Book digitizing made the news last week, as Google announced a deal to digitize up to a million books from Italian libraries. Despite some author and publisher resistance, similar efforts are proceeding in Europe, including Norway’s Bookshelf project and Europeana.
What is the motivation for digitizing vast libraries of books?
Yngve Slettholm of Kopinor summarizes it well, “The vast majority of books are out of print and can be considered commercially dead.” “This creates an extra source of revenue for older books.”
What does this have to do with APIs?
How much ‘commercially dead’ data, content, or services is your company sitting on? Are you fully monetizing your assets? If you gave yet-known 3rd parties access to data or content locked in your company, what new business opportunities and revenue streams would be created?
That’s what an open API does. It unlocks data and content, giving it the potential to be consumed in new, innovative ways, and monetized. Via an API you can get the broadest possible distribution for the lowest cost.
One example of this is BestBuy’s Remix program; BestBuy opened the Remix API and now BestBuy can be accessed via mobile apps and in new ways and places where its customers are. Another example is Sears which has opened it's vast product catalog, and TransUnion, which made its core credit report and credit monitoring services available to 3rd party financial companies.
It is not always clear who will use the capabilities you expose or how. But one thing is for certain, if they are not accessible, they will not be used.
The book digitization efforts also hold some lessons for how to manage such a program, which I’ll cover in my next post.