How to use Pressbooks for Teaching?

Open Textbooks in Teaching – Increased Affordability and Accessibility 

Have you been considering changing your textbook(s) in your courses to offer more affordable and accessible solutions to your students?


If you are thinking to adopt, adapt or create your own open textbook(s), the Pressbooks open publishing software might be the free and provincially supported solution for you.  Click on any of the accordion items below to learn more.

Pressbooks in print and digital form


Pressbooks is an open source content management system designed for creating books. It is based on WordPress, and can export content in many formats for ebooks, webbooks or print.

U of L educators can request an educational version through the participation in the ABOER Publishing Initiative Open Education Alberta. You can also create a private account directly with the Pressbooks company in Montreal.

Once a book is published, viewers have easy and free access to the digital version, which can also be enabled to allow for downloads and print of copies in a range of different formats.

Most Pressbooks are published under an open license; thus permitting reuse and adaption. An openly licensed book can easily be cloned and then adapted as needed.

One possible use for teaching is represented through this FitFOL2020 teaching resource, which has been designed to combine the delivery of information with the embedding of teaching/ learning activities. That way, our Pressbooks works much like a website and a textbook together. Unlike a traditional textbook, however, Pressbooks allows for the seamless integration of multimedia rich and interactive elements, such as for instance quizzes, video, pictures, presentations, etc.

For access to detailed manuals and video tutorials relating to editing Pressbooks, click on the following resources below:

  1. Pressbooks User Guide . This is a text-book format manual taking you through all the functions that come with the publishing software.
  2. BCcampus Pressbooks Resources This website compiles a manual, video tutorials (see 3) and frequently asked questions.
  3. BCcampus Video Tutorials. This is a playlist on youtube with short video tutorials taking you through some of the basics of using Pressbooks, such as Book set up and content, editing, embedding content, using LaTex, exporting various file formats, etc.
    Suggested starting point:
  4. Ryerson Open Textbook Guide 
    This manual provides some background information to OER and open textbooks for introductory users. There is a specific chapter on adapting open content.

Since more institutions support the open publishing of teaching materials, increasingly more academics work to adapt or create resources of their own or in collaboration with content experts in their fields using Pressbooks.

Open Textbook Collections like the BCcampus now compile hundreds of course texts across all disciplines. If you’d like to browse for examples created with Pressbooks, you can start here:

The eCAMPUS Ontario Open Library can be accessed here:

The Alberta OER Pressbook Publishing Initiative follows the same goal to grant Higher Education professional from across the province access to share their publications within and beyond Alberta.

Logo of Alberta Open Education Pressbooks website


U of L educators can request an educational version through the participation in the Alberta Open Education Alberta Pressbooks Initiative, which is a collaborative, no-fee publishing service for open textbooks and other open educational resources.    Simply contact either or to indicate your interest.

The following is adapted from BCcampus OpenEd Resources. (n.d.). Create Open Textbooka- Getting Started. Retrieved July 15, 2020, from

Creating an open textbook is easy. Creating something that others will use is challenging. Creating a resource that provides lasting value is an accomplishment.

How do you create an open textbook?
Creating an open textbook requires more than writing. The commitment required to create an open textbook is substantial, and by following the best practices outlined in the resources we’ve made available, you can help inspire knowledge around the world.

Important things to know

  1. The more effort you put in, the better the final product.
  2. Creating a high-quality open textbook requires substantial research.
  3. Finding content (videos, graphs, images, etc.) with open rights is challenging.
  4. Copy editing and rewriting, incorporating peer feedback, and final proofreading takes time that should be factored in from the beginning.

Why create an open textbook?

  • You have specific insight into your field of study that isn’t being communicated effectively through existing materials.
  • The current resources are out of date or don’t explore your topic adequately.
  • You want to provide future students with an effective learning resource thatyou can update as necessary.
  • You’d like a vehicle to help you show influence in your field and improve your credibility.

Resources to create an open textbook
To help you create a usable, effective, and accessible open textbook, BCcampus created a Self-Publishing Guide filled with best practices.

Avoiding copyright infringement
Creative works published under an open licence retain specific rights, with the permissions outlined by the type of licence used. A common misconception with open is that it’s free to use, wherever, whenever, and however you want. While in some cases this is true, especially for resources found in the public domain, it is not always true for openly licensed products. To use the work someone else has created, it’s essential that you strictly abide by the terms outlined in the open licence, or risk legal ramifications. For more information, see Open Licences and Creative Commons for Authors.

If you have questions or need guidance with open licensing and/or copyright, please contact the U of L Copyright Officer, Rumi Graham.

What are the Qualities of a Textbook?

Include Pedagogical Aids:

  • Chapter objectives
  • Chapter learning outcomes
  • Chapter outline
  • Chapter summary or review
  • Checklists
  • Headings and subheadings
  • Bold and italicized text
  • Table of contents
  • Table of figures
  • Index
  • Focus questions and practice questions
  • Case studies, vignettes and examples of best practices
  • Glossary and key terms
  • Demonstrations and simulations
  • Maps and timelines
  • Illustrations, including photos, charts, diagrams and figures
  • Multimedia
  • Pronunciation guide

Textbook Structure

5 rules of textbook development: frameworks, meaningful names, repetition, hierarchy, and manageable numbers


Open Textbook Review Criteria

Increasingly, open textbook projects are placing a greater emphasis on having peer reviewed materials in their collection to help faculty with adoption and address concerns some have about the quality of open textbooks. A number of open textbook projects have created criteria for evaluating and reviewing open textbooks.

BCcampus open textbook review criteria [website]
CCCOER review criteria


After a thorough review process involving collaborator authors and other chosen parties, you may request for your resource to appear in the public collection of open textbook repositories like the Open Education Alberta textbook collection. Note that you will need to meet rigorous requirements regarding the accessibility of your resources for your open textbook to be accepted.

You can follow the BCcampus Open Textbook Selection Process to make sure your textbook meets the current expectations for quality, relevancy, and ability to meet the needs of post-secondary faculty, students, and institutions, particularly within A.B. and Canada.

What does accessibility of content entail?

When creating learning materials, it is recommended to take a proactive approach so as to make them accessible to all learners by default including those who:

  • have a learning disability
  • are in a location where they cannot play or her audio
  • are not native English speakers and need written-word formats to support understanding
  • have a physical disability (as listed below)
    • are blind or have low vision
    • have poor contrast vision
    • are deaf or hard of hearing
    • are colour blind and cannot differentiate between certain colours
    • are using a device with monochrome display
  • have a form of cognitive disability

Pressbooks and Accessibility

Pressbooks contains a number of features enabling textbook authors to bake in accessibility into their projects, such as for instance, a range of output formats that the information can be presented in, an included font size increasing tool, etc. In essence, as a textbook author, you have a responsibility to create and organize the content of your textbooks in ways that allow all students equally to access and work with your resource. If you wish to familiarize yourself with the most important textbook accessbility features, please access the accessibility checklist provided here.