Lulu is proud to announce the release of our Print API, the first of several API connections we plan to offer the publishing and developer communities.

What exactly does this mean for you?

I’m glad you asked! Are you a content aggregator, publisher, a developer, an entrepreneur, or a business owner? Are you a web-savvy author with your own website who would like to sell directly to your readers? If you fall into any of these categories, the Lulu Print API will allow you to take advantage of our print network directly.

Let’s take a closer look at the Lulu Print API and how this new service might work for you or somebody you know.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the technical aspects of APIs for software, you’ve almost certainly encountered them online without realizing. The acronym API stands for “Application Programming Interface.” Most basically, API is code that allows two unique pieces of software to talk to each other. This, in and of itself, is pretty simple. I say this as someone with only the most rudimentary understanding of coding.

Retailers, individuals, and institutions all make use of APIs to expand their capabilities and offer their users more options, better pricing, faster shipping and much more. Lulu’s Print API serves the same functionality. Once the API is integrated, users can create unique “buy now” options on their SHOP pages within their websites, and all orders placed are channeled into Lulu’s global printing network, to be fulfilled by the same process as any order on Lulu.

But before we dive into the technology aspects of this new tool, let’s take a moment to consider how this impacts the everyday author and the publishing community.

Breaking down Boundaries, Creating Partners

Lulu has always aspired to be a premiere destination for authors, as well as a powerful print and fulfillment partner for businesses, institutions, and publishers. We want to empower everyone to tell their stories and share their knowledge.

From a technical stand point, our Print API service may not seem like an exciting piece of news for the individual author (APIs run in the background and are never seen). API tools are usually meant for web developers, who implement the cross-platform code so the two discrete programs work in harmony. The average author might have little need for an API connection if they don’t want to deal with selling directly from their website.

That being said, publishers and businesses need APIs for many things. And here at Lulu, we understand that need, because we’ve lived in that world for the last fifteen years. We’ve witnessed, year after year, small and independent publishers who start up, bring on a handful of authors, publish a few books, and then eventually fold. Yes, of course, some small publishers succeed, and some even succeed beyond all expectations. We’re more concerned with the publishers who couldn’t keep up.

One of the biggest problems facing many small publishers is the cost associated with printing and fulfilling book orders. The price to print and ship can be prohibitive for small publishers, who likely are operating on a limited budget and need to make the most out of every dollar invested. Print API is an answer to the funding problems these small publishers face. Because the Lulu Print API can be implemented to allow for direct print on demand services at low prices, small publishers can remove the cost of printing and storing books from their budget.

Just like using Lulu’s self-publishing tools, the Print API features all the formats and sizes Lulu has to offer, at the same low prices, and with the same quality and global shipping you’ve come to expect from Lulu. The difference is that publishers the world over can plug into our network while maintaining their brand’s independence.

Harnessing the power of the Web

To further highlight how an API works, here’s an example of how a business might use the Lulu Print API:

Let’s say you’re an entrepreneur with a history in finance and banking for years. You’re taking that experience and offering independent financial advice. You can go out as an individual and meet people, making connections and building up a clientele. Now imagine you wrote your plan for financial success down. You’ve got a valuable document that offers your unique skills but comes at a much lower cost than individual financial planning. With Lulu Print API, you can publish your book, offer it for sale on your website, and print on demand to control costs. Your book becomes a crucial supplement to your income as well as a tool for sharing your expertise. And all of that comes without upfront cost to you, and all the sales are handled on your end, with Lulu only printing and shipping on your behalf.

The API process capitalizes on Internet connectivity to enable collaboration among a variety of companies and individuals, further opening the printing and publishing world to more readers, authors, and publishers.

Pricing is another important aspect to consider with an API connection. Rather than pricing your book on the Lulu site for your profit and our commission, you price it with 100% return of profits. The price you charge on your site is entirely up to you! With the API integrated, the order bills from Lulu to you for the printing and shipping, while the amount you charge a customer is entirely on your end. This expands on the already generous and easy to control profit model Lulu utilizes.

Integration is In

Using API integration is more than just the cool new thing happening across the web. Take a look at this article from TechCrunch last year, “The Rise of APIs”. While the title sounds very Terminator-esque, the point the author makes is clear: third-party APIs are the future, and they are here to shake up the way the Internet works. The opening paragraph of the article sums it up; ” there is a rising wave of software innovation in the area of APIs that provide critical connective tissue and increasingly important functionality.”

While a clean and easy-to-navigate interface is always going to be important, the ability to quickly implement a new program through API connections is what will keep web based retailers one step ahead. Adding new features, replacing out of date products, and generally being able to work with the range of other programs on the web is a key to staying relevant; using API connections solves all of these problems. All modern software providers are conscious of API connectivity, and the implications of creating software that does not allow for API integration. The way of the future is sharing, through both open and private API connections, and mutually finding success through shared programming.

Lulu embraces this mentality wholly. From the first day, we’ve been a company designed to help content creators better share their stories and knowledge. Enabling API connections with our print network is a logical and necessary step for us.

Looking to the Future

Lulu’s Print API is the first of many steps from Lulu you’ll see in the months and years to come. Our eyes have always been toward the future, toward finding better, cheaper, and more efficient ways to help you share your story.

Whether you’re an individual author with a website you’d like to sell your book directly from or a business with a high volume of printed material you need created and shipped directly to customers, Lulu’s Print API offers the services and versatility you need. Designed with developers in mind, Lulu’s Print API will be a crucial piece of Lulu’s ability to offer the best printing and self-publishing options to everyone, everywhere.

Look for more from Lulu in the future, as we continue to make innovations in the publishing community. For now, you can check out our API/Developer’s Portal site at develpers.lulu.com to learn more about Lulu’s Print API and see if the tool might be right for you.