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Because PDFs Aren’t Enough: Rebus Foundation Gets Grant to Develop a Reader-Focused ‘Open Webbook' Platform

Pressbooks and founder Hugh McGuire has a new project: he’s leading the Rebus Foundation in its efforts to develop a

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

“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 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.”

The 75 thousand dollar grant will enable McGuire and Rebus co-founder & strategic director Boris Anthony to investigate "the needs of scholarly monograph readers and develop outlines and prototypes of a webbook reader for long-form deep reading".

This will not be your typical smartphone app; instead, it will likely have features closer to one of the many failed textbook apps from the likes of Yuzu, Coursesmart, Entourage, Amplify, and Kno.

Please note that I am only drawing an allusion so you will have a better idea of what McGuire is working towards, and not suggesting that the WebBook app will have the same features as any of those platforms.

Another way to look at this project is as market research and product development. We won’t know what the product will look like until after the research ("the needs of scholarly monograph readers") is complete.

image by max_wei

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