"Tiny Tales" series at Pressbooks

I am writing this post in a state of total bliss: creating the first "Tiny Tales" book at Pressbooks went so smoothly. I still can't believe how easy it was! Here is the book at Pressbooks: Tiny Tales of Nasruddin.

I'm writing these notes to myself so that I will remember what I need to do when the "Tiny Tales from India" book is ready to go (target date: July 10). You can see the contents of that book being staged from Diigo right now: India book contents. I have six books in various stages of production right now: India, Aesop, Sufi Stories, Anansi, Brer Rabbit, African Stories (showing the African sources for the Anansi and Brer Rabbit stories).

My goal is to do this as a true series with similar covers, layout, everything the same for the series. The more that I can minimize the production overhead, the more I can maximize time for WRITING. I have lots of research and writing skills (and so many stories I want to tell!), but my design skills are zero, which is why I am so grateful to Pressbooks: they have let me produce a book that is based on my writing, and I didn't have to do any design work at all.

Literally: no design work.

Here's the step by step of how I made the Nasruddin book:

Text file. I started with a plaintext file (in another post I'll write something about my editing process and how I ended up with this file). Key features of the file: no special characters, line breaks for paragraphs, and -- this is the key thing! -- a tilde character before and after each title. You can see the text file here.

Create book. Pressbooks makes it easy to start a new book project. I created an account, and I created a new book project. I also upgraded so that I could get watermark free ebooks ($20). I'm not really interested in the print version, so I'm happy to live with the watermarks in the PDF versions. In fact, I'm glad to be advertising for Pressbooks. I had no idea how easy this would be and what a wide range of export formats are supported.

Re-create book? For next time, I hope I can just clone the book I designed this time and swap out the contents while keeping design options the same. I have not explored that yet. If it's not possible to clone a book, that's not a big deal: I'm recording the options I chose this time now so that I can choose them again next time.

So, here is the step by step process I followed ... and kudos to Pressbooks for organizing the interface in such a way that the steps I needed to follow were clear from the dashboard layout itself!

Organize. With my minimal approach, I was able to rely on the default areas to add content (I'll write a separate blog post about what I mean my "minimal approach" but you can get the idea: very short stories while attempting to erase myself from the process as much as possible to focus on the stories). Here's the screen for "organize" showing the four content areas I am using: front matter, chapters (just one!), back matter (two parts).

HTML mark-up. The way I added the content was to do HTML markup of my plaintext file and then paste that into the "text" panel of the content area each time. I'm not a WordPress user myself, but I've dabbled with some WordPress blogs, so I felt very comfortable with all of this. I did not do any editing at all here in Pressbooks (except for italicizing the source-book titles in the bibliography); I'm doing all the editing in my plaintext file. So, the markup I added to a copy of my plaintext file was very simple, based on find-and-replace in the file:

remove top matter. First, I removed top matter from the plaintext file with the title, author, license, and version information. That is content which I entered as Book Info in Pressbooks (see below).

paragraphs. I replaced all line breaks with closing/opening p tags. Having the paragraphs marked up as actual paragraphs was very helpful because of the different ways Pressbooks lets you format paragraphs for PDF as opposed to ebooks; more on that below.

titles. For the story titles I was able to do a find-and-replace on "~ "  and " ~" (start and close of title) to mark up the titles as H1. Then, I found how Pressbooks lets me add a "page-break-before" option by styling the H1 tags. That was perfect for me: h1 class="page-break-before"

Then I just removed the extra close/open paragraph tags adjacent to the h1 tags, which is also a simple find-and-replace in my text file.

Paste into text view. I'll confess I am not a fan of this "Text" view in the Pressbooks/WP editor; I'd rather just see the HTML view so I could see the actual p tags, but that's okay. I wasn't doing any editing in Pressbooks anyway. The content I copied and pasted from my textfile with the HTML markup worked fine! It replaced the p tags with spaces breaks, which I guess is a WP thing (I'm used to the Blogger editor, which has HTML display option).

Bibliography. The only editing I did in Pressbooks was to italicize the titles in the books in the sources (here's sources page at Pressbooks). I'm ambivalent about that, but it just took a minute to add the italicizing.

Finish organizing. I think I may have deleted an item that was a default in the organizing setup but now I can't remember. Anyway, I ended up with the four Pressbook content areas: in front matter there is About This Book (as opposed to Introduction), then The Stories (that's chapter 1, and it's the only chapter), and then two pieces of back matter: Story Title Index and Story Sources.

Configure organizing. After I got the content set up, I then adjusted the Status box for each area (show in web, show in exports, show title), then I added Short Title down at the bottom (but no subtitle; that was messing up my table of contents but when I just left subtitle blank, that worked perfectly), and I also disabled contents for the Stories. I prefer using Hypothesis instead (more below on enabling Hypothesis).

Book Info. I have to create myself as a Contributor to add myself as Author, so I did that. I entered the publication date. I uploaded the cover I created with Canva (I chose something very easy to re-use in Canva by just changing color scheme and background; that's my zero design skills at work... since I had created the cover in Canva I didn't use the Pressbooks cover designer). Primary subject is "Folklore, myths and legends" as it will be for all my books, and then I entered a few keywords. I listed myself as copyright holder, and then the CC BY-NC-SA license that I want to use. (I had that license information in my text file also.) I wrote a book tagline. I did not write a long book description. I may add that later when I see what what happens with Kindle Store and/or print-on-demand options that I have not explored yet.

Theme. I'm clueless. I chose Lewis. It looks good. Maybe expert Pressbook users will have some insight into a theme that would be even better for my style of book. I like the fact that I can easily go back and change themes if I decide that's a good idea. I'd like to use the same Theme for the whole series.

Theme options. This was really cool! For the web option, I chose "skip lines" between paragraphs, and likewise for the PDF, but for the ebooks I was able to choose indent paragraphs. That really makes sense for my 100-word stories: I want to fill up the page in the PDF/print versions, but I want to compress in the ebook versions. I may go back and choose additional options for the PDF after I see what happens when I expertiment with print-on-demand options. (I was able to check the ebooks options already: mobi and epub both looked good with the paragraphs indented!)

Settings: Sharing and Privacy: I made the book public.

Settings: Hypothesis. I'm really excited about the Hypothesis integration, and I turned that on with Highlights on by default, and then "Allow on Chapters" which means people can make notes on the stories.

Export. I exported the PDF, MOBI, and EPUB files plus the HTML file (after a convo with someone at Twitter). I uploaded all those files to my personal webspace, and then linked to them in the blog post that is the homepage for this project (right now anyway) at Nasruddin.LauraGibbs.net. I also have my text file uploaded in the same space and I've linked to that.

And I immediately put the MOBI file on my Kindle and in the Kindle app on my phone: I could not believe I was seeing my own book in Kindle format like that, and I didn't have to do anything except tell Pressbooks to generate the MOBI file. Wow. Just wow.

........ and that's all! It took about 90 minutes from start to finish. And next time will go way faster since I know exactly what to do.

I was so excited at how easy it was that I did not take notes step by step, but I will update this blog post in July when I do the India book to add any step I might have left out.

And thank you, Pressbooks: this all was so much easier than I ever imagined.

And a huge thank you also to Tineke D'Haeseleer : the book that she and her students created, China's Magical Creatures, is what inspired me to try Pressbooks this summer, and I am so glad I did!

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