From Google Maps integrated into a website to credit card payments, more and more industries are using an Application Programming Interface and educational publishers are no exception.
There’s a lot of information around about APIs - how they’re integral to business success and the cornerstone of any digital business. But what exactly is an API? How is it relevant for educational publishers? And why should you care?
In the blog post we answer the following questions:
- What is an API?
- What are the benefits of APIs for Educational Publishers?
- How can educational publishers use APIs in their workflow?
What is an API?
API stands for Application Programme Interface. APIs define the parameters of how different systems interact.
APIs are about efficiency and simplicity. You don’t make your own pens for your business unless you’re in the business of making pens. Similarly, companies rely on APIs to address information needs. This is why almost every industry uses them. APIs mean processes are streamlined and businesses can grow.
Nick Ruflo claims that "APIs are like a telephone call. Whether it is your cellphone or a landline, you pick up the phone, dial a number, and talk to someone on the other line. HOW it works is completely irrelevant, all the other person needs is a phone". Most of the Internet runs on APIs yet we are rarely aware of them or what tasks they perform. Users do not necessarily need to know the intricacies of how an API works, only that it performs the task they wish. However we want to take a little time to explain how an API operates, to make clear how useful APIs can be in the publishing industry.
The whole internet is currently running on APIs without us even knowing that. It is rare for the users to directly engage with an API, let developers do the heavy lifting.
We still think it’s important that you understand the basics of what an API does. Let’s imagine the process of getting a book from the library. As a customer, you already know which book you want so you make a request to the librarian. The librarian checks some information and then heads off to find the book for you. The librarian can find the book far more quickly and efficiently than you, as she knows where everything is. She brings you the book and then goes on to help someone else.
In this analogy, an API is like a librarian. It takes requests from a user and then returns the information to them in a fast and efficient way.
Benefits of APIs for educational publishers
While it’s easy to see how APIs might benefit social media channels or e-commerce businesses, it can sometimes be harder to see how APIs can be useful for publishers. Internal / Private APIs have a number of benefits for educational publishers, and they’re being used increasingly.
- APIs make content more accessible. The use of APIs means that content systems can work together harmoniously. Information from diverse sources can quickly be translated and used together. For example Google Maps can be directly incorporated into a webpage, or a calendar system can be part of a website.
- APIs allow new business models. APIs are essential for many digital innovations that are now available and many business models. Subscription models or syndication partnerships often need APIs to make them viable.
- APIs improve customer experiences. APIs are what allow for content to adapt from a desktop screen to a smartphone or tablet screen. Consumers are increasingly using their phones for all sorts of applications, meaning that communicating data between systems is key.
- APIs facilitate communication. Much publishing work relies on communication with different partners, like printers, who often use different software. APIs mean this communication is easy and accurate.
How can publishers use APIs in their workflow?
Publishers can use APIs in a variety of creative ways, depending on their processes and data structures. APIs can be helpful for:
- Assisting authors in efficiently producing content: APIs can help translate between useful publishing tools and advanced AI algorithms. EDIA's latest tool Papyrus uses APIs in combination with AI algorithms to analyze a piece of writing and assign it a reading level, in almost real time. This is helpful for publishers who wish to write texts directed at a specific age group and language level.
- Improving content management for publishers: Internal APIs allow a system to metatag fresh content with necessary information. This helps keep all content well organized and clearly categorized. Content is more searchable, easier to use and provides more accurate data for publishers.
- Improving collaboration with external parties: APIs facilitate cooperation between different systems, meaning that publishers can collaborate with external parties. New opportunities for growth such as online learning platforms are made available for exploration with the help of APIs.
- Opening opportunities for new business models: APIs allow for new types of business models more suited to the digital environment. Models such as subscription-based or pay-per-item are made possible through APIs.
The future of APIs is also bright. APIs will soon allow editors to collaborate directly with users and improve content almost instantaneously. Publishers will use APIs to streamline and provide data for every aspect of their value chain, from content production to management to distribution. Strategic improvement of content becomes a reality rather than a wish with the use of APIs.
Some publishers still balk at the idea of introducing APIs into their systems. There is a worry that new software will not be correctly integrated into current systems and will cost more time and money than it saves.
Luckily API integration is easy and requires little work. Companies which do manage to optimize their workflow using infrastructure simplicity offered by the APIs will benefit in the long term run.
Are you ready to make a next step?
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