Edit Textbooks using Javascript and save to GitHub
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Github book editor

The book editor is a javascript browser application that allows editing an ebook in your browser and storing the ebook itself in a github repo.

More information can be found in the documentation repository as well as in the docs directory.

Book Format

Technologies used

Development and Building

Below are instructions for building the book editor yourself and a layout of how the code is organized.


With Vagrant

  • Install virtualbox
  • Install vagrant
  • Clone github book editor repo to somewhere
  • Inside the repo run vagrant up from the command line
    • There is currently a bug in the build that makes it not run fully on the first pass, the workaround is to log into the vm after running vagrant up with vagrant ssh, then go into /vagrant and run npm install. That will finish the build for you.
  • Vagrant will take a while to configure the new vm. When it's done you will be able to hit in a web browser and see the editor.

On Ubuntu Linux

This is tested on Ubuntu 12.04.

Installing node.js

First you need to install a copy of nodejs and the required utilities. Because the version of nodejs that ships with your favourite linux distribution is likely out of date, the easiest way is to install a basic development environment and then compile nodejs from source.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install build-essential openssl libssl-dev pkg-config

Now download the source tarball and compile it:

cd /tmp
wget http://nodejs.org/dist/v0.10.22/node-v0.10.22.tar.gz
tar zxf node-v0.10.22.tar.gz
cd node-v0.10.22
./configure --prefix=$HOME/nodejs
make && make install

For ease of use, I recommend that you add the npm bin directory to your PATH by typing

export PATH=$PATH:$HOME/nodejs/bin

You can also add this line to the end of $HOME/.profile so it gets added to the PATH every time you open a shell session.

Installing coffeescript

Once you have node installed, you can use npm to install the rest of what you need. You will need coffee script and lessc if you're going to hack on the Aloha code.

npm install -g coffee-script
npm install -g less

Installing the book editor

Next clone the bookeditor repo. For this example we will clone it into your home directory:

cd $HOME
git clone git@github.com:oerpub/github-bookeditor.git

Then use npm to install all dependencies:

cd github-bookeditor
npm install

Setting up a web server

  • The simplest way to get going, is to install the node package called http-server:

    npm install -g http-server

    Then you can launch a web-server by typing:


    The application itself can then be found at http://localhost:8080/

  • Another option is to install apache and symlink your development directory into the default document root:

    sudo apt-get install apache2
    sudo ln -s $HOME/github-bookeditor /var/www/github-bookeditor

    The application can then be found at http://localhost/github-bookeditor/

Developing on components in bower_components.

The github bookeditor depends on several several components. These components can be found in the bower_components directory. Some of these are themselves checkouts from github, but unfortunately these are not real clones, so direct development on these are not possible.

To develop these products, you need to remove the existing checkout, and replace it with a clone. Because running npm install blows away any changes you made in bower_components, the suggested method is to clone it to an alternate directory and use symlinks. It is much simpler to replace a symlink than it is to re-clone a large product such as aloha-editor.

For example, if I want to develop on Aloha-Editor, I would link it like this:

cd bower_components
git clone git@github.com:oerpub/Aloha-Editor.git aloha-editor-dev
rm -rf aloha-editor && ln -s aloha-editor-dev aloha-editor

This will create a symlink in bower_components that point to a real checkout in aloha-editor-dev, allowing you to do development in a familiar setting.

If your operating system doesn't support symlinks, you have no choice but to name your git clone correctly. If you accidentally blow it away, you'd have to repeat the above steps to clone it again.

To avoid blowing away your development clone in bower_components, you can edit bower.json and temporarily remove that item from the dependencies. Just take care not to accidentally commit bower.json in this shape.

Building Documentation

Documentation is built using docco.

find . -name "*.coffee" | grep -v './bower_components/' | grep -v './node_modules' | xargs ./node_modules/docco/bin/docco

Check the ./docs directory to read through the different modules.

Code layout

Except for the technologies listed above, the book editor itself is made up of three other products that each live in its own repository. The editor itself started its life as atc, but was soon used as the basis for the a github based book editor.

At the time of writing, work is in progress to make atc generic enough that github-book would consist of only a hand full of extensions and replacements.

A further progression in this process would be to split the common part from atc so that atc and the bookeditor can each have their own customisations.

You should find all the relevant components in the bower_components directory inside the github-bookeditor checkout.

Directory Layout

TODO: Update this once the product is split.

  • scripts/collections/ Backbone Collections
  • scripts/configs/ App and 3rd party configs
  • scripts/controllers/ Marionette Controllers
  • scripts/helpers/ Miscellaneous helper functions
  • scripts/models/ Backbone Models and Marionette Modules
  • scripts/nls/ Internationalized strings
  • scripts/routers/ Marionette Routers
  • scripts/views/ Backbone and Marionette Views
  • scripts/views/layouts/ Marionette Layouts
  • scripts/app.coffee Marionette Application
  • scripts/config.coffee Requirejs Config
  • scripts/main.js Initial Requirejs Loader
  • scripts/session.coffee Model of Session
  • styles/ LESS and CSS Styling
  • templates/ Handlebars Templates
  • templates/helpers/ Handlebars Helpers
  • test/ Testable mock data and scripts
  • index.html App's HTML Page


This software is subject to the provisions of the GNU Affero General Public License Version 3.0 (AGPL). See license.txt for details.


Code contributed by Rice University employees and contractors is Copyright (c) 2013 Rice University. Code contributed by contractors to the OERPUB project is Copyright (c) 2013 Kathi Fletcher.


Development by the OERPUB project was funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation, through a fellowship and project funds granted to Kathi Fletcher.