Self-hosting features

Hello Community,

I’m so impressed by what I have read and seen about Pressbooks and Hugh McGuire.

I am working with a non-profit client and we are leaning toward using Pressbooks for a webbook library. My client currently use WordPress for their website so their users will be somewhat familiar with the editing interface.

I have a few question that I hope the community can answer:

  1. Does the self-hosted version have limited features or are all features available in the self-hosted version that are available with the Pressbooks-hosted version?

  2. Are there consultants/developers who offer their services to assist with publishing a Pressbooks book?

  3. This library will have English and Spanish visitors (and later other languages). When thinking about the navigation and other elements of the site, will I need to create a different self-hosted site for each language?

  4. What kind of support plans are available to those who self-host Pressbooks?

  5. We plan to include activities in the webbook and some visitors, due to having low bandwidth, will need to be able to download and print smaller parts/sections of the webbook rather than the entire book. Is this possible with possible?

  6. I can handle the sysadmin tasks for installation and configuration of self-hosted Pressbooks. And adding a new book with chapters and parts looks easy enough. However, how easy or difficult it is to format the book as far as layouts that include media and work well with the exports?

Your time is appreciated.

Sincerely,
Charlotta

Hi Charlotta,

There are several differences between the premium support that Pressbooks provides its clients and the opensource version.

Availability of themes-
In Pressbooks, a theme is the look and feel of a book. All Pressbook themes are child-themes of Pressbook-book. Pressbook-book creates the visual interface on every site, and the child themes are often typography, how images look, what the chapter header looks like, and how the table of contents is structured.

There are a couple open source themes, notably McLuhan and Jacobs, which are my two go-tos. Hosted Networks get additional themes including Malala which is my favorite theme that I don’t have. All of the Pressbooks themes are listed at https://pressbooks.com/themes/

Pressbooks Dependencies
One of the trickiest things of setting up Pressbooks on your own are the dependencies that you have to install. These are listed on the installation page, but one of the biggest ones that isn’t open source is “PrinceXML” or the cloud version of PrinceXML that is called “DocRaptor.” Subscription for PrinceXML is somewhere around $1,000 per server, but there is a nice noncommercial license that is available to use if you are providing the generated PDFs free of cost. You would have to review PrinceXML’s nomcommercial license and make sure that you feel that you fall under their free noncommercial license.

MathJax may be the most difficult dependency to run on your own, and there are currently instructions on github on how to run a microservice on your pressbooks server or on Amazon Lambda. Currently the microservice option relies on out of support versions of NodeJS and may not be appropriate if you are concerned with the security of using an EOL product on a production server.

LMS Integration and LTI
One of the premium plugins that Pressbooks “holds back” from the open source community is the LTI plugin, which allows deep connection between a university LMS and a pressbooks network, including returning grades for embedded H5P activities.

So in my estimation… what can open source Pressbooks do:

  • Export PDFs, EPUBs, MOBI (You get the best PDFs by installing PrinceXML which you may qualify for the noncommercial license)
  • You can install opensource plugins that lots of Pressbooks Networks use including H5P, TablePress, Hypothes.is, and Koko Analytics.
  • You can connect to SSO

What do you get from purchasing Pressbooks from the Pressbooks team:

  • Priority support from the developers of the application
  • More themes and styles for your books
  • LTI connection to the LMS including grade passback of H5P activities
  • Accessible Math using MathJax rendered math across all versions (you can always use MathJax on the HTML versions of the book, and you can use a plugin called QuickLatex to render math in your exports, but there are accessibility implications.)

There are quite a few open source users like myself that try to contribute to the forums and support people who are trying Pressbooks using the open source method. I was helped so much by the community and do try to give back, but the support you get from volunteers like me is quite different from the ready to go option of Pressbooks. Most of the Pressbooks experts around the country seem to be in higher ed, and I don’t really see agencies or consultants that do Pressbooks work. Once in a while I see a job listing targetting a librarian or Pressbooks expert that may have a little extra capacity, but its not like WordPress that has agencies and individuals devoted to it.

2 Likes

Thank you, Ed, for such a thorough reply. I appreciate it. This is extremely helpful.

We’re going to install a demo site so that the staff members can play with it.

Thank you for your generosity of time and knowledge.

Is this version of the installation instructions up-to-date? I noticed that it includes PHP 7.4. Will there be PHP 8.x version released this year or next?

@lottie those docs do need to be updated. Pressbooks has required PHP 8 since the 6.4.0 release: Releases · pressbooks/pressbooks · GitHub

@lottie – I updated the installation documentation for open sourcers this afternoon. Find revised instructions at Installation - Pressbooks

As for your questions, brief responses inline:

  1. Does the self-hosted version have limited features or are all features available in the self-hosted version that are available with the Pressbooks-hosted version?

The open source version of Pressbooks is the same code that we run for our SaaS clients. As @beckej noted, we do maintain some plugins and themes that are currently only available for enterprise clients or individual subscribers of our hosted pressbooks.pub network, but it’d take a long time to detail all the differences here. The short answer is that you can create and publish books using the open source version of Pressbooks. If you want to know more about differences between our enterprise plans, etc. please contact our sales team: For educational institutions | Pressbooks.

  1. Are there consultants/developers who offer their services to assist with publishing a Pressbooks book?

We provide premium support to our enterprise clients and offer a paid support subscription to individuals using our pressbooks.pub product. We also try to be kind, helpful, and forthright with our open source users. As for other consultants/developers, you’d be welcome to ask on this forum or elsewhere for specific services.

  1. This library will have English and Spanish visitors (and later other languages). When thinking about the navigation and other elements of the site, will I need to create a different self-hosted site for each language?

No. If you wanted to make a bilingual edition of a book, you have several options. The easiest (to my mind) would be to make a clone of the book in the second language and set the book language to the desired language. If its a language that Pressbooks has translations available for, the admin interface and display interface of that book will be in the target language.

  1. What kind of support plans are available to those who self-host Pressbooks?

We do have any support plans for open source users of Pressbooks. If you want support from us, please hire us to provide enterprise hosting or purchase a subscription on our pressbooks.pub service. That’s how we stay solvent as a business and pay the people who write the software, design the interfaces, fix the bugs, write the documentation, and support the people who use it!

  1. We plan to include activities in the webbook and some visitors, due to having low bandwidth, will need to be able to download and print smaller parts/sections of the webbook rather than the entire book. Is this possible?

Yes. You can produce and distribute exports for your book that include all or part of the book quite easily. See Export – Pressbooks User Guide for a high-level overview. You can distribute the export files for your book however you like.

  1. I can handle the sysadmin tasks for installation and configuration of self-hosted Pressbooks. And adding a new book with chapters and parts looks easy enough. However, how easy or difficult it is to format the book as far as layouts that include media and work well with the exports?

I don’t really know how to answer this question succinctly. Pressbooks provides you with lots of options via the WYSIWYG editor. You can insert media of various kinds and specify its size and positioning in the webbook. You can also write custom CSS to modify the appearance of the webbook and your EPUB and PDF exports separately. This will be easy or difficult depending on your desired outcome and prior experience with custom CSS and flowing/fixed layouts. See Appearance – Pressbooks User Guide and Apply Custom Styles – Pressbooks User Guide for two introductory guide chapters on relevant topics.

Can I ask how many books you and your client are planning on publishing? I don’t want to discourage you from self-hosting, but depending on your answer, I think you and your client may have a better experience with our enterprise SaaS product or starting out on pressbooks.pub.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. This is very helpful. I really appreciate it.