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.
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.
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…
You are probably familiar with USB cables, the type of standard cable that allows me to connect a printer and a phone to my laptop, using the same port. However, the cable I use for my phone does not fit my printer. If I were to use one cable, I would either have to buy a new printer or use some kind of connector.
This is similar to ONIX: an XML standard designed to exchange metadata about books between all the different actors in the book supply chain. Here, the standard also comes in different sizes. For instance, an author might be coded as <b037>Snijder, Ronald</b037> or as <PersonNameInverted>Snijder, Ronald</PersonNameInverted>. Moreover, the current version of ONIX is 3, but publishers who have invested quite a lot in version 2.1 might be reluctant to give that up. These differences in standards and approaches can result in a complex situation for actors in the ebook supply chain; more details in this draft report by the Book Industry Group.
So, at OAPEN we need to make sure that all those different flavours of ONIX fit our import system and therefore we built a connector. In fact, we built two: one that converts different types of ONIX XML to Excel, and one that converts Excel to ‘our’ ONIX standard.
Why two conversions? Because we need to do a manual check on the metadata we received: does it contain titles that are already part of the OAPEN Library collection? Is there – still – metadata missing? Is there metadata that needs to be amended? When the metadata has been checked and updated, we convert the resulting Excel file into ONIX XML and import it into the OAPEN Library.
If you are interested in trying this out yourself, please mail me at r.snijder[@]oapen.org. But if you want to wait for a more user-friendly and better developed tool, you should head over to the COPIM project. In this project, development is on the way of Thoth, a tool to manage open access book metadata: https://copim.pubpub.org/pub/open-metadata-thoth/release/1.
Connecting different things – whether appliances or systems – requires work and is never easy. But we are trying to create a better fitting solution.
The OAPEN Library has become a highly connected resource for full text open access books and chapters: used by the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB); libraries; data aggregators and search engines – for instance Google Scholar.
Consequently, the quality of the metadata is important to us and when it came to our attention that not all authors and editors were listed in the correct order, we started looking for a solution. This is not a trivial matter: at this moment the OAPEN Library contains over 12,000 books and chapters.
To complicate matters, the metadata – collected for a decade – describing these publications come from a variety of sources. A manual check was not an option, so we searched for a resource that would enable us to check the author and editors listed.
We decided to use the freely accessible CrossRef API. OAPEN is a member of CrossRef – and has deposited hundreds of DOIs – but more importantly, the CrossRef metadata database lists over 1.4 million books.
First, we made a selection of over 2,200 books and chapters with more than one author or editor. Using the DOI connected to these publications, we retrieved the ORCID metadata. Then we checked the metadata found against our own records, resulting in a correction of over 1,000 title descriptions.
Every now and then we will perform this and other metadata checks, to make sure that everything remains… in order.