11 Format Guide: Pressbooks

Pressbooks is a web-based authoring tool based on the WordPress authoring platform. If you’ve created a website using WordPress, you’ll find some similarities working with Pressbooks. Some also find working in Pressbooks similar to working within a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, or D2L.

Content hosted in Pressbooks generally appears as chapter-by-chapter HTML, often with downloadable files (PDF, EPUB, EPUB3, XHTML, MOBI, WXR, and/or ODT) made publicly available. This guide covers editing from Pressbook sites for which files are downloadable, those where a WXR (Pressbooks) file is available, and those for which downloadable or WXR files are not available.


When multiple editable formats are available, the format you choose to edit will depend on your familiarity and ease with the format, along with what final format(s) you’d like to distribute your work. Many formats options you’ll find available via a Pressbooks published textbook are covered in this guide. For those formats that aren’t included in this guide, you’ll find a selection of free editors online: XHTML (possible editors) and ODT (OpenDocument – possible editors).

Finally, some authors make the Pressbooks filetype (WXR) publicly available. You can then install Pressbooks or get access to Pressbooks with an Open Textbook Network membership for modifying.

Importing for Editing in Pressbooks

WRX files, as well as Microsoft Word (.doc, docx, .rtf), EPUB, HTML, .txt, and OpenOffice (.odt) may be imported and edited directly in Pressbooks.

Import content from EPUB or WordPress

Import content from Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx, .rtf)

Import content from OpenDocument (.odt)

Import content from WordPress XML (.wxr)

Import content from Pressbooks XML (you can Export Pressbooks XML from the Export page; this is WordPress XML but with certain Pressbooks-specific extensions)

As of the writing of this guide, Pressbooks is in the process of adding a feature that will allow you to point at any open Pressbooks book, and import it automatically into your own Pressbooks book.

Pressbooks can’t ingest random XHTML, because random XHTML it is not specific enough about, for instance, separations between chapters. Pressbooks can ingest HTML on a chapter by chapter basis, but again, random HTML is not specific enough about how it should be ordered to ingest en masse.

Some open textbooks created using Pressbooks are not as readily editable. In that case, you can consult the Format Guide: HTML or contact the author to request the WXR or EPUB file. You can also copy and paste the content into the format of your choice.

Helpful resources

Pressbooks Userguide
Introduction to Using Pressbooks (YouTube)

Developer resources

Pressbooks offers developer resources on GitHub and Google.

Contributor:  Anita Walz


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Modifying an Open Textbook: What You Need to Know Copyright © 2016 by Open Education Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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