Introducing: Hypothesis Annotations in Pressbooks

By Zoe Wake Hyde

Pressbooks has recently added Hypothesis as an annotation and highlighting tool that can be added to your webbook. If you already know about Hypothesis, we think you’ll be quite excited by this, but if you’re not familiar, here’s what you need to know.

What is Hypothesis?

Hypothesis is a simple web annotation tool that allows readers to highlight and annotate webpages, enabling deeper engagement with content. While the tool is available as a browser extension that can be used on any webpage, Pressbooks allows you to build its capabilities into the pages of your webbook itself,  meaning readers can read and create annotations without installing the extension (so long as they have a Hypothesis account), and public comments will be visible to anyone who comes to your book.

How is it different from the existing comment function?

The biggest difference is that it lets you tie annotations (comments) directly to a highlighted section of text, rather that just adding them at the end of the page. This means if a passage is particularly good, or in need of an edit, a reader can highlight it and add a comment directly, then others can reply and discuss. Or, if there’s a typo, someone can flag it for the author to fix. These annotations can be made public, kept private to the reader or shared with a private group of users. One other difference is that Hypothesis comments don’t need moderating, which saves time for in-group conversations.

What can I use it for?

Hypothesis is great for collaborative editing and reader feedback, allowing editors, authors and readers to discuss a text before final publication (and to continue the conversation afterwards if you want!). It is also widely used as a teaching tool, allowing students to engage with a text and each other. More broadly, Hypothesis is a great way to enhance your online reading, and if you sign up for an account to use on Pressbooks, we encourage you to check it out on other webpages using the browser extension.

What if my book is set to private? Can anyone see the public comments?

If your book is set to private, any public comments in Hypothesis will only be visible to people with access to your book (or any chapter(s) within it). This means that if you aren’t publicising your webbook, you don’t have to worry about setting up a group for your editors and/or pre-publication readers, as all comments will be hidden from view by default.

How does it interact with the other Pressbooks formats?

Hypothesis is a web only tool, so is only available on your webbook. Annotations and highlights will not appear in PDF or ebook exports, and you will only see them when you open the web version of your book (not in the editing interface).

To learn more about Hypothesis and how to enable it on your book, see our guide chapter, and if you have any questions, you can email us at support@pressbooks.com.


Zoe Wake Hyde is a publishing innovation & technology whiz and mans the Pressbooks support desk. If you email us with a question, you’ll probably run into her! Watch out for her regular posts on the Pressbooks blog, giving advice on updates, new features and common formatting challenges.

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