Installing in Production

This project is still young and isn't, at the moment, very stable, so please proceed with caution when running in production.

Server setup

  • Get a domain name and set up DNS for your server. You'll need to point the nameservers of your domain on your DNS provider to the server where you'll be hosting BookWyrm. Here are instructions for DigitalOcean
  • Set your server up with appropriate firewalls for running a web application (this instruction set is tested against Ubuntu 20.04). Here are instructions for DigitalOcean
  • Set up an email service (such as Mailgun) and the appropriate SMTP/DNS settings. Use the service's documentation for configuring your DNS
  • Install Docker and docker-compose

Install and configure BookWyrm

The production branch of BookWyrm contains a number of tools not on the main branch that are suited for running in production, such as docker-compose changes to update the default commands or configuration of containers, and individual changes to container config to enable things like SSL or regular backups.

Instructions for running BookWyrm in production:

  • Get the application code: git clone
  • Switch to the production branch: git checkout production
  • Create your environment variables file, cp .env.example .env, and update the following:
    • SECRET_KEY | A difficult to guess, secret string of characters
    • DOMAIN | Your web domain
    • EMAIL | Email address to be used for certbot domain verification
    • POSTGRES_PASSWORD | Set a secure password for the database
    • REDIS_ACTIVITY_PASSWORD | Set a secure password for Redis Activity subsystem
    • REDIS_BROKER_PASSWORD | Set a secure password for Redis queue broker subsystem
    • FLOWER_USER | Your own username for accessing Flower queue monitor
    • FLOWER_PASSWORD | Your own secure password for accessing Flower queue monitor
    • EMAIL_HOST_USER | The "from" address that your app will use when sending email
    • EMAIL_HOST_PASSWORD | The password provided by your email service
  • Configure nginx
    • Make a copy of the production template config and set it for use in nginx cp nginx/production nginx/default.conf
    • Update nginx/default.conf:
      • Replace with your domain name everywhere in the file (including the lines that are currently commented out)
      • If you aren't using the www subdomain, remove the version of the domain from the server_name in the first server block in nginx/default.conf and remove the -d www.${DOMAIN} flag at the end of the certbot command in docker-compose.yml.
      • If you are running another web-server on your host machine, you will need to follow the reverse-proxy instructions
  • Initialize the database by running ./bw-dev migrate
  • Run the application (this should also set up a Certbot ssl cert for your domain) with docker-compose up --build, and make sure all the images build successfully
    • If you are running other services on your host machine, you may run into errors where services fail when attempting to bind to a port. See the troubleshooting guide for advice on resolving this.
  • When docker has built successfully, stop the process with CTRL-C
  • Set up HTTPS redirect
    • In docker-compose.yml, comment out the active certbot command, which installs the certificate, and uncomment the line below, which sets up automatically renewals.
    • In nginx/default.conf, uncomment lines 18 through 50 to enable forwarding to HTTPS. You should have two server blocks enabled
  • Set up a cron job to keep your certificates up to date (Lets Encrypt certificates expire after 90 days)
    • Type crontab -e to edit your cron file in the host machine
    • add a line to try renewing once a day: 5 0 * * * cd /path/to/your/bookwyrm && docker-compose run --rm certbot
  • If you wish to use an external storage for static assets and media files (such as an S3-compatible service), follow the instructions until it tells you to come back here
  • Initialize the application with ./bw-dev setup, and copy the admin code to use when you create your admin account.
    • The output of ./bw-dev setup should conclude with your admin code. You can get your code at any time by running ./bw-dev admin_code from the command line. Here's an example output:
Use this code to create your admin account:
  • Run docker-compose in the background with: docker-compose up -d
  • The application should be running at your domain. When you load the domain, you should get a configuration page which confirms your instance settings, and a form to create an admin account. Use your admin code to register.

Congrats! You did it!! Configure your instance however you'd like.


BookWyrm's db service dumps a backup copy of its database to its /backups directory daily at midnight UTC. Backups are named backup__%Y-%m-%d.sql.

The db service has an optional script for periodically pruning the backups directory so that all recent daily backups are kept, but for older backups, only weekly or monthly backups are kept. To enable this script:

  • Uncomment the final line in postgres-docker/cronfile
  • rebuild your instance docker-compose up --build

You can copy backups from the backups volume to your host machine with docker cp:

  • Run docker-compose ps to confirm the db service's full name (it's probably bookwyrm_db_1.
  • Run docker cp <container_name>:/backups <host machine path>

Port Conflicts

BookWyrm has multiple services that run on their default ports. This means that, depending on what else you are running on your host machine, you may run into errors when building or running BookWyrm when attempts to bind to those ports fail.

If this occurs, you will need to change your configuration to run services on different ports. This may require one or more changes the following files:

  • docker-compose.yml
  • nginx/default.conf
  • .env (You create this file yourself during setup)

If you are already running a web-server on your machine, you will need to set up a reverse-proxy.

Get Connected

Because BookWyrm is a young project, we're still working towards a stable release schedule, and there are a lot of bugs and breaking changes. There is a GitHub team which can be tagged when there's something important to know about an update, which you can join by sharing your GitHub username. There are a few ways in get in touch: