Creating a Pressbook and Adding Content

First Things First

If you already have a Pressbooks account, you can skip down to Log in. If not, you have to create a Pressbooks account. Go to the PSU Pressbooks Registration page and click “Sign Up” in the upper right of the page.


Penn State’s Pressbooks Registration page with “Sign Up” button

You will be taken to the Registration page.


Registration page shows fields for name, email address, password and password verification.
Penn State Pressbooks Registration page

Fill out the fields for your name, email, and password; then click the button labeled “Next”. You will receive an email with a link to activate your Pressbooks account. NOTE: you have 2 days to activate your account after which you have to sign up again.


Screen grab of the "New Username" page.
Username notification
"Account is now active" page with password.
“Your account is now active” page

If this is your first time in Pressbooks, you will see this screen where you can create your first book:

Screen grab shows the first screen a new Pressbook user sees with 2 buttons: Create a Book, and Clone a Book.
First Pressbooks screen. Login by Pressbooks Pressbooks User Guide

You can also go to the PSU login for Pressbooks and click “Create a Book” (navigation bar) in the upper right.

If you already have created books, click on the “Create Book” button at the top of your Dashboard.


Dashboard with "Create a Book" button highlighted..
“Create a Book” button in the upper right of your Dashboard.

This will take you to the “Create a New Book” page.


“Create a book” page


Log in

Go to Penn State’s Pressbooks login and click on “Sign in” in the upper right.

Or… you can paste the URL of your book into the address field of your browser, for example:

This way you will log into the PSU instance of Pressbooks.

If you try to log in to the Pressbooks Website rather than Penn State’s instance of Pressbooks, you won’t have access to your book.


screen grab of Sign in button
Sign in button


screen grab of Pressbooks login page
Pressbooks login page

Login and you will be taken to your book’s Home page.

From the Home page, click on the Admin link in the upper right which takes you to your book’s Dashboard.


screen grab of the book's home page
Your book’s home page

From the Dashboard, you can access a user’s most frequent tasks, including creating a new book, cloning a book, editing your book’s information, organizing chapters, managing book users, and more.


Screen grab of the new Pressbooks' Dashboard.

Below we will discuss the Organize page.


The Organize page is a one-stop shop for all your content structure needs which includes adding, deleting and rearranging:

  • parts
  • chapters
  • front matter (introductions, acknowledgements, etc)
  • back matter (appendices, glossary, index)

Paradigm Shift

Traditionally when you think of a book, most think in terms of chapters and pages. Pressbooks thinks in terms of Parts and Chapters. For inner peace and harmony, repeat:

  • Parts = chapters
  • Chapters = pages

How to get to the Organize page

Click on Organize near the top of the Left Sidebar Menu.


dashboard with "Organize" highlighted
How to get to the Organize page

The Organize page

The Organize page gives you an overview of your entire book and is an easy way to access and then edit all of your book’s Parts, Chapters and Front and Back Matter.

This is also where you can set your book to be “Private” or “Public” at the top of the page.


the organize page
Organize page is where you manage your content

Hovering over Parts in the left column displays options of:

  • Edit: takes you to the Editor
  • Trash: deletes the Part; but the chapters from that Part will now appear at the end of the 1st Part. NOTE: there is no warning… no “Are you sure?” to confirm. However, the Part will be moved to the Trash, where you can Restore it for up to 30 days.
  • View: takes you to what the Part will look like viewed on the web

Hovering over Chapters in the left column displays options of:

  • Edit: takes you to the Editor
  • Trash: deletes the chapter. NOTE: there is no warning… no “Are you sure?” to confirm. However, the chapter will be moved to the Trash, where you can Restore it for up to 30 days.
  • View: takes you to what the chapter will look like on the web
  • Move Up/Move Down: rearranges the chapter

While clicking on the trash is unforgiving, there is a 30 day grace period.

Adding Content

Whether you’re adding content to chapters by entering directly via Pressbooks’ UI, cut & pasting from documents or importing from a website or document, the majority of your time will be spent in the Editor.

The Editor

Previously we mentioned a couple different ways to enter the Editor. Via the Organize page you can hover over a chapter and click Edit, or you can go to the top of a chapter/page and click the Edit box. Both methods take you to the Editor where you will either be in the Visual (WYSIWYG) editor or the Text editor (HTML). You can switch between the two via the tabs on the right.


screen grab shows the visual and text tabs in the editor
Visual and Text tabs

If you can create Word docs, you can use the Visual editor which has an interface similar to popular text-editing environments. If you’ve worked in HTML, then you’ll be comfortable in the Text editor.


Click the red Save button in the right panel when you are done editing to save your changes to your chapter. You can then view your changes by clicking the View Chapter link in the red bar at the top.

Save often! You can always revert back to a previous version: Note the Revisions section at the bottom of the editor.

Tips & Tricks for the Editor

Quotation marks

If you work in the Text Editor, inevitably you will run into a situation where you can’t figure out what is wrong with your HTML, especially if you cut & paste code from a text editor like Word or Google docs or Text Edit. When this happens, please try the following:

Delete your quotation marks and replace them with quotation marks that you create in the Text Editor.

There is a difference:

Quotation marks created in the Text Editor versus Edit Text.
Text Editor and Edit Text quotation marks differences are difficult to see at their normal size

Attribution Information

  • When you find an openly licensed image that you want to use, make sure to record the TASL information (title, author, source url, license). It is so much easier to capture this information when you first find the image as opposed to later when you are ready to publish and have to re-find the image to access the url.

Strange Text Editor interface quirk

  • If the Editor “jumps/scrolls” to a different part of your chapter’s content leaving you lost while in the Text Editor, holding down shift and hitting the Up Arrow cursor key on your keyboard will return you. This happens mostly after using the Return key.

Triple clicking

  • Triple click to select an entire paragraph before you switch from the Text editor to the Visual editor and vice versa. This gives you an easy way to locate your cursor position in the editing field.

Importing from website yields html mass

  • Often importing gives you all the html in one bunch/mass, but if you go into the Visual editor and then back to the Text editor, the html will be structured/formatted for easier editing.
Screen grab from Pressbooks' editor shows unformatted HTML versus formatted
Unformatted HTML versus formatted HTML

Multi tabs

  • Use 1 browser tab for your Editor, 1 tab for View Chapter. Then after a Save, a screen refresh is all you need to see your edits on the View Chapter tab. You can even use a separate tab for Media Library.

Visual tab erases html

  • Be aware that the Visual editor will erase certain HTML that you’ve added especially for lists and   additions.


Importing is the preferred method of adding content, because the process will retain the formatting styles of the source plus it will import imagery and its ALT text into the Media Library. We want our imagery in our Library so we don’t have to rely on external websites. You can import from the different types of resources listed here:

  • EPUB
  • Word doc
  • OpenOffice
  • Pressbooks/Wordpress
  • Webpage

The Import command can be found in the Left Side Panel/Tools/Import.

Cut & Paste

This is a tried-and-true method of getting content into your Pressbook chapters when importing won’t work. You can cut & paste from Word docs, PDFs, Excel… just about anything, but formatting and styling can be altered or ignored plus imagery won’t be placed in your Media Library.

Media Library

The Media Library can be found in the Left Side Panel/Media/Library and is where you add all imagery and audio files that you want to use in your book. Click on the Add Media button at the top left of the Editor to bring imagery into your chapter.

Note: Pressbooks recommends using Youtube or Vimeo for videos by either linking to them or embedding them in your chapters.


screen grab of the media library
Media Library


Creating a Pressbook and Adding Content Copyright © 2020 by Wade Shumaker. All Rights Reserved.

Share This Book