PressBooks, a simple online book production tool built on WordPress, launches to the public today. It lets authors use a content management system they already know to produce ePubs, typeset PDFs and other XML formats, as well as a Web version. The Web version can be private, or it can be free or paywalled to the public.

PressBooks has spent six months working with authors and publishers to refine and test the tool. Big-time publishers like O'Reilly Media give rave reviews. This team is "dreaming up what 'book production' should mean (or, some of it anyway) in 2012 and beyond."

This is the dream. It turns out quality e-books in all the important formats, as well as a Web-based version. To see it in action, check out part 1 of Book: a Futurist's Manifesto online. It's not the first e-book self-publishing tool, but it looks ready for the future, serving big and small publishers alike.

And get this: authors and very small publishers can use PressBooks for up to three books for free. PressBooks asks bigger publishers to contact them for pricing. Learn more at PressBooks.com.