38 PDF Export & Options

Pressbooks outputs PDFs of your book, with different professional template designs for print and digital distribution. In this chapter we’ll go over:

  1. How to export your book as a PDF
  2. Choosing a Theme
  3. Pressbooks PDF export options, and what they are for
  4. Figuring out: where is my cover?
  5. A showcase selection of PDF templates

1. How to Export a PDF of your book

Exporting a PDF of your book

  1. Once you have entered all your text, click on “Export” in the left sidebar menu.
  2. You will land on the export page.
  3. Select PDF for print and/or digital distribution.
  4. Press “Export Your Book”
  5. Click on the exported PDF file that appears to download it to your computer

Choosing between PDF for Print and Digital

Pressbooks now allows you to export PDFs specifically for print or digital distribution. The print option meets the highest standards for print on demand suppliers like IngramSpark. The digital option is still suitable for print, but doesn’t conform to the same standards, so may be flagged by some print on demand suppliers.

Note that the difference between the digital and print PDF is that the digital PDF supports internal and external links, making the document easier to navigate when viewed from a digital device. Links will be highlighted in blue and underlined in the digital PDF export.

Digital PDFs also support transparent images, while print PDFs do not.


2. Choosing a “Theme”: How Your PDF Will Look

How a Pressbooks export file looks is determined by your choice of a “Theme.” The Theme gives style instructions to the Pressbooks output (how chapter openings look, what fonts are used etc). Choosing a Theme will determine the “look and feel” of all outputs — EPUB, MOBI, PDF and web. To choose your theme:

  • Click on Appearance in the left sidebar menu.
  • Choose the Theme you want, and click “Activate.”

3. Selecting Your Export Options

Once you have selected your Theme, you can further tweak the outputs by choosing various options.

  • Click on Appearance in the left sidebar menu.
  • Select Theme Options.

3a. Global Options

Global options govern all your outputs (EPUB, MOBI and PDF). Currently, you may:

  • Decide whether to display part and chapter numbers or to omit them.
  • Enable or disable a two-level table of contents (TOC).
  • Display or remove the copyright licence.
  • Add fonts to support languages that require special characters beyond those included by default.

3b. PDF Options

There are (currently) ten PDF options:

Page Size

We currently have various page sizes to choose from:

  • Digest (5.5 x 8.5″): typical paperback size
  • US Trade (6 x 9″): larger paperback size
  • US Letter (8.5 x 11″): “printer paper” size, good for reports/whitepapers etc.
  • Custom (8.5 x 9.25″): a larger format book
  • Duodecimo (5 x 7.75″): a wee little book
  • Pocket (4.25 x 7″): small pocketbook size
  • A4 (21 x 29.7 cm): standard European “printer paper” format, good for reports/whitepapers etc.
  • A5 (14.8 x 21 cm): half the size of the standard European printer paper format
  • Custom: when selected, fields will appear where you can enter a custom width and height.

Default is: Digest (5.5 x 8.5″).


Pressbooks supports automatic hyphenation in PDF outputs, as an option.

Default is: hyphens off.

Paragraph Separation

You can set your PDF export to display paragraph separation as either:

a) an indent (with no line space between paragraphs)
b) a line space between paragraphs (with no indent at the beginning of paragraphs.

Default is: indents.

Blank Pages

Pressbooks PDFs can be used for at least two different purposes:

a) to be printed and bound as a physical book. In the case of outputting for printing and binding, Pressbooks inserts blank pages to achieve a typographical convention that every chapter begins in the right page in a two-page spread.

b) to be distributed as a electronic file, for readers to read on their computers, tablets and smart phones. In this case, users don’t typically want blank pages.

The choice is yours. Default is: blank pages are inserted.

Table of Contents

Sometimes you want a table of contents. Sometimes you don’t. Pressbooks will generate the TOC automatically if you want it to, or include no Table of Contents at all.

Default is: Table of Contents is on.

Crop Marks

Some printers and print-on-demand suppliers require crop marks.

Default is: crop marks off.

Footnote style

Footnotes can be handled as footnotes, or chapter endnotes.

Default is: footnotes.

Widows and Orphans

These two settings tell Pressbooks how many lines constitute widows and orphans (NOTE: This feature doesn’t work very well!)

Default is: 2 lines for widows, one line for orphans

Increase Font Size

This option allows you to increase both the font and line height automatically for greater accessibility.

4. Where Is My Cover?

Pressbooks PDFs were originally designed to be used for printed and bound books. When you are printing and binding a book, your printer or print-on-demand supplier will ask for two separate files:

a) the book interior (this is the PDF that Pressbooks produces, including all the pages of the book).

b) the book cover file (this is usually a single PDF file that contains the front cover, the spine and the back cover).

Pressbooks produces the book interior PDF without a cover, and does NOT produce a cover file. So: Pressbooks PDFs do not include covers.

5. Testing your PDF

In order to see exactly how new changes affect how your print book will look, it is necessary to export a new PDF file. However, the XHTML output of your book can also be helpful in diagnosing certain issues with your PDF file. The XHTML is the source from which your book is converted into a print document.

To view the XHTML for your book, scroll to the bottom of any backend page for your book in Pressbooks – for example, the Organize page or the book dashboard. In the footer, click the Diagnostics link. Then scroll down to “View Source.” Click View your book’s XHTML source.

View Source link on the Diagnostics page on Pressbooks

Note that the Preview link on the chapter editor Status & Visibility menu shows you the webbook preview, which does not reflect what you’ll see in your PDF. Pressbooks uses three different style sheets – web, PDF, and ebook – to create the different formats for your book. Different formats include different stylistic elements (e.g. only print documents have running content like page numbers). You can choose different theme options and edit your style sheet individually for each of the three formats of your book.

This setting will not work for users with the role of Subscriber on a given book.

To find out how to set up web distribution of exported files for books on your PressbooksEDU Network, click here.


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Maricopa Open Digital Press Guide Copyright © 2012 by Book Oven Inc. (Pressbooks.com) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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