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Comparing Reedsy & Pressbooks’ Online Book Creation Tools

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… [Read More]

Reedsy v. Pressbooks

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.


Reedsy v. Pressbooks


Technology

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:Reedsy v. PressbooksFor 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:Reedsy v. PressbooksIt 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.)

Reedsy v. PressbooksNotice that Pressbooks generates a half-title in addition to a full title 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.Reedsy v. Pressbooks

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.Reedsy v. PressbooksI 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

When you open Reedsy’s book creator you provide basic information such as book title and subtitle, author name, book size, description, ISBNs and upload your book cover.Reedsy v. Pressbooks

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.

Reedsy v. Pressbooks

(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.


 

Reedsy v. Pressbooks

Reedsy v. Pressbooks


 

How it Works: PressBooks

Pressbooks works just like WordPress.  You open an account and describe your book.

Reedsy v. Pressbooks

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.

Reedsy v. Pressbooks

You and other users you’ve invited can edit the book.

Reedsy v. Pressbooks

Choose a theme and export to PDF, MOBI, EPUB, and many other formats, and repeat until you get it just right.

Reedsy v. Pressbooks

Comparing

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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7 thoughts on “Comparing Reedsy & Pressbooks’ Online Book Creation Tools”

  1. Thad McIlroy says:

    Very useful! Thanks, Carla.

  2. Brian says:

    I’ve recently discovered Reedsy’s Book editor, which, at first glance, seems really easy and fast. However, I’ve just imported a chapter (they’re still working on the process of importing the whole book), and then found that I used two different fonts… and there doesn’t appear to be a way to change the font in the Reedsy editor… I’ll obviously have to ensure that I get all this done in Word BEFORE importing. I’ve had a few other minor issues, and found that it is not easy to find the answers – Reedsy lacks tutorials or FAQs at the moment, to help you find the answers.
    Why am I bothering? Well, I’m about to publish a book on writing in which I tell my writing students how to publish. Things have changed enormously since I started to self-publish in 2010 – back then you used Word at your peril; now the problems seem to have been ironed out. However, many of my students can’t afford Word or Scrivener. I’ve battled my way through the minefield of setting up a book in Open Office and Libre, but the Reedsy Editor just seemed so much simpler, especially as many of my students are digitally challenged.
    I hope Reedsy hurries up with the promised improvements.

    1. Carla King says:

      Hi Brian,

      I feel your pain! Yes, the Reedsy editor isn’t ready for prime time and, as they promise never to charge for it, I doubt it will ever be as robust as the paid offerings.

      Scrivener’s less a publishing tool than a writing and organizational tool, IMO. Though it does export to ebook formats well. At $45 it’s about as affordable as one could hope.

      You can use CreateSpace’s free print book template and open it in OpenOffice. You’ll still need to use styles, which are similar to Word styles – which I wrote about in a previous post:
      https://www.bookworks.com/2015/07/what-every-author-needs-to-know-about-microsoft-word-styles/

      Then print to PDF and upload.

      For the ebook, Calibre, which looks intimidating but really isn’t. https://www.bookworks.com/2016/06/use-calibre-to-create-epub-mobi-versions-of-your-book/

      Good luck!

      Carla

    2. Thanks for the comment, Brian! Ricardo from Reedsy here, just wanted to jump in to address your concerns. We’ve built the Reedsy Book Editor with the goal in mind that authors do *not* worry about formatting. So we voluntarily leave little options when it comes to fonts or sizes.
      The reason for that is that, for the ebook formats, it doesn’t matter: the reader choses the font and size. For print, the automated process of typesetting the book is actually very complex, so we can’t let the author chose the font and then promise to deliver a professionally typeset book. The only way we can offer a choice of fonts is through our templates.

      Right now, you can use only one font — and I agree with you that it’s not ideal. This is why we’re rolling out an update that will offer you, within each template, the possibility to use two fonts: a serif one for most of your text, and a sans serif one to offset text you want to stand out (e.g., a letter or diary entry).

      Regarding tutorial/FAQs, we just released this post with a step-by-step and a video example: https://blog.reedsy.com/how-to-format-a-book

      Of course, we will be further improving the Reedsy Book Editor and adding more templates, which is why we definitely welcome feedback like yours — thank you!

  3. Jenni says:

    Thank you Carla, this is helpful for a noob like me! I am wondering though, I blog using Blogger. Can i easily upload my posts to Pressbook? Also, it seems that Pressbook is a layout tool. What about design elements? Finally, i wonder if you could share your thoughts on BookWright, another self-pub tool.
    Thank you.

    1. Carla King says:

      Yes, you can download your blogger posts and upload them to the open source Pressbooks online layout tool very easily. Bookwright is by Blurb, and it’s proprietary. Great for lush, full-color books, but prohibitively expensive per-book price for bulk purchase and distribution. Often I recommend them to complex full-color book authors as an alternative to InDesign who want to experiment and generate ideas with layout and then give the resulting “book” to a pro to finesse in InDesign. Pressbooks allows inline images. They’re both layout tools but with different capabilities. I hope that helps!

  4. I just did my latest novel in Pressbooks and I really like what it did for me. The only qualm I have is with the title pages, specifically the half-title page, which I find unnecessary but impossible to delete.

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