Pressbooks - Getting Started

This document is intended for people new to Pressbooks

Pressbooks is a content authoring platform that lets you create and host custom, interactive texts for the web and in formats like PDF, MOBI, and EPUB. Authoring in Pressbooks is based on Wordpress, so a basic understanding of HTML is useful but not necessary. In addition to embedding images, videos, and other media within a text, interactive features, such as in-text knowledge checks using H5P and annotations using, can also be embedded into Pressbooks.

Instructor Considerations

  • For basic uses, Pressbooks is a stable tool, but for graded assignments and other advanced functionality it can be unreliable. Instructors should make it clear in the syllabus if Pressbooks will be used in the course, especially if the instructor will be using Pressbooks for graded assignments in their Canvas course. 

  • We recommend that Instructors who do not note the use of Pressbooks for their course in their syllabus refrain from switching to assignments that use Pressbooks without first notifying their class and preparing an alternative in case of technical issues. 

Student Considerations

  • Pressbooks can sometimes be unreliable and depending on how it is configured and used with Canvas, sometimes material may not be available. Generally pressbooks content embedded in Canvas module items and assignments should work.

  • There can be issues accessing content in Pressbooks depending on your browser settings and privacy extensions used within a particular browser.

Using Pressbooks for the First Time

  • To use Pressbooks, you must request an account from the DoIT Help Desk.

  • Once you have a Pressbooks account, you can begin creating your book.

  • We generally recommend that new Pressbooks users request a consultation with the Learn@UW-Madison team. During a consultation we can introduce the new users to the platform, ensure that their use case fits with Pressbooks’ featureset, and address any initial questions they may have.

  • Pressbooks is a teaching and learning tool centrally supported by the Learn@UW-Madison team. For technical support questions, instructors should contact the DoIT Help Desk

Tool Functionality

Basic Functionality

  • Pressbooks is designed to help users author books. Once a user has a Pressbooks account, they can create a book and begin to author content. This content can then be embedded into Canvas or shared as a link. 

  • Each pressbook is given its own unique URL, and content is typically organized into Front Matter, Main Body, and Back Matter.

  • In addition to text, users can add images, embedded video, links, annotations, and interactive H5P activities to supplement their text. Users can also handle all aspects of their book’s metadata including contributors, licenses, and more.

Advanced Functionality

  • Pressbooks chapters with H5P activities can also be embedded into Canvas as external tool assignments which have points and an entry in the Canvas Gradebook. This is considered an advanced feature and can be unstable. Therefore, these advanced features are only available for for-credit, timetable uses. 

  • Users interested in using these advanced features in Pressbooks should request a consultation with the Learn@UW-Madison team. 

Additional Training Resources

Canvas Tech Modules

  • These modules, developed by DoIT Academic Technology's Learn@UW-Madison team, are designed to help instructors introduce centrally supported learning technologies to their students. For more information, see Canvas - Student Tech Modules in Canvas Commons

  • A Pressbooks Student Tech Module template can be imported and modified in Canvas by instructors to communicate to students regarding the use of Pressbooks.

Best Practices and Use Cases

Communicate with students:

Let them know you’re using Pressbooks.

Explain why you’re using Pressbooks

Plan ahead:

If you’re authoring course materials, expect authoring and revising materials to take at least as long as the materials are intended to be used. For example, if you’re planning to use Pressbooks for all course materials during an upcoming semester, plan to spend a prior semester authoring, revising, and organizing those materials. 


UW-Madison has an institutional license for Pressbooks. There is no direct cost (i.e. Pressbooks is free) to UW-Madison students, staff, and faculty. Due to technical issues, advanced functionality within Pressbooks is only available for for-credit, timetable uses. 

Student Data Privacy and Transparency statement

Student Data Privacy and Transparency statement

UW-Madison operates a number of central IT systems and services that support teaching and learning. All of these systems collect, record and generate data related to student learning activities. For more information, please refer to the UW-Madison Teaching and Learning Data Transparency Statement

Keywords:Learn@UW, template,   Doc ID:90717
Owner:Learn@UW Madison .Group:Learn@UW-Madison
Created:2019-03-28 14:56 CDTUpdated:2022-04-06 09:25 CDT
Sites:DoIT Help Desk, Learn@UW-Madison
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