Produce Exports

Produce PDF Exports

Pressbooks outputs PDFs of your book with different professional template designs depending on the theme you’ve chosen. Pressbooks allows users to produce two different types of PDF export files: ‘PDF (for digital distribution)‘ and ‘PDF (for print)‘.

PDF (for digital distribution) exports are designed to be viewed on a digital device (like a computer, tablet, phone). These PDFs use the PDF/UA-1 profile and are tagged for accessibility. PDF (for digital distribution) exports support both internal and external links (links will be distinguished by color and underlining) and the use of transparent images, which print PDFs do not.

PDF (for print) exports are designed to be printed. These PDFs use the PDF/X-4 profile are are designed to meet the highest standards for print on demand services. PDF (for print) exports do not include visual indicators for links. Because readers cannot see the target of hyperlinked text in a printed text, you can use Custom Styles to display the target URL. The following CSS will display the URLs for links in your book in parenthesis after the link text when added to your book’s PDF stylesheet (click Appearance > Custom Styles  and choose the PDF option from the droptown):

.print a:after {
content: " (" attr(data-url) ")"; }

Export Your Book as a PDF

To produce a PDF export for your book:

  1. Click ‘Export‘ in the left sidebar menu.
  2. Select PDF for print and/or digital distribution.
  3. Press ‘Export Your Book
  4. Download the PDF file from the exports list and share or distribute it as you see fit.
Learn more about making your PDF files available for download, for free, from your book’s homepage.

Print PDF Cover Options

When you are printing and binding a book, your printer or print-on-demand supplier will ask for two separate files:

  1. the book interior (the actual content of your book)
  2. the book cover file (a single PDF file which contains the front cover, the spine and the back cover).

The PDF (for Print) export file will give you the file you can provide as the book interior. Learn more about your options for producing a book cover file.

Configure PDF Export Options

How a Pressbooks export file looks is determined by your choice of “Theme” and related theme options. In addition to the global options which apply to the webbook and all export formats, you can also choose from several PDF-specific options. The PDF export options which will be available for your book may differ depending on the theme you’ve selected, but can include the following:

Header Font 

Allows you to change the theme’s default header font to any one of a variety of open-source serif and sans serif typefaces. (NOTE: This option is currently only available in the McLuhan and Malala themes.)

Body Font 

Allows you to change the theme’s body header font to any one of a variety of open-source serif and sans serif typefaces. (NOTE: This option is currently only available in the McLuhan and Malala themes.)

Body Font Size

Allows you to set the body font size for your book. Several other elements in the book (like headings, tables, block quotes, and captions) are set in proportion to this size and will be adjusted accordingly.

Footnote Font Size

Allows you to set the font size for footnotes in your book. Footnotes are typically displayed slightly smaller than the body font size.

Body Line Height

Allows you to set the body line height for your book (this controls the amount of space between two lines of text).

Page Size

Allows you to choose the page size of your exported PDFs. Options include:

  • 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, some textbooks
  • 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, some textbooks
  • 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 set at the network level, but is most commonly set to Digest.


Allow you to set the top, bottom, inside, and outside margins for your book (i.e. the space between your content and the edge of the page).

Note: If you plan to use a print-on-demand service, setting any margin to less than 2cm means that your file may be rejected (which can result in costly change fees). This is especially true for top and bottom margins which often need to accomodate running header or footer content within the space alloted for your book’s margins.


Allows you to apply automatic hyphenation in PDF outputs. Default is hyphens off.

Paragraph Separation

Allows you to set your PDF export to display paragraph separation as either an indent (with no line space between paragraphs) or a line space between paragraphs (with no indent at the beginning of paragraphs. Default is indented paragraphs.

Section Openings

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 include the Table of Contents.

Crop Marks

Allows you to produce crop marks (required by some printers). Default is crop marks off.

Footnote style

Allows you to display footnote content as standard footnotes (at the bottom of the page in which they occur) or as chapter endnotes. Default is footnotes.

Widows and Orphans

Allows you to control how many lines constitute widows and orphans. Default is: 2 lines for widows, one line for orphans.

Running Heads & Feet

Allows you to control the running content at the top (heads) or bottom (feet) of your book.

Note: When you select any of the preset options (except “Blank” or “Custom”) you will see a short piece of code appear in the field below the dropdown menu (i.e. %section_title% or %part_title%). These ‘strings’ instruct Pressbooks to print the requested value in your PDF. If you select “Blank”, no text will appear in this area of your running heads & feet.

If you select “Custom”, you can enter any text you like, including combinations of the preset variables and fixed text. For example, if your book title was “General Chemistry” and the book’s author was “Dr. Lise Meitner”, the custom value %book_title% by %book_author% would return ‘General Chemistry by Dr. Lise Meitner’

Preview your PDF Export

To see exactly how changes you’ve made to your book’s content or theme will affect the appearance of your PDF exports, you will have to generate new PDF exports. However, you can preview the XHTML output of your book in your browser along with much of the CSS that will be applied when your PDF export is generated. This preview is not perfect, but it often provides a helpful approximation of how your book look as a PDF in the browser (which gives you access to the browser’s powerful inspect tools for exploring your book’s underlying HTML and CSS).

To view the XHTML for your book, produce a PDF export with your desired Theme and options. Once you have done this, scroll to the bottom of any backend page for your book in Pressbooks and 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

This will open a page which will attempt to display a preview of your book as it will look in PDF form. The URL for this preview will be https://YOURBOOK.URL/format/xhtml?debug=prince.


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

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