What is the Rebus Community?

The Rebus Community is a non-profit organization developing a new, collaborative process for publishing open textbooks, and associated content. Rebus is building tools and resources to support open textbook publishing, and to bring together a community of faculty, librarians, students and others working with open textbooks around the world.

We want to make it easy for the community to contribute to the creation of open textbooks (their own, or others’), and support the creation of new, high-quality open textbooks, available for free to anyone, in standard formats (web, EPUB, MOBI, PDF, and print).

How are you going about defining this new process?

We are starting by supporting a small group of open textbook projects through the publishing process, and using this experience to shape the direction of the Rebus Community tools.

Each of our current projects has a specific need, or is in a particular stage of production, and by working closely with them we can gain detailed insights into the needs and pain points of the process, and identify ways in which we can make things easier.

In our view, it is critical to the success of the Rebus model that we shape our tools and resources in response to the needs of the community, rather than making assumptions. We’re using this opportunity 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 new approach work for the people who will be using it.

Who are you working with?

We are partnering with institutions and organizations dedicated to Open Textbooks, including: The Open Textbook Network, BCcampus, eCampus Ontario and OpenOregon. Some of the universities and colleges we are working with include: University of Arizona, University of Washington, University of British Columbia, American University in Cairo, Cleveland State University, University of Saskatchewan, University of Minnesota, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Brigham Young University, University of Hawaii, University of Maryland, and Plymouth State University.

What is the long term goal?

Our overall objective is something like this: “To help a global community publish great Open Textbooks and associated content in every subject, in every language.”

Our theory is that collaboration and a strong community of practice are the key to scaling up production of open textbooks so that students and faculty worldwide have free and open access to materials in any subject that they need for their education and teaching.

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.

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 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.

Will you get rich off my work?

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

So who is paying for all this?

The Rebus Community is a project of the Rebus Foundation, a not-for-profit organization funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The Hewlett Foundation are open education champions, dedicated to fostering and expanding the reach of high-quality open educational resources (OER).

The Rebus Foundation is dedicated to building new models and technology for open book publishing and reading on the web, and its first focus is on open textbooks.

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-NC-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 the 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 Community. Now what?

The best place to start is in the Rebus Projects platform:

  1. Check out the list of projects and find one you’re interested in
  2. Join the project and if you can, volunteer for an activity
  3. Introduce yourself to the rest of the team in the discussion!

What is my commitment as a Community participant?

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

  • You will help contribute to the creation of an Open Textbook (as an author, editor, project manager, finding contributors or something else).
  • You will communicate with us, to help us better understand the pain points, questions, and problems you run into.
  • 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 or contribute to an 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 the Rebus Forum where community members (including staff) will respond. You can also email us at contact@rebus.community.