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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