The Why of Ourboox by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג -
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The Why of Ourboox

I'm also a scientist, musician, inventor and lecturer. During the daytime I am co-founder of Ourboox. In the evening I Read More
Member Since
Oct 2013
Published Books

Special thanks to Dr. Idit Harel for suggesting that I create this document and edited it, and to my new friend, poet, philanthropist and poet, Martin A. Herskovitz for his inspiration. Books such as his, on our platform, make it all worthwhile. And as always to my co-founder Ran Shternin, our CEO Shuli Sapir-Nevo and our angelic supporters Stephen Pohlmann, Alon Cohen and Evi Wyler. And gratitude to the folks on our About page too!




Ourboox allows anyone of any age to become an author: It is an open-source platform with simple tools and a community for book creation, based on HTML5 and WordPress.  Book authors can explore, discover, invent, and take pride in their own book projects; as well as share and develop their book-writing craft. Authors can embed videos in their texts, add imagery, 3D designs and more. These magical Harry Potter type books with movable jigsaw puzzles and maps and singers jumping out at you from the page is one of the charms of the Ourboox platform. As a result of using it often for many purposes (e.g., storytelling, poetry, teaching, roleplaying, documenting) I have become a better author, and I’m sure that others have as well.












The Why of Ourboox by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג -

The books on Ourboox are free to create and share: In principle, people should be paid for their hard work and talent if they so desire. However, Wikipedia and the internet have created a world in which free usage and sharing has become the norm and that is fine for us as well.







The Why of Ourboox by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג -

What’s good for us makes others happy too: Ourboox is altruistic, but also selfish. It was created for me and my wife as a simple tool for creating beautiful books, and to help us reach out to a greater audience with our content. Since 2014 over 75,000 authors have used it, spreading the word, and increasing creative usership and readership. Many teachers see it as an integral part of their education programs.




Ourboox is not curated: We don’t select, position, or edit the books; we don’t correct grammar and spelling, but not necessarily because we should or should not. Even if we wanted to examine every book, with hundreds of new books created every day, we could never manage to.  We rely on our community to notify us when a troubling book is uploaded.  We remove it. That is the best we can do. And so far this approach has worked for us.




Always on, always in progress: The books on Ourboox are never ‘finished’, never ‘completed’ and are always “works in progress.” I update and edit my books constantly. I also think that this is how it should be, even though I’m not sure that we envisioned this a priori, or it just happened.




The history and philosophy behind our venture is rather simple:  Like many new ideas and projects, Ourboox is a confluence. It was born out of my personal difficulties in self-publishing my children’s books. I wanted to get my children’s books out to the world, I was frustrated with the difficulty of using relatively complicated software such as CreateSpace, and I was looking for a simple way of joining text and pictures in a page-flipping ebook. By the way, this is still what Ourboox does best.




Inventors often do things differently because they cannot do them the ‘right’ way. I had the whole children’s book thing wrong. I had tried to publish my stories in my twenties and thirties, but had little to no idea of the basics of good writing for children (there are basics). I wrote directly to publishers instead of looking for an agent. I thought that I was good enough. I didn’t realize that you have to be much better than good. And when I finally did get a book deal in the US (for Bacteria Galore by Sunday at Four) I stupidly turned it down.




One mistake after another:  I did what many self-assured children’s book writers mistakenly do. I hired an artist to illustrate my stories thinking that this would be a short cut. When that didn’t work I had another idea – to put all my children’s books on the internet for free. Here I was also influenced by Shari Arison who was setting up a venture sharing her vision for free children’s education in Israel and the world. Shari had more resources than I could ever dream of and was more interested in working with her own buddies. So I realized I would have to do it on my own.






Around 2007 I set up a website called where nine of my illustrated children’s books appeared free with page-flipping animation (using Flash), and with audio as well. It was a lovely website but no one visited. I advertised ‘free children’s books’ but was buried by book companies who also advertised “free children’s books” as a ruse to suck in paying customers. I couldn’t compete.


In 2009 I participated in the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. I had prepared sample copies of the nine books which I had co-produced with Shibani Mohindra and Stanley Miller. Each book had embedded smells and I thought I was sure to be a hit. No one was interested. Again I had gone about everything all wrong. That is not the way to sell a book. Especially at a book fair.


But I did realize something important at Bologna. That alongside the many frustrated writers milling around hopelessly and helplessly, there were just as many frustrated illustrators. “Give us a story to illustrate,” they told me. “We are desperate for our work to be seen.”







I then realized that there was a need for bringing writers and illustrators together over a free platform. I had recently met Jimmy Wales and his story of Wikipedia resonated loud and clear. Jimmy had been phenomenally successful in bringing factual dictionary-type curated content to the world. I wanted to bring whimsical personal, non-curated content to the world. Jimmy had realized that in order to do this, he needed to forego financial gain. Not because people should not be paid for creating content. They should. I adopted his model except that I kept Ourboox as a company, so we would not have to depend on donations as Wikipedia does. We would have to find a business model instead (we are still looking, but I’m hopeful).


