Pressbooks and Reedsy Test-Drive
When Reedsy released their online book creation tool earlier this year I was naturally eager to geek out and give it a try. I’ve been creating books with the Pressbooks online book creation and publishing tool for years, which is based on WordPress and offers a lot of features. How does Reedsy compare, I wondered?
Where’s the Money?
Whenever I evaluate a tool, I look at where the company makes their money. Pressbooks makes their money designing books, and are invested in making their publishing tool as robust as possible.
Reedsy makes their money by providing a marketplace where authors, editors, formatters, marketers, and other book professionals can all find each other. Reedsy uses their book creation tool to attract authors to their marketplace.
Reedsy is free. Pressbooks costs a reasonable $99 to remove their watermark from exported PDF, MOBI, and EPUB files, ready to upload to distributors like IngramSpark, Amazon, and Smashwords. Reedsy offers the same exports for free. With over 50 possible themes, customization, widow and orphan control, multiple users, and many other sophisticated features, Pressbooks is very well worth paying for. For $300, they’ll even do it for you.
But these tools are not equal in capabilities and flexibility. Pressbooks is based on the open source WordPress platform used for websites and blogs. This is important for file portability and also for customization using CSS. Reedsy’s tool is a simple, custom tool designed for authors who want a free, quick, simple book layout.
The End Result
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of book creation, let me show you some page spreads that each tool created. Here’s what Reedsy’s layout looks like. I chose one of only two possible themes they offer now.
Reedsy-generated front pages:For some reason, Reedsy’s image uploader cuts off the compass rays from the publishing house logo you see on the title page. There doesn’t seem to be a way to customize the copyright page, and they include the epigraph in the table of contents.
Here’s a Reedsy-generated page spread:It looks pretty nice!
Below are the front pages from Pressbooks, which are totally customizable. (Because I haven’t paid for the book, you’ll see a faint watermark on each page.)
The pages that follow include the publisher page, with the city of publication, a copyright page (customizable), and the epigraph followed by the table of contents. This is a much more robust and professional layout for front matter.
And here is a spread from the Pressbooks tool, using only one of 50 possible themes as an example. Themes offer various ways of presenting header and footer text as well as font styles for chapter headings and body text.I made this demo book available publicly if you want to take a look at it online.
Almost Too Easy
Both tools are very easy to use. The Reedsy tool is free and the Pressbooks tool costs are reasonable. They both generate a book suitable for uploading to Amazon CreateSpace (print) and KDP (Kindle) or Smashwords (ebooks) and IngramSpark (print and ebooks). But I feel obligated to warn against distributing widely too quickly. Consider a beta book, first. Many authors are so thrilled by the ease of publication they distribute without careful editing and design. This can really kill a book, not to mention an author’s credibility. So if you’re going to publish widely, do get editing, first. Reedsy hopes you’ll find an editor on their site, and they are a reputable source, so go ahead and look around and see who you might hire.
How It Works: Reedsy
Then you add chapters by pasting in content, or typing directly into the creation tool. You can apply styles, heading levels, bullets, numbers, and make links to web pages or internal links in the book.
(Some features are not yet available, but they promise them soon, so look for additional formatting options, templates, and collaborative features in upcoming months.)
When you’re done, just hit the convert button to make EPUB, MOBI, and PDFs for upload to the distributors.
How it Works: PressBooks
Pressbooks works just like WordPress. You open an account and describe your book.
Add your chapters, parts, front and back matter by importing them from your blog (and rearranging them) or pasting them in from a text file.
You and other users you’ve invited can edit the book.
Choose a theme and export to PDF, MOBI, EPUB, and many other formats, and repeat until you get it just right.
Reedsy is a simple way to get your book formatted fast and for free but at present, it doesn’t give you much ability to customize except for with simple formatting (header levels, bold and italics, bullets, numbers). If you're producing a simple book, like a novel, you won't need those features, anyway. As a new and growing self-publishing tool, it will be interesting to see how Reedsy evolves.
With Pressbooks you can insert page and line breaks and enjoy all the formatting options you get with WordPress. You also get widow and orphan control and customization of front pages.
Neither tool offers the flexibility of a Microsoft Word book design template, which allows you to manipulate fonts and pages, or a still more professional layout using an InDesign template. Both of these can be done yourself with some effort and training (Microsoft Word Styles!) but they aren’t nearly as quick and easy as these online tools.
Simplicity. Complexity. Price. Speed. Portability. It’s all a trade-off. You decide.
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