressbooks books into Pressbooks core (also leaning on work done by Brad).
This means that you’ll soon be able to point at any openly-licensed Pressbooks book in the universe, and pull it into your own Pressbooks environment, to enable the famous 5Rs of Open Educational Resources: Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute.
An API for Books (finally!)
What does this mean? This means Pressbooks will, finally, be able to fulfill a promise I’ve been thinking about since I started Pressbooks back in 2011: an API for books.
Indeed, looking through some archives, I am gratified to see that we’ve managed to build a lot of what I laid out in my May 2010 (!!) article for O’Reilly: “An Open, Webby, Book-Publishing Platform.”
More exciting is that we are now poised to move beyond that initial set of ideas, and offer something I wrote about a year later, in September 2010 (!), An API for Books.
It’s taken a while, but we’re getting there!
The past number of years have been an exercise in patience: We have always had dedicated and faithful users—from self-publishers to academic presses—who love Pressbooks because of how easy it makes formatting books for print and ebook stores.
But the real power of Pressbooks, from my perspective, has always been hidden in the plain sight of the web: all Pressbooks books are web-native from the start.
Open Textbooks and the Web
The Open Textbook movement is really the first coherent usecase for Pressbooks that has emerged to embrace the potential in Open, webby book publishing systems. So, it’s been gratifying to see the Pressbooks open source software being adopted in the Open Textbook world, by such leading projects as: Lumen Learning, BCcampus, and OpenSUNY.
At the same time, it’s been a challenge for a small company like ours to support the exciting Open Textbook possibilities of Pressbooks with our limited resources. This new project will enable us to move much faster towards an Open Textbook future we hope for.
Working with Ryerson and eCampusOntario
We’re thrilled to be working with some great people at Ryerson University on this project: Wendy Freeman, Fangmin Wang, Ann Ludbrook, Sally Wilson, and the rest of their team. And we’re excited as well to be working on an eCampus Ontario project: David Porter and Lena Patterson have a a great vision for the future of Open Textbooks in Ontario, and we’re excited to be part of it.
If you’d like more information about Pressbooks and Open Textbooks, get in touch! email@example.com.