Introducing Plymouth State University Pressbooks

Need a way to compile digital, openly licensed resources in a neat package for your course? Try publishing with Pressbooks.

Pressbooks is an easy-to-use software that allows users to create digital textbooks. These textbooks, often called pressbooks, can hold open licenses that allow them to be tailored to a course’s needs.

screen-shot-2018-10-23-at-3-08-54-pmUsing Pressbooks requires no coding or graphic design experience. Like WordPress, the platform is designed to be user-friendly, requiring authors to simply paste their content into chapters to get started. Because Pressbooks is available online, sharing a book is as easy as distributing the URL to readers. Pressbooks can also be converted into file formats such as MOBI, EPUB, and PDF, making printing and distribution through e-readers such as Kindle simple.

Pressbooks shines mainly due to its ability to change as a course develops over time. Pressbooks content can be reordered or replaced quickly, making it adaptable to the instructor’s vision of the course. Using Pressbooks means always having relevant and precise course materials. If a section of the pressbook no longer fits, or if something better can replace it, one can easily edit the book and have it immediately ready for use.

An example of the remixability of Pressbooks is the Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature, originally developed by Dr. Robin DeRosa, Director of Interdisciplinary Studies at Plymouth State University. This pressbook is an anthology of openly licensed works of American literature and includes student-authored headnotes for many of the texts.

Dr. DeRosa’s original book was adopted and remixed by Dr. Abby Goode, Assistant Professor of Early American Literature at PSU. Dr. Goode’s version has built upon Dr. DeRosa’s original book by switching out the works included in the anthology. Dr. Goode’s version has also included new student works every year to supplement the core literature.

Outside of Plymouth State University, the open anthology has also been adopted by Tim Robbins and the Rebus Community, who have put their own spin on the book by reorganizing the literature and authors thematically.

Dr. DeRosa and Dr. Goode’s use of Pressbooks reflects the participatory nature of using open texts in a classroom. By using Pressbooks as a platform for student writing in addition to course readings, students are able to contribute meaningfully to their course through Pressbooks assignments. The Student Theorist, for example, is an open textbook used in Dr. Goode’s Critical Theory course that serves as a companion guide for the course’s traditional textbook. The Student Theorist is solely comprised of student essays on theoretical lenses, and even includes analyses on annual PSU community events such as Earth Jam, the Gay-la, and Game-on-icon that demonstrate the relevancy of literary theory.

Plymouth State University has adopted Pressbooks, allowing PSU active account holders to create an account through the university’s single sign-on system. To create a Pressbooks account, email the IT Help Desk at about your request. Please include a title for your book for quick account creation.

For more information on using Pressbooks, view the Pressbooks Knowledgebase article, or contact the IT Help Desk to set up a consultation.

by Ryan French, ITS Student Technologist