Book Analytics Service testimonials

Don’t just take our word for it – read about how our partner presses are benefitting from the Book Analytics Service:

The Books Analytics Service has been incredibly beneficial for Big Ten Open Books.

We were able to implement our dashboard with data from several different content hosting platforms. The amount of time and intellectual energy that would have had to be spent on manually aggregating this data is significant and would not have been able to demonstrate the granularity of the interactions with our content.

Having this robust, and straightforward technology that pulls together all our data in one place has been amazing for us. Our open access content project is just in the first few months of our initial launch.

This data gathered and presented by the BAD project has allowed us to report back to our investors about the community engagement we’ve realized. Implementing the dashboard for Big Ten Open Books has been essential to our project’s success and has helped the broader academic community to realize how impactful Humanities scholarship can be when made open access. It is now a core element of our site.

We are so appreciative of the work that the BAD project staff have done to make the usage of open access content more visible. Making this information public on our site exceeds our expectations for being able to provide transparency to our investors. Thank you for all the work you do!

Kate McCready, Visiting Program Officer at the Big Ten Academic Alliance

CEU Press, with the help of COPIM, launched its open access model in 2021. Opening the Future funds the frontlist in open access by leveraging backlist title sales. The key to the success of the model will be demonstrating impact, which includes usage of the open access titles that we publish. Since we share our OA books on as many platforms as possible, aggregating OA usage across these sites and making sense of that data is time consuming and requires standardisation across the industry. The Book Analytics Service is the solution to this problem!

Emily Poznanski, Director, CEU Press

The BAD project team have made it possible for University of Michigan Press to pilot the groundbreaking Book Analytics Service in the USA. The team’s information science expertise has smoothed the bumpy task of normalizing data from the many different platforms that host our open-access books. The team has shown both innovation and a commitment to integrity and partnership. The benefits of their work are hard to overstate. Authors can now easily monitor the impact of their individual titles to advance their academic careers. Funders can use the dashboard to obtain proof of return on investments. The visualizations of global reach have reinforced support for the Press’s equitable business model that never requires author payment. As 2022-2023 Association of University Presses President, I know that many other publishers are excited by the Book Analytics Service. This is due to the expertise of the BAD project team.

Charles Watkinson, Director, University of Michigan Press and Associate University Librarian, University of Michigan Library

We have worked with the BAD project team since 2019 on the management of UCL Press book download data, including gathering, collating and presenting data on a public dashboard developed by the team. They provide a seamless and reliable service that we have not found from any other provider, and as such we regularly recommend them to other presses.

Our dashboard provides vital information about the global usage of the open access books we publish which demonstrates the success of the OA model to our institution and shows how the university’s investment in UCL Press benefits UCL. It also means authors can easily see how their books are performing, and other stakeholders such as funders, prospective authors and the wider scholarly publishing community can see the global impact of OA books, which helps to make the case for greater support for a transition to OA.

Lara Speicher, Director of Publishing, UCL Press

Laura J. Wilkinson

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8922-7839

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Everything you need to know to get started with the Book Analytics Service

Niels and I were recently at the Frankfurt Book Fair to meet with publishers and spread the word about our new Book Analytics Service (BAS). 

Laura J. Wilkinson and Niels Stern at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2023

Funders increasingly require data about the usage of open access books. This data is also useful for authors, and for explaining the case for the increased reach of OA content compared with paid content.

Gathering usage data for OA books is time-consuming, as you have to retrieve it from all the different platforms which host your content. The output formats and even what’s being counted will vary between these platforms, increasing the amount of work you need to do to synthesise the data.

The Book Analytics Dashboard (BAD) project is the origin of the Book Analytics Service. It’s come a long way from its early days as a pilot, and the service is now functioning and hosted by OAPEN, under the same community governance model that has made OAPEN a trusted infrastructure for OA books. Funded by the Mellon Foundation, the Book Analytics Dashboard project (2022-2025) is focused on creating a sustainable OA book focused analytics service. We are indebted to our fantastic COKI colleagues at Curtin University for their meticulous technical development work – thank you all!

