O'Reilly Media's Tools of Change blog recently featured "Creating reader community with open APIs", a post by Leonhard Dobusch. In it, Dobusch summarizes a Frankfurt Book Fair presentation in which he argued that:
- Publishing creates and sustains communities of readers
- New digital tools help creating and sustain these communities
- Open APIs are "becoming a feature"
This is an argument I've made in a number of ways, starting with an early version of "Context first", in which I wrote:
"In a digital realm, true content solutions are increasingly built with open APIs, something containers are pretty bad at. APIs – application programming interfaces – provide users with a roadmap that lets them customize their content consumption."
"The physical forms of books, magazines and newspapers have analog forms of APIs. We’ve all figured out how to access the information contained in these physical products. But, the physical form itself does not always make for a good API, something that Craigslist, the Huffington Post, Cookstr and others have capitalized on."
"Open up your API, I contend, or someone else will."
Doubusch takes a different approach, examining the promise of social-reading sites like Readmill, Hiptype and LovelyBooks. He laments the closed interfaces of platform vendors like Amazon and its Kindle device.
So do I. Apart from Dobrusch, though, I think this is something that publishers can control.
As I said first in "Context first" and repeated in "The library among us", we have a chance to make content open, accessible and interoperable. If publishers persist in supporting proprietary frameworks, they will see some short-term gains and much long-term irrelevance.