Can you “clone” a Pressbooks book? You can now*!

Here at Pressbooks HQ we’ve been doing a whole lot more development work for the Open Textbook world, in our opinion the most exciting space in the world of publishing. For the uninitiated, an Open Textbook is an openly licensed (i.e. free) book that supports the “5Rs,” defined by David Wiley as the rights to: remix, revise, reuse, retain, and redistribute.

Open Textbooks are powerful not just because they are free for students, but also because teachers and profs (or even students) can easily improve them and modify them for the particular needs of their students.

Theory vs. Practice

In theory, at least.

In practice, all that 5R-y stuff can be difficult: How do you revise a PDF? How do you remix an EPUB? How do you redistribute a print book?

Clone me, please!

The new answer — at least for Open Textbooks built on Pressbooks as of now is: You clone them!

That is, you can now, with the click of a button, clone/copy a complete Pressbooks book (including all metadata, image and media, and content) from one Pressbooks account or instance to another, as long as the original book is:

  • Openly licensed (i.e. licensed with a Creative Commons license)
  • Publicly available on the web

And this means, once you’ve cloned that book, you can 5R it to your heart’s content!

Wait, does this mean anyone can just copy my book?

No. No. No! … No, cloning is only possible in the case that:

  • Your book is openly licensed (with a Creative Commons license)
  • You book privacy setting is: public on the web

So for any books that have standard copyright, or are not available on the web — this doesn’t apply.

Why would you clone a book?

This is, we think, a very exciting development for the Open Textbook ecosystem.

Here are just some of the ways we expect the new feature to be utilized:

  • A community college wants to make changes to the level of subject matter in an open textbook that was originally created for upper-division undergraduates.
  • A faculty member wants to adapt an open textbook to reflect the way they personally teach the subject matter.
  • A university department wants to copy the books contained in a catalogue at a similar department in another university.
  • An instructor wants to make a copy in order to have their class expand an existing open textbook as part of a classroom project.

Cloning ultimately allows books built in Pressbooks to become more modular and easily adaptable for more courses.

Pressbooks, Ryerson University & eCampus Ontario

Have you heard about the exciting Open Textbook work happening in Ontario?

This cloning feature was developed as part of a project Pressbooks is doing with Ryerson University, funded by a grant from eCampusOntario, developing infrastructure for Open Resource Publishing in Ontario.

Also under this project, Pressbooks is getting a full design refresh, including redesigns of the book home page, the webbook reading interface, and, for Pressbooks systems, updates to the landing page and Pressbooks’ built-in catalog page.

So, How Do I Start Cloning?

The bad news is: This feature is not available on Pressbooks.com. Cloning is an educational feature only available in standalone Pressbooks systems (Pressbooks EDU client systems and Pressbooks open source). (Contact us if you’re interested in us hosting a Pressbooks EDU system for you.)

Pressbooks.com also supports replicating books. However, the process of copying a book is more labour intensive, and requires users to reach out to original creators for the book’s XML files. This new cloning feature omits these steps for enterprise users, making duplication possible with only a few clicks of a button.

Learn more about how to use the new cloning feature.