Our core idea when designing the dashboard was to make it faster and easier for you to see usage for your OA titles across a range of data sources, such as OAPEN, JSTOR, and Google Books among others. We label downloads and views from the different sources, so that clear(?) comparisons can be made between what’s being counted in different places. 

To ensure the future of the Book Analytics Service beyond the timescale of the project funding, it’s essential that we have a sustainability model to bring in enough revenue to keep it going. This is a key element of the Principles of Open Scholarly Infrastructure – see OAPEN & DOAB’s POSI self-audit.

With our project colleagues, we carefully modelled the costs of running the service, and translated this into a pricing model which takes publisher revenue into account. This cost recovery model means that if we get more publishers to sign up than are necessary to cover the costs, we can (in discussion with the community) use the surplus to develop additional dashboard features, or lower the future cost of the service. None of the revenue is paid to shareholders – as a Dutch stichting, we don’t have any – and any surplus is reinvested in our work for the community. 

Much of the cost of onboarding a new publisher to the Book Analytics Service arises from the work needed to integrate their data feeds at the start, which is why it’s not feasible to offer a free trial. However, University of Michigan Press have kindly agreed to make their dashboard and usage data open so that anyone can see it and play with the settings to see how it works – come and have a look at our demo dashboard for yourself.

At the recent Frankfurt Book Fair, some publishers asked us how the Book Analytics Service is different from commercial alternatives. Here are some of the ways in which we differ:

  • BAS is built around the book as the primary object, rather than developing a system for journals and then including books as a sidecar/afterthought.
  • BAS is hosted by OAPEN, an independent, not-for-profit organisation which can’t be sold, so our work is not at risk of being acquired and locked in by a commercial company. Learn more about our multi-stakeholder community governance and transparency in our OAPEN & DOAB’s POSI self-audit.
  • Our code is open source, allowing you to inspect, replicate, and improve it. This open box approach means you can know what’s happened to the data used in your dashboard, in contrast with opaque systems which obscure their internal workings. We present you with the collated data for your interpretation rather than producing badges or scores with no working.

Note that although our source code is open, your publisher data is private. We know that although publishers often want to see and compare themselves against others’ data, they rarely want anyone else to see their data. This is the type of question that is being explored by our parallel project, the OA Book Usage Data Trust, which focuses on the ethics and standards of data exchange.

What would you like to do next?

  • Experiment with the template Book Analytics Service dashboard (thank you for choosing to make your dashboard data open, University of Michigan Press!)
  • Learn more about how the dashboard can help you, the service levels, and pricing model. Smaller publishers may like to explore the possibility of a consortium model, in which they collaborate with other presses to share a dashboard and its costs.
  • Need help getting your metadata into the correct export format to send to BAS, or other services? Try using Thoth to create, manage, and disseminate title metadata.
  • Interested to know more about funder requirements? The PALOMERA (Policy Alignment of Open Access Monographs in the European Research Area) project investigates the reasons why books are only rarely mandated to be published OA by research funders and institutions within the European Research Area (ERA). PALOMERA will provide actionable recommendations and concrete resources to support and coordinate aligned funder and institutional policies for OA books. Such services will also include monitoring of the usage of OA books which is another use case for the Book Analytics Service.

Ready to participate? We’re delighted to have you on board! Get started by contacting us for an initial conversation.

Laura J. Wilkinson

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8922-7839

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A guarantee of OAPEN’s independence: we cannot be sold or acquired 

We’ve just published the 2022 stakeholder report for OAPEN (which is a Dutch stichting, or foundation). The financial section of this report is based on the annual accounts for 2022 which have been audited by a registered accountant specialised in Dutch law.

There are two key elements to extract from the annual accounts. Firstly, OAPEN made a surplus of €103,000 and secondly, the OAPEN Board decided to allocate €100,000 of the surplus to a contingency fund. Both elements are in line with the Principles for Open Scholarly Infrastructure (POSI). One principle says: “It is not enough to merely survive, it [the infrastructure] has to be able to adapt and change.” For 2022 the OAPEN Board then decided to follow the principle stating that: “a high priority should be generating a contingency fund that can support a complete, orderly wind down” by adding to its contingency fund most of the surplus, namely €100,000.  Learn more about our POSI self-audit for OAPEN and DOAB.

