36 PDF Export & Options

Hugh McGuire

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.

The differences to note are that the print option does not support transparent images or contain internal links, but the digital option does, making it easier to navigate in a digital setting.

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. Showcase of Pressbooks PDF Outputs

We will be adding more templates as time goes on. For the moment, check out our sample book outputs.

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


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Pressbooks User Guide by Hugh McGuire is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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