Rebus Foundation awarded grant from the Mellon Foundation for prototyping a reader-focused ‘open webbooks’ ecosystem for scholarly monographs

MONTREAL – Feb. 7, 2017 – The Rebus Foundation will research and prototype an open, Web-based scholarly reading system, supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The US$75,000, one-year grant will enable a team to focus on an open webbook ecosystem that prioritizes the needs of scholarly readers.

“Close scholarly reading of texts requires readers to process multiple sources, to understand and link complex concepts, and eventually to synthesize knowledge into new scholarly works,” said Hugh McGuire, co-founder and executive director of the Rebus Foundation, who previously founded the open content project Librivox.org and the open-source software Pressbooks. “However, most digital reading environments, whether of PDFs or ebooks in ebook reading software, are limited and constrained. We want to open up what ‘deep’ reading can mean, to take full advantage of the web, both in terms of technology and its culture of innovation”

Through the grant, McGuire and Rebus co-founder & strategic director Boris Anthony will conduct in-depth research to better understand the needs of scholarly monograph readers and develop outlines and prototypes of a webbook reader for long-form deep reading.

“The objective is to figure out an ecosystem—from creation, through publication, to deep reading and annotation—that is fully native to the web, unlike current ebooks,” said Anthony. “We seek an approach that allows readers to more deeply engage with books and the knowledge they contain. We are doing this because we believe books are foundational to open knowledge and free societies.”

The results of the work will be published under open licenses.

The Rebus Foundation is a Canadian not-for-profit organization, established in April 2016, with a mission to build new models and technology for open book publishing, collecting and reading on the web. The foundation was generously funded in August 2016 with a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, leaders in supporting Open Education initiatives.

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