e-Book authoring platform Pressbooks going open source

Pressbooks, a popular platform for creating and distributing e-books, have announced they will be making the code for their platform open source. Pressbooks builds on top of the open-source blogging platform WordPress. If done right, this could be very good news for the education sector, which has shown keen interest in e-books recently.

Tablet and Print Books side by side. Image by remiforall @ flickr

e-Books have been one of the big topics in education this year, with the California “open source textbooks” initiative, the launch of Apple’s iBooks, and the popularity of e-book readers such as Kindle and Nook  – not to mention the rise of tablets such as the iPad as e-book readers. Earlier this year a preview of Preparing for Effective Adoption and Use of eBooks in Education by James Clay was released which is well worth taking a look at.

Pressbooks builds on WordPress to deliver a web-based authoring and production environment for e-books including visual editing, as well as distribution on popular platforms such as  Kindle, Nook and Apple iBooks.

The open source announcement was made fairly quietly in a presentation by Pressbooks founder Hugh McGuire in a talk last month.

There are already other open source e-book editors available such as Sigil and BookType; BookType and Pressbooks share a lot of features in common – both are web based with distribution and collaboration features, and support the same range of e-Book formats – so it will be interesting to see how they compare when both are available as open source.

According to Pressbooks, the platform will be made open source in Q1 2013; however they are already reaching out to development partners for early access to the code. For more information, visit pressbooks.com.


Image credit: remiforall, CC-BY


2 thoughts on “e-Book authoring platform Pressbooks going open source

  1. Scott Wilson Post author

    Hi Doug,

    Yes, as WordPress is GPL, a program building on it also needs to be GPL if it distributes its code.

    However, in this case the PressBooks code was never before distributed, it was only available as an online service. This is sometimes called the “ASP (application service provider) loophole” where hosting is not considered a form of distribution.

    There are other licenses that address this “loophole”, such as the Affero GPL. See https://osswatch.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2012/11/06/how-can-services-be-open-source/ for more info

    Thanks for the links!


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