Barricading an open access website – reflections on the attack on DOAB

As many of you might have noticed, last week the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) website was unavailable for several days. Sadly, the reason for this was not a technical glitch as we first suspected, but an actual attack on DOAB.

During the weekend of 21 January, someone decided to flood the Domain Name Server (DNS) of our registrar with requests for the DOAB record – a DDoS attack.

A short explanation: when you type in www.doabooks.org, your browser looks up this address in a Domain Name Server, which translates it to an IP address (that looks like, e.g., 123.123.123.123). However, when an attacker overloads the DNS with these lookups, this does not work any more. The result is that the website is working fine, but it can’t be reached.

Sadly, we were not immediately able to understand what was happening, as we did not have any previous experience with this kind of situation. Once the reason was clear, we could take measures. We moved our domain name registration to Cloudflare, a company that specialises in the protection against these kind of attacks. At the same time, we have done this for the OAPEN and the OA Books Toolkit websites as well.

Thank you for your patience with us as we navigated these new circumstances and please accept our apologies for the inconvenience caused. We hope that our explanation was clear, but of course, please contact us if you have any questions or remarks.

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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