Jimmy Wales and Jeff Pulver star in my children’s book:



Authors working together: The world has been changing in the direction of sharing content for free. And with I had already been trying to do that. What I needed was what Wikipedia already had: a dedicated cadre of many authors providing free content, not just one.

I pitched the idea of an e-book website connecting writers and illustrators at a technology unconference, and it was well received. Prominent friends such as Nimrod Kozlovski said they would help (he did, at the outset). Jeff Pulver gave me some great advice. “Get your platform out there and see who uses it. You might be surprised.”




The power of partners: By this time I had already found my partner, Ran Shternin, a web guru and genius who I met through his brother, Roi. Ran listened to my vision, “You take text and whhoosh, it becomes a page in a book. You take an illustration and whhoosh, it becomes another page.” He was taken with the idea of making it free and accessible. By the end of 2013 we had our first books.





Getting illustrators interested was much more difficult than I had anticipated. We had a meetup in the summer of 2013. They wanted all kinds of book sizes, shades of white, fonts. I was disappointed. My subsequent suggestion to Ran was, “Keep it simple, so idiots like me can use it. We settled on one type of book (square), one default font, one shade of white.” Keeping it simple, and of course, free.




One the first elated users (the first, actually) was my wife Shuli Sapir-Nevo. She uploaded one of her poetry books, poems interspersed with photos she had taken during our travels. Do you have any idea what it is for a poet to create a book for free in minutes? With pictures?

Shuli danced around the house with pure elation. I knew we were on to something of value. Perhaps not something ‘valuable’, but something of value.



The first books I published were the children’s books I had already done, such as Bacteria Galore by Sunday at Four (illustrated by Tali Niv-Dolinsky) and Tim the Porcupine (illustrated by Rotem Omri).




In late 2013 we had a meetup (our first and last) with illustrators and writers. We persuaded about half a dozen to create books together, on the spot. This led to some wonderful collaborations, for example The Two Blowhards, a collaboration between Hagai Cohen and Rotem Omri.





Etzion Goel illustrated my story, “The Football and the Tree,” perhaps one of my best ever stories (again, not in a commercial sense).





I subsequently published many children’s books with stories that were illustrated for love, not money, by leading illustrators in Israel, including Danny Kerman.





More recently one of my stories, “Emily Saw a Door,” was illustrated by a high school class of talented art majors. Some of these children’s books are now finding their way into the curriculum of the Ministry of Education. To help teach English online. No financial rewards, but I am incredibly honored and proud.





So early on, I started writing short books of satire as well. One of the first was “The British People are Polite”, based on one of my frequent trips to London. It was read by thousands who discovered it through search engines.




I then added books of serious and whimsical tips (“Mel’s ten tips on….) and books of real advice, even science. A repository for practically everything I’ve written or wanted to write.

The only exception is the few children’s stories I’m keeping to myself until I find an agent and traditional publisher in the US. It’s not the money that I crave, it’s the recognition. The approval, approbation, professional status. That is the one thing that neither money nor Ourboox can buy. At least in the meantime.





A graphaholic was born: Over the ensuing six years, Ourboox has fulfilled my graphaholic needs. I have completed or started almost 1400 ebooks. To an extent, the platform is selfish, created to fulfil my own needs as a writer. The great thing is though, that it’s not just me, it’s tens of thousands of writers, teachers, students, all sharing the same platform. That is what I was missing on A mass of creaters and readers.




Reverse Literacy: Ourboox allows anyone to become an author. I call it ‘reverse literacy’. The ability not only to read books of others, but to create books for others. And Ourboox seems to be doing rather well in providing such a platform, for me and for others. In fact, maybe one is not literate if they only know how to read books, and don’t know how to write them.


Here are my shared wisdoms from creating 1400 e-books and welcoming 125,000 books to the world.

Mel’s ten tips for super-fun book-creation with Ourboox:




1) If you’re stuck for a subject, start with “My Favorite Things” and talk about the things you love, foods, movies, books. Add photos, embed videos.

2) If you want a step-by-step description of how to create your e-books, here it is:

3) Write an e-book about a trip that you’ve taken, add pictures and interactive maps from Google.

4) Write a book about someone in your family, or a famous person you admire.

5) If you have a pet you love, I am sure he/she would appreciate a picture biography!



6) Perhaps you write poetry. Now is the time to share them.

7) Do you have tips on how to unclog a drain? Learn piano quickly? Share them with the world.

8) If you have pdf’s that you’ve done in the past, you can simply drag and drop them to create page-flipping books.

9) We love recipe books with pictures and videos! Especially these days.

10) You can always write me with any questions, suggestions and other comments. I’m happy to hear from our wonderful community.

This free e-book is brought to you by

Ourboox is the world's simplest platform for creating and sharing amazing ebooks.

You too can become one of our 75,000 authors.

Join us now and start creating your own books right away.

Create your own free book