Pressbooks and OER

Pressbooks is an open-source, open access plug-in that can be installed to augment an installation of WordPress. The Pressbooks module was built on top of WordPress due to broad familiarity, adoption, and relative ease of use of the WordPress platform.

The plug-in was initially developed to empower the average user with the ability to publish professionally designed textual outputs with ease. Pressbooks allows users to convert their publications into professional-quality files without having to know anything about book design or ebook development. Users can choose from a variety of designs or can customize existing layouts to their liking. Being of the web, Pressbooks is optimized for online viewing but is also interoperable with, and allows for export to, a variety of open and/or portable formats including ePUB, MOBI and PDF.

While initially designed to support the publishing of monographs, Pressbooks can also be used to support the publishing of conference and symposium proceedings, grey literature, journal articles, course syllabi, dissertations, and more.

Of particular note is the wide adoption of Pressbooks in support of the creation of open textbooks and open educational resources (OER) more broadly. The broad adoption of Pressbooks by institutions across North America allows for an ease of interoperability of content between Pressbooks installations, facilitated by additional functionality developed and contributed by the broader community.

The promise of educational resources (OER)

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation offer the following definition for OER:

“OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge.”[1]

While the scope and impact potential of open educational resources is very broad, there are key  elements to OER that make possible this breadth of possibility. Most important is the concept of open licensing.

The utility and proliferation of OER hinges on open licensing. This necessity is baked into the widespread understanding and definition of OER itself. The CC-BY license (attribution only) makes possible the adoption, editing and repurposing of educational resources.[2] This ability to recombine, rework, and remix in the service of discrete and varied learning outcomes is one of the greatest strengths of OER.

The Pressbooks platform leverages the affordances of open publishing and makes possible, almost effortlessly, new forms of authorship. It enables authors to import (subject to licensing) entire or selected elements of existing OER in a seamless fashion, allowing the author to modify and re-compose the work to suit their needs and the needs of their students. The Pressbooks interface makes it possible to impose unifying formatting, a professional appearance, and the creation of a number of digital surrogates to suit different reader needs.

Benefits of Open Educational Resources

The broad adoption and uptake of OER is borne of the many benefits offered by the model. The following list offers a glimpse:[3]

Additional benefits intersect with the broader gains realized by a culture of openness:

  • Showcases research to widest possible audience
  • Enhances a university’s reputation as well as that of the teacher or researcher
  • Social responsibility – provides education for all
  • Shares best practice internationally
  • Allows for peer review
  • Maximizes the use and increases availability of educational materials
  • Raises standard of educational resources by gathering more contributors


Nadia Mireles. “Open Education Matters: Why is it important to share content?”

Frequently Asked Questions

Book design and Pressbooks?
Pressbooks ensures your book conforms to all the best practices of book publishing and takes care of the graphic design and coding for you. There is no need to write markup or have a designer’s eye. Pressbooks has beautifully designed print and ebook templates, with choices that should most needs.

PressBooks allows text to be imported from various file formats, including MS Word, and EPub.

Pressbooks is built to be easy enough for you to use yourself. There is a growing collection of resources to help you get started, including guides to help ensure your PressBook conforms to accessible guidelines.

Where can I search for OER?

OERs are now easier to find than ever. George Mason University worked with a tech company to create a single search interface, a type of “Google for OERs”. It is called the Mason Metafinder.




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Getting Started with Pressbooks by York University Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.