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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Open access books – measured in a context

For over a decade, there have been open access books platforms. Each of those platforