HarperCollins Debuts OpenBook API Beta

Curtis Chen
Apr. 09 2012, 09:00AM EDT

Big news for bookworms: HarperCollins, one of the "Big Six" New York publishers, has launched its OpenBook API Beta (not to be confused with the "Openbook" Facebook parody site), giving developers access to a wealth of data about their books and authors.

The developer site is still a bit raw, with some broken links and less-than-polished documentation, but the data available is quite comprehensive. The OpenBook API offers not only information on HarperCollins authors and books in US and international markets, but also author tour information. Want to know when best-selling science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson is coming to town, what the cover of his latest book looks like, and how many pages long it is?  The OpenBook API has all that information and more.  HarperCollins and its subsidiaries publish in a wide variety of genres, from fiction to cookbooks to biographies, so there should be something for everyone to love in here.

Traditional publishers have struggled to break into the digital realm, and past publisher-backed attempts to create "destinations" for book lovers--like Bookish and aNobii, to name just two--have met with limited success.  The OpenBook API could enable the developer community to more easily combine their loves of reading and data mining in new mash-ups. As HarperCollins CTO Rich Rothstein says in a forum post: "We have heard of people having to scrape sites to get information from publishers. The purpose of this API is to make the task of getting information on our books and authors a much simpler task for those who need the information."

The OpenBook API's terms of use currently allow free "personal, noncommercial use," but if this venture proves successful, expect to see some new book-search apps hitting your favorite mobile device marketplace--and, perhaps, more of the Big Six providing API access to their catalog data. As any librarian knows, books are much more useful open than closed.

(Hat tip: Mashery)


Curtis Chen Once a software engineer in Silicon Valley; now a science fiction writer and puzzle hunt maker near Portland, Oregon. You may have seen his "Cat Feeding Robot" Ignite presentation. Curtis is not an aardvark.

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