It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything about Pressbooks development, and we have a couple of new development projects in the works that you might be interested in.
First, we are working with the excellent FunnyMonkey team to develop an open source PDF output engine. Right now, outputs of PDF in PB requires a commercial PDF output engine PrinceXML. Prince does a really fantastic job of creating PDF versions of the books created in PB, but the fact that it is a commercial license is a barrier for others who may want to adopt PB.
This project has been on our ToDo list for awhile, and I am really happy to see the work that Bill, Jeff and Brad have been doing to develop an open source PDF output engine based on mPDF.
The idea with the new PDF output plugin is not to replace Prince, but to provide an alternative for those who don’t wish to purchase a Prince license. PB will work with both. mPDF won’t quite match the feature set of Prince, but it should still provide an adequate alternative for creating PDF’s without having to dish out money for a commercial Prince license.
Second, we are working with Hugh and the Pressbooks.com development team to develop an Open Document Type (ODT) output engine. This ODT output will also be suitable for use with MS Word (I can hear the sound of bemused puzzlement from some of you). Yeah, Word. I think that, if we are serious about making these books adaptable and editable, we need to make our content available in as many formats as possible, including formats that faculty are used to working with. And, for better or for worse, that is Word. I think that is what most faculty are used to working with, and if it means they will customize content and remix it and – ultimately – adopt it, then let’s make it available in a format that can be edited using Word.
The third bit of development revolves around the excellent work on accessibility that Amanda is doing with Tara Robertson at CAPER-BC and Sue Doner at Camosun College. We are going to be releasing an accessibility toolkit very soon that is targeted at faculty who are adapting and creation open textbooks to help them understand some of the basic design principles of accessibility. Based on some of the accessibility user testing Amanda, Tara and Sue have done, our new co-op student Ashlee from the SFU Computing Science program is working on baking some new accessibility features into PB to make the platform even more accessible for students.
Look for these to make their way into Pressbooks in the coming months.
* I updated this post after Brad informed me that these changes are not specific to Pressbooks Textbook, but will be submitted back to Pressbooks for inclusion with the core package.