If OAPEN again manages to create a surplus in 2023, the Board will again have to decide how to make best use of the surplus. The contingency fund is not yet complete, but other investments could also be considered. However, the important point is that any surplus that OAPEN will generate will always be re-invested in OAPEN. This money cannot leave the organisation but can only be used to pursue the mission and the objectives of OAPEN. This follows the Dutch law for foundations.  

You may already be familiar with the American concept of a 501(c) organisation, which is a type of nonprofit organisation that is exempt from some federal income taxes. A Dutch foundation goes much further – it is an autonomous corporate vehicle that has full legal personality. Its main aim is to benefit the foundation’s mission or purpose, and not to create a profit for the founders.  

A Dutch foundation is an independent legal structure, is represented by a Board of Directors (which can be in the form of a Managing Director and a Supervisory Board as is the case for OAPEN), and is not controlled by shareholders, partners, or members. Furthermore, we are a not-for-profit rather than a non-profit because if we operate successfully we may well make a profit (termed a surplus because we are not a commercial organisation), which is then reinvested in our activities. 

A foundation cannot be sold or taken over. This means that OAPEN is guaranteed to remain independent. A foundation can only be dissolved by a decision of the Board. Any credit balance of the dissolved foundation must be used in line with the objectives of the foundation. 

The Articles of Association of a foundation specify: 

  • Its name, including the word stichting
  • Its purpose or mission 
  • Procedures for appointing and removing officers 
  • Location 
  • Decision-making procedures 
  • Procedures and payments in the event of dissolution 

Learn more about the OAPEN Articles of Association, OAPEN Bylaws (Managing Director), OAPEN Bylaws (Supervisory Board), and how a stichting works.  

Niels Stern & Laura J. Wilkinson

Laura J. Wilkinson

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8922-7839

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OAPEN & DOAB POSI self-audit

It is with great pleasure and sense of achievement that we share with you today our POSI self-audit for OAPEN & DOAB (download OAPEN & DOAB POSI self-audit PDF).

As you may know, OAPEN and DOAB are separate but interconnected infrastructures for open access books, governed by the OAPEN Foundation and DOAB Foundation respectively. In practice, our small team of nine people works with both systems on a daily basis. But since the two organisations have different governance, we’ve carried out a self-audit for each. We hope you agree that seeing the two self-audits side-by-side helps to compare and contrast the ways they operate.

Update: learn more about OAPEN’s governance structure and why we can’t be sold or acquired.

Our POSI self-audit process

Like the world of research in which our work is immersed, we started this project by reading everything we could about POSI and the self-audits already undertaken by other organisations (the POSI Posse).

We did the first draft which was then shared internally for comments and discussion with colleagues, and then we took the document to our official governing bodies (OAPEN Board of Directors and DOAB Supervisory Board) for their views and feedback.

What did we learn?

POSI obliged us to take a good look at our practices, and address areas where we had fallen short. In some cases, we had good intentions, but as these weren’t documented anywhere, we couldn’t cite them. In others, we needed to tidy up our procedures. Some of these changes could be made immediately, while others will take a while longer. We documented these aspects in the “Next steps” column of our self-audit.

Some of the matters which gave us pause included:

Governance > Non-discriminatory membership

Is OAPEN a membership organisation? This became the subject of some debate, as we speak of publishers “joining” OAPEN. However, a publisher entering into a service agreement with OAPEN does not “buy” them a special voice or role in our governance. Our terminology for libraries is clearer, as we call them “supporters”. This has sparked efforts to improve our language to make it clear that there is no relationship between payments of any sort and governance roles.

Governance > Transparent operations

This part of the self-audit made us realise that we could improve by making more prominent on our website the OAPEN Bylaws and Articles of Association, and DOAB Articles of Association and Terms of Reference for the DOAB Scientific Committee. It was nice to be able to have this as a quick win!

Governance > Cannot lobby

At the heart of the matter is the difference between lobbying and advocacy, and whether an infrastructure should engage in such matters. We believe that any mission-driven organisation is going to have reasons to promote particular issues or approaches. For example, part of the mission of both OAPEN and DOAB is to promote open access to books. Could the Oxford English Dictionary help us?

  • Lobby, v. To influence (members of a house of legislature) in the exercise of their legislative functions by frequenting the lobby. Also, to procure the passing of (a measure) through Congress by means of such influence.
  • Advocate, v. To act as an advocate for; to support, recommend, or speak in favour of (a person or thing).

We debated the reasoning behind this element of POSI, and we also asked one of the three POSI authors, Cameron Neylon, about it. He replied: 

“The point is not to advocate or seek regulatory enclosure. For instance, advocating that OAPEN membership be required for a funder to provide BPC funding would fall within the intended scope here. Generally we felt that communities should advocate, infrastructures should support implementation. Obviously missions do involve goals and speaking to them but the argument was that lobbying in the sense of seeking regulations that benefit the infrastructure would be a red flag.”

Cameron Neylon, via email

Having also discussed this with members of the POSI Posse, we learned many of them have interpreted this Principle in the political and financial sense; that infrastructure organisations should not seek to influence legislation or regulation.

It is perhaps useful to remember that we advocate in support of our mission, a mission that is shared by many in the scholarly communications community. This is therefore a goal which is of benefit to the community in general, as compared with lobbying in the narrow interest of shareholders. This ties in well with the Principle of “formal incentives to fulfil mission & wind down” – if we no longer have the support of the community, we will take steps for an orderly wind-down, rather than continuing to exist for our own sake as a company might do.

Governance > Living will

We suddenly became aware of what it really means to have a handover plan. In our publisher agreement, it is noted that if the OAPEN Library ceases to exist, the rights granted to the OAPEN Foundation under this agreement may be transferred to the KoninklijkeBibliotheek Nederland [KB, National Library of the Netherlands, where the OAPEN office is based] exclusively for purposes of depositing the Publications in the KoninklijkeBibliotheek. Although there has long been this arrangement, we’ve never actually developed a documented process that would help the KB to put this into practice. This has spurred us to investigate how to develop such a plan.

Sustainability > Goal to generate surplus

As a not-for-profit organisation, we still have a goal to generate financial surplus. However, the surplus never leaves the organisation, it is always re-invested. The surplus is used for different things, such as building our contingency fund, new technical developments, and upgrading our existing technical infrastructures; as well as employing new colleagues to support our expanding operations and increased engagement with the community. OAPEN and DOAB have been considerably under-staffed for years, and it has long been an explicit goal to create surplus to enable us to hire more people, thus ensuring a resilient and dynamic organisation.

Sustainability > Goal to create a contingency fund to support operations for 12 months

OAPEN follows this principle by setting aside surplus revenue each year to build its contingency fund. The exact size of the contingency fund should be established by the OAPEN Board on a yearly basis. The contingency fund should cover at least 12 months of operational costs for OAPEN. At the time of doing the self-audit, OAPEN is still building its contingency fund.

Insurance > Open data

But of course our websites are openly licenced! Oh, wait… we need to state this clearly. We took action and updated both the OAPEN website and DOAB website, and OAPEN Library and DOAB Directory with CC BY 4.0 licence details. Et n’oublions pas que le site de DOAB est également disponible en français, donc il faudrait aussi le mettre à jour.

How we will follow up

Our aim for the POSI self-audit is that it will be a living document that will accompany our existing strategic plans and updates for both organisations. We plan to review our self-audit every few years to ensure it stays accurate. Meanwhile, it performs the essential everyday task of providing you, the scholarly community, with our public commitment to POSI and allowing you to question, challenge, or even encourage us on any of its aspects. We look forward to hearing from you at info@oapen.org!

Niels Stern & Laura J. Wilkinson

Laura J. Wilkinson

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8922-7839

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Top findings from the BAD focus groups

The Book Analytics Dashboard (BAD) Project (2022-2025) is focused on creating a sustainable open access (OA) book focused analytics service. During this project, we are scaling up from our prototype dashboard to a fully functioning service. New to BAD? Learn more about the people, background, and work packages in our project overview.

In the first quarter of 2023, we carried out a series of focus groups with publishers to test some ideas and get their feedback to help inform our future decisions.

We really enjoyed meeting the participants and we thank them warmly for their participation. So, what did we learn from our interactions with them? You can jump to the full findings on Zenodo (which includes our methodology and instruments), explore the BAD template dashboard (currently featuring University of Michigan data – thank you U of M!), or continue reading here for a summary.

How will the Book Analytics Dashboard help publishers?

Our participants told us that this data would provide them with a better understanding of the usage of their OA books across different countries, including which titles are most popular, how language and translation affects circulation, and comparing users’ preferences for full books vs chapters. Participants largely agreed that one of the most important aspects of the service is its ability to combine, normalise, deduplicate, and visualise OA data so that it can be quickly used and trusted. 

“Our current articulation of OA is narrative-, not data-driven, so it’s very labour intensive”

Some participants also hoped the data might help inform their publishing decisions; others hoped it would inspire acquiring editors and other decision makers to become more engaged with usage data. We also heard from participants that having tangible dashboards and reports to show people would be very helpful in getting editorial boards, authors, and funders to understand OA impact. Publishers acknowledge that this needs to be done with appropriate context and explanation, but also note that this type of data is increasingly requested by authors and funders.

A key value proposition of BAD is that it allows easy synthesis and consolidation of disparate data sources, which is otherwise a very manual process that is often conducted by publishing staff members.

Features of the Book Analytics Dashboard

Publishers appreciate being able to download visual elements of the dashboard and export data from it. They value the accuracy of the data sources used, allowing them to make comparisons. Participants encouraged us to maximise this by making provenance information available so that users know that we’re providing standardised and good-quality data. 

The focus group participants identified a number of features we can improve or add, and these will be reviewed by the technical team for inclusion in the technical roadmap for years two and three of the project (see the technical roadmap for year one).

Publishers helped us explore which features would be present in different levels of the service, for example a standard dashboard with additional features as a premium offer (such as an API, integrations, or more detailed reports). It would also be possible to include additional ONIX streams (for example, from non-OA titles) as an à la carte option.

Financial sustainability

Though few participants are immediately ready to commit financially to the dashboard service, they widely acknowledged that such data and dashboards will be essential for their operations in the not-too-distant future. We discussed a number of options for pricing, and there was agreement that there should not be a flat fee for all publishers.

Community governance

We asked publishers what they wanted and expected in terms of community governance qualities or characteristics for BAD. To our surprise, many participants were reluctant to commit to being involved due to bandwidth constraints. There was a strong preference for consultative rather than democratic engagement with BAD governance. This is quite a contrast with other open scholarly infrastructures where community participation in governance of the organisation is considered a key value. Perhaps this is because people realise how much time and effort it requires to stay abreast of developments and think deeply about these aspects of work; it also might stem from cultural differences in scholarly publishers (as compared with librarians). It could also be because of the participants’ high levels of trust in OAPEN, the suggested long-term home for BAD.

Publishers welcomed being part of a community around OA books usage data as long as that did not demand they undertake governance responsibilities. They appreciate periodic stakeholder reports and annual meetings, as well as opportunities to contribute to a technical roadmap – though participants do not think that they should make decisions about technology.

“We can make suggestions, but should not fly the plane.”

As we expected, participants told us that it was important that the OA books data is provided in trust, not sold on, and is only used appropriately. Transparency is key; as is the not-for-profit status of this service.

Many publishers were happy with the idea of BAD becoming an OAPEN service under OAPEN’s existing governance. 

Next steps

The focus groups findings have given us plenty to think about! Our technical team are currently considering all the feature requests and tweaks that we discovered, and our findings will also directly feed into our work around sustainability and modelling different pricing possibilities.

Laura J. Wilkinson & Katherine Skinner

Learn more about the BAD project

Laura J. Wilkinson

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8922-7839

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