APIs- the game changer for publishers

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Everybody can be seen talking about the numerous advantages that ebooks bring to the table; how they are more accessible, easy to carry and more environment friendly compared to the print version. And understandably, publishers are slowly embracing ebooks and the whole scenario of digital publishing. E-books may have cut down on their margins, but they have no choice. They have to flow with the tide, else they will drown.
However, just releasing books on digital media won’t ensure that publishers keep running a profitable business. Ebook publishing has made the publishing industry more competitive than ever before, primarily due to the lower cost of publishing involved.
Thus, it all boils down to Darwin’s theory, “survival of the fittest.” Reputation will still play a part in the fast emerging world of digital publishing, but at the end of the day, publishers who are able to maneuver the digital world better will come out trumps.
And that’s where APIs can be the real game changer. So far, publishers have seen ebooks as merely digital versions of their printed books. They have locked up their content in a website, an ebook or some other digital format, used the traditional ways of marketing and hoped for the readers to find their books.

However, if looked at from a different angle, ebooks are nothing but a website; they have content broken down in readable structures in an interactive manner, with some images thrown in here and there to make for an engaging read. The popular epub format is written in XHTML, which is nothing but an advanced version of HTML. “XHTML (eXtensible HyperText Markup Language) is a family of XML markup languages that mirror or extend versions of the widely-used Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), the language in which web pages are written.”- Wikipedia
And for websites to be popular, traditional ways of marketing don’t work. There is a need to be innovative, think out-of-the-box and beat the competition. That’s what APIs can provide.
API, or Application Programming Interface is nothing but a platform which gives third parties access to your content. Businesses have been using it for quite some time now. Twitter and Facebook have their APIs which lets developers build myriad applications on them. APIs are mutually beneficial. They help the API owner reach the audience which otherwise would have taken a lot of time and money. A case in point- Twitter API which lets Facebook and Twitter users integrate their two accounts. Thus, Twitter gets to feed on the traffic of Facebook.

At the same time, APIs can help developers build interesting applications which can be revenue generators. But where does all that leave the publishers? Well, for starters, APIs can bring a lot of visibility for publishers’ ebooks and other digital content. They can help them distribute their content to a much larger audience. And in the crowded online world, visibility and discovery are the key factors between success and failure.
Secondly, they can give a whole new dimension to digital books. When publishers distribute an API for their digital content, it gives creative developers around the world an opportunity to play around with the content. Different people see things differently, and you never know which idea may strike gold.
Look at the API of Google Maps and how different businesses are using it their own way. Each different way leads to more traction for Google. Every idea is worth a shot and having an API just gives the publishers an easy way to explore a plethora of dimensions without spending too much money or time themselves.
Publishers need to explore APIs, and the ones who do it quicker will be the ones at an advantage. It’s still a level playing field out there, with nobody quite sure on how to best use the API advantage. It could be a paid thing where the publishers give access to their digital content for a small fee, or it could be absolutely free, meant to attract more readers.
It could be limited access to the content, giving only a little bit to the developers, or it could be complete access to the developers and letting them have a ball with it. Whatever it is, publishers need to put their thinking hats on; because after the ebook boom, the API boom is just around the corner. The faster they move, the better.

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