Pearson goes open source with Plug and Play

Pearson goes open source with Plug and Play

Pearson has embraced an open-source approach to digital content, making its proprietary content available to third-party digital developers.

The publisher officially globally launched its Plug and Play platform today [1st September], which gives in-house and external developers the chance to use Pearson-owned content to create digital applications. Pearson announced the project in May with news of an open application programming interface (API) for its DK Eyewitness Guide to London. Plug and Play offers data from it, as well as from Pearson’s Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English and FT Press, as well as developer support and pricing details.

Diana Stepner, head of future technologies at Pearson, said the project ties in with the growing trend towards open-source development and collaboration. Those in the industry not responding to this trend would be left behind, she added. She said: “There’s a great movement to open up content so other people can create innovative ideas. Open source is becoming very powerful, and we realise the benefits that can by gained by allowing other people to experiment with our content. Companies that don’t believe the world has changed will be surprised - it’s best to start working with new developers as soon as possible.”

One of the key benefits of opening up its content through Plug & Play was the potential for Pearson to connect with new audiences, Stepner added. Increased brand awareness and the exploration of new business models were also part of the long-term aim.

After signing up to the platform, developers can initially work in the ‘sandbox’, a testing environment that allows them to experiment with parts of the datasets. Those ready to move onto app production can use the APIs for free, but start paying a fee once they reach a certain level of data access. There was already a significant amount of interest among developers, Stepner added.

Digital marketing agency Metia’s innovation arm, Metia Labs, is one of the first developers to use the platform. It created the ShowMe London Android app that combines DK content with geo-location and other web services to enrich the travel guide experience.

“What’s exciting about Pearson is that through Plug & Play they are vigorously conducting what could be described as controlled experimentation in the public domain,” said Metia c.e.o. Steve Ellis. “That’s a brave step for a big organisation with existing revenue streams to sustain. But it is also a vital method of protecting and growing those businesses in the longer term.”

Additional datasets will be made available on Plug & Play in due course. Stepner said it would consider content across all of Pearson’s publishing divisions, including fiction, based on developer feedback.