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Summary:

Pearson may be a giant of corporate publishing. But now it is throwing DK’s rich encyclopedic image bank and dozens of classic novels in with the content it wants developers to re-use in their own apps.

Didn’t quite like Charles Dickens’ presentation of David Copperfield? Felt you could improve on Dorling Kindersley’s latest encyclopedia?

Now Pearson is giving developers the opportunity to remix some of its best-known books for themselves, through two new API data sets:

  • It is making available 90,000 raw images, of the kind how-to and guide book publisher Dorling Kindsersley (DK) has become famous for, including of human anatomy, city maps, scientific images and stock photography.
  • Meanwhile, Pearson’s Penguin book publisher is making available 48 classic titles from 31 authors including the Brontë sisters, Oscar Wilde and Thomas Hardy.

The two new APIs go live on what is the first birthday of Pearson’s Plug & Play developer program. Pearson wants to regard some of its content as raw building blocks for third-party developers to make new apps and services from.

The group began its developer program in 2011 with three APIs, so that developers could re-use its Eyewitness Guides city data, Longman dictionary definitions and Financial Times press releases to create new products.

This March, the giant unveiled its first chargeable API that allows developers to re-use a library of 2,500 food recipes from its cooking books, with developers needing to pay after hitting a certain monthly usage.

Pearson, which made around $2 billion from digital content last year, will claim credit for embracing small-scale developers using this home-spun outreach tactic. But it likely won’t make available in this way full premium content from its Financial Times or education services.

So far, Pearson is showcasing 12 real-world re-uses of its material. Commercial payback to the group is not known. We have asked.

  1. Interesting example in the private sector of the now established public sector trend of Open Data. This is being driven in the public sphere by cost effective innovation through the use of public assets, the need for transparency in government and the longer term desire to reduce public sector costs. Interesting to see that the commercial world is looking at the same trends to see if commercial value can be extracted from existing assets

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  2. As a science geek, author, game designer, recovering literature major, the creative possibilities here feel endless and exciting. Crucial, that question about rights and ROI for the new products, but I’m intrigued.

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  3. As an illustrator, all I can see are the thousands of hours of old (yes, I know some too old to matter) and new illustration, its usage unable to command 1 cent of secondary rights fees, because they were contracted out, I’m sure. That’s ok, though, billions to the corp, hundreds of thousands to the app peeps, and nothing to the original creators, welcome to the future, artists, where remixers will make 10,000 x what you do, with your work.

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