The OAPEN Library and the origin of downloads – libraries & academic institutions

On a regular basis, we look at the download data of the OAPEN Library and where it comes from. While examining the data from January to August 2021, we focused on the usage originating from libraries and academic institutions. Happily, we found that more than 1,100 academic institutions and libraries have used the OAPEN Library.

Of course, we do not actively track individual users. Instead we use a more general approach: we look at the website from which the download from the OAPEN Library originated. How does that work? For instance, when someone in the library of the University of Leipzig clicks on the download link of a book in the OAPEN library, two things happen: first, the book is directly available on the computer that person is working on, and second, the OAPEN server notes the ‘return address’: https://katalog.ub.uni-leipzig.de/. We have no way of knowing who the person is that started the download, we just know the request originated from the Leipzig University Library. Furthermore, some organisations choose to suppress sending their ‘return address’, making them anonymous.

What is helpful to us, is the fact that aggregators such as ExLibris, EBSCO or SerialSolutions use a specific return address. Examples are “west-sydney-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com” – pointing to the library of the Western Sydney University – or “sfx.unibo.it”– coming from the library of the Università di Bologna. And in this way, many academic libraries can also be identified from their web address. Some academic institutions only display their ‘general’ address.

Academic libraries and institutions, sorted by type
Academic libraries and institutions

As mentioned before, our analysis delivered over 1,100 – 1,121 to be exact – different addresses. The chart displays those addresses divided by type, and we see that many academic libraries not just rely on aggregators such as ExLibris, but also directly give access to the OAPEN Library through their catalogs. The metadata of the OAPEN Library is freely available under a CC0 license, and can be downloaded as a MARCXML file to ensure easy library integration.

Which libraries and institutions are the biggest users of the OAPEN Library according to this data? The most downloads come from MediaLibraryOnLine, the first Italian network of public, academic and scholastic libraries for digital lending; the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford; and Universidad Peruana de Ciencas Aplicados.

We are happy to see that our collection is finding its way to libraries and academic institutions all over the world!

Finding relevant books without sacrificing your privacy

Web retailers such as Amazon.com are able to find just the right book for you. This is a great feature, but it comes at a cost: its recommendations work because it is storing information about you. The better it knows you, the better its recommendations.

At OAPEN, we do not track people. Instead, we used the full text of the open access books and chapters in our collection. In an experiment – based on over 10,000 titles – we took the complete text of a book, cut it up in blocks of three consecutive words (called trigrams) and filtered out all the common phrases. This leaves you with a small group of terms that are unique for that particular book. The next phase is finding other titles that share the same terms. The more terms they share, the more they are connected.

Using this algorithm helps to find books that are very similar: if you are interested in a certain book, you should also download these books as well. However, it can also find books that are a little less similar: you might use this to expand your research, or to create a collection of books. Surprisingly enough, this algorithm can also find translations; it even works across languages.

Finding related titles in this way does not have to be confined to the OAPEN Library. The same method can be applied to other collections of open access books or even open access journal articles.

More information can be found in this article:

Snijder, R. (2021). Words Algorithm Collection—Finding  closely related open access books using text mining techniques. LIBER Quarterly: The Journal of the Association of European Research Libraries, 31(1). https://liberquarterly.eu/article/view/10938

It’s the system that counts

You would expect it to be simple: when somebody downloads a book from the OAPEN Library, the system adds one to the total number of downloads. After a while you put the numbers in a report, and share it with the world. Sadly, the reality is more complex. All the books and chapters can be downloaded by everybody, including automated processes (bots). Also, if you think as downloads as a measure of impact, it becomes tempting to inflate it by downloading a certain book again and again.

So, the raw download numbers need to be filtered, in order to give a more realistic indication of the true impact. Many libraries use the COUNTER Code of Practice as standard, which enables them to compare the data from different sources. However, many online platforms measure their visitors using Google Analytics. The OAPEN Library uses both (but we only report the COUNTER data). Together with the migration to a new platform, a new version of the COUNTER reporting (Release 5) was introduced. A good moment to compare Google Analytics (GA) with COUNTER Release 5 (R5).

Comparing the amounts of monthly downloads is simple: where GA reports over 1 million downloads per month, R5 stricter filter lets it report around 400,000 downloads. Again, when we look at the details, the reality is more complex. For instance, comparing the number of downloads per country shows large differences for the USA, France, China and Russia. In contrast, the numbers for Australia, Canada and Austria are virtually the same. When we compare the usage data of each title, the differences are even less simple to explain. You would expect that both GA an R5 more or less agree about the order of books: which book was downloaded the most, which one comes after that etc. But that is very much not the case.

GA and R5 have made their own choices on what is reported and what not. One metric is not better than the other, but we should be open about the choices made. After all, open access book metrics are complicated and we can only benefit from clarity.

More details about usage data and the two systems can be found in:

Ronald Snijder, “Open access book usage data – how close is COUNTER to the other kind?,” Insights 34 (1): 9. (2021), https://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.539.
Submitted on 11 November 2020 and published by UKSG in association with Ubiquity Press on 28 April 2021

You might also be interested in the OAeBU DataTrust Pilot or this OBP blog. Things get even more complex when you try to compare different platforms…

Google Scholar and the OAPEN Library

Since October 2015, the contents of the OAPEN Library have been indexed by Google Scholar; which was proudly announced by Francis Pinter. Today, Google Scholar lists over 36,000 books and chapters that can be found in the OAPEN Library. In the last year alone, over 2,800 titles were added. This is a huge success.

This number is so large because Google Scholar not just indexes books, it also identifies separate chapters published in edited volumes in the OAPEN Library. For instance, clicking on the chapter “De-globalisation, value chains and reshoring” or clicking on the chapter “Transformative paths, multi-scalarity of knowledge bases and Industry 4.0” both link to the same book in the OAPEN Library: http://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/37355.

What have we done to optimize the OAPEN Library for Google Scholar? Starting November 2019 we had several discussions with colleagues at Google Scholar, resulting in updated specification for the metadata to be used in our new DSpace environment. Each landing page – which describes a book or a chapter – also contains machine-readable metadata. This metadata is read by the Google Scholar crawler. 

It’s nice to see how this has worked out. For example, in the last 7 days (8 to 14 May) almost 17,500 people visited the OAPEN Library through Google Scholar. A result we are very happy with, and we plan to continue working with Google Scholar to optimise indexing.

Next, we will focus on optimizing Google Scholar setups for monographs versus edited volumes, which are handled differently by the indexing system.

Think.Check.Submit – books

New resource for books added to Think. Check. Submit.

Further to their announcement in October, the Steering Committee of Think. Check. Submit. is delighted to announce a new addition to its resources: a checklist for authors wishing to verify the reliability and trustworthiness of a book or monograph publisher.

Drawing on existing expertise from within the group and from experiences of their newest partner, OAPEN, the checklist for books offers sound advice along the lines of the recommendations already offered by the journal checklist.

The rest of the Think. Check. Submit. website has also been updated to make it more relevant for both books and journals.

Eelco Ferwerda, Director of OAPEN, said: “It is clear that the same issues confronted by authors looking to publish in journals, also confront authors seeking to publish a book or a chapter. What should an author look for when considering the submission of a manuscript of a book or chapter? It is very common for a journal to have its own homepage whereas, for chapter publishing, more careful scrutiny is needed of the publishing entity producing the books. I am sure that the addition of this new checklist will provide a much needed and welcome resource to authors publishing this way.”

Sofie Wennström of LIBER said: “Librarians are often asked for advice about trustworthy publishing outlets. This extension of the Think. Check. Submit. checklist includes solid recommendations for how to choose a publisher for books. It is a welcome addition to the resources a librarian can use when giving advice as it is evident that the book publishing market may offer as many, if not more, pitfalls as journal publishing. We are happy that Think. Check. Submit. offers an opportunity to avoid some of those obstacles.”

About Think. Check. Submit.

Think. Check. Submit. helps researchers identify trusted journals and publishers for their research. Through a range of tools and practical resources, this international, cross-sector initiative aims to educate researchers, promote integrity, and build trust in credible research and publications.

Think. Check. Submit. provides a checklist that guides researchers through the process of deciding which journals and now books are best for their research. The process is intended to go beyond individual journal decisions to help researchers build up their journal evaluation skills. The checklist is now available in nearly 40 languages.

Think. Check. Submit. is run, and funded, by a coalition from across scholarly communications in response to discussions about deceptive publishing. Details of the organizations contributing can be found at https://thinkchecksubmit.org/about/. The current Think. Check. Submit. committee can be found at http://thinkchecksubmit.org/faq/committee/