What is the Rebus Foundation?

The Rebus Foundation is a not-for-profit organization funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. We build new models and technology for open book publishing and reading on the web.

Our first focus is Open Textbooks. We are building a new model for publishing Open Textbooks, and we hope you will join us.


What is the Rebus Community for Open Textbook Creation?

Rebus.Community is a collaborative platform for creating Open Textbooks. Rebus.Community has three parts to it:

  • Building a global, connected network of Open Textbook creators
  • Developing an Open Textbook publishing process in response to the needs of this community
  • Developing software and tools to support the processes of publishing Open Textbooks


Who are you working with?

We are partnering with institutions and organizations dedicated to Open Textbooks, including: The Open Textbook Network, BCcampus and OpenOregon.

Some of the universities and colleges we are working with include: University of Arizona, University of Washington, University of British Columbia, Cleveland State University, University of Minnesota, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Brigham Young University, University of Hawaii, University of Maryland, and Plymouth State University.

Finally, we are funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, who are open education champions, dedicated to fostering and expanding the reach of high-quality open educational resources (OER).


What are you trying to do with this Pilot?

Our objectives are to:

  1. Define, with community input, a clear process and best practices for publication of Open Textbooks in standard formats.
  2. Grow a vibrant global community of collaborators on Open Textbook creation.
  3. Make it easy for faculty, staff, students, volunteers, etc., to contribute to the creation of Open Textbooks (their own, or others’).
  4. Create many new, high-quality Open Textbooks, available for free to anyone, in standard formats (web, EPUB, MOBI, PDF, and print).

Learn more about our pilot projects.


What is the goal of the Pilot?

Our overall objective is something like this:

“To help a global community publish great Open Textbooks in every subject, in every language.”

Our objective for the pilot is:

“To understand how we can best achieve our overall objective.”

So, we’d like to ask, and answer some questions, confirm (or deny!) some of our hunches, and generally gather information about what we need to do to make this a success.


Why should I participate?

If either of these descriptions fit, then you’ll be a great candidate to join us:

  1. You need help publishing Open Textbooks.
  2. You want to help publishing Open Textbooks.

And, broadly, if you think it would be exciting to help build a transparent, globally collaborative publishing process for Open Textbooks, then we’ll get along just fine.


Will you copy edit/proofread/illustrate (etc.) my book?

No. Our role isn’t to provide these kinds of services, but to develop a process and set of tools that make it easier to organize those activities and find people to do them (although we will be actively recruiting contributors to do this work for our pilot projects). Our theory is that some of these tasks might be done by a global community of people dedicated to Open Textbooks. Others may be better handled by (paid) professionals. This is one of the questions we’re trying to answer with this process.


Wait, do you want me to work for free?

We’re asking you to volunteer! No one will be profiting financially from your work, but many will profit in other ways. We want to help build a global community of dedicated people contributing their time to building a universal library of free Open Textbooks in every subject, in every language. We hope you will join us.


Is the Rebus Community a publisher?

No. We are trying to build a system that enables a new publishing model, so that the things publishers typically do can easily be done for Open Textbooks by a global community of contributors. We are building the infrastructure for a modern, open publishing system. But we’re not a publisher.


Will you get rich off my work?

No! Every book published using the Rebus Community platform will be released under a Creative Commons license, where the copyright remains with the author(s), and readers have access to the content without any kind of payment.


I already have access to software to create my textbook. What can the Rebus Community offer me?

Are we allowed to answer a question with more questions?

What license will you use? Do you know the advantages and disadvantages of CC-BY vs CC-ND? How will you handle peer review? Once you’ve finished your book, where will you send it? How will you get it into libraries? Bookstores? Do you want your book in print? How will students find your book? How will your colleagues at other schools find it? What’s your strategy for getting other faculty to adopt your textbook? Would you like your book translated into another language? Copy edited? Proofread?

There are many, many questions that production software can’t help with. The Rebus team can’t answer them all alone, but we’d like — with your help — to try to find practical, forward-thinking answers for these, and many other questions.


What’s the future for the Rebus Community?

In part, that’s up to you. We have a pretty clear idea of the framework for what we are building, but the specifics of how things roll out will depend very much on the members of the pilot project. The outline of what we know (or think we know) is something like this:

  • Members should be able to list active Open Textbook projects they are working on.
  • Members should be able to ask the community for help on specific Open Textbook projects.
  • Members should be able to ask for help on more generic Open Textbook problems and questions.
  • Members will (we hope!) help each other!
  • Members will have access to tools to publish Open Textbooks in the main formats that readers want: Web, PDF, EPUB, MOBI, and (probably?) print.
  • We’ll be providing some guides and resources.
  • We’ll be identifying pain points, and helping to find solutions.
  • We’ll be working with members to develop a clear and sensible Open Textbook publishing process.
  • We’ll start building some software tools that help make this publishing process easier.
  • Once Open Textbooks are finished, we’ll make sure that they are available to the world, with an Open License, and with rich and accessible metadata.

That’s a broad outline of what we expect Rebus.community to turn into, but the route may change and the details of what all that means is up to you. Can you help us make something great?


I’d like to be a member of the Rebus Open Textbook Community. Now what?


How can I get started?

Here are some ways to get started:

  1. Introduce yourself under “New Here? Introduce yourself …” in the Rebus Community.
  2. If you are interested in helping someone else’s project, you can see active projects here: Projects: Active Open Textbook Projects (and post anywhere you’d like to offer some help).


What is my commitment as a Community participant?

That’s a good question. Here are our hopes:

  • You will communicate with us, to help us better understand the pain points, questions, and problems you run into.
  • You will help contribute to the creation of an Open Textbook (as an author, editor, project manager, or something else).
  • You’ll share your knowledge directly with others participating in the community.
  • You’ll help spread the word about creating Open Textbooks.

Read more about our approach and what we ask of collaborators on our blog.


What are the expectations if I make my open textbook with help from the Rebus Community?

All books, textbooks, and other materials produced with the support of the Rebus Community must be licensed with a CC BY license. Please see our license policy for more details.


Help and Support

If you need help with any aspect of the Rebus Community, you can post a question in “Help & Tech Support” where community members (including staff) will respond. We also hold monthly Rebus Office Hours. This is an hourlong Google hangout, and you can talk to us, ask questions, and connect with others working on Open Textbook projects. Sign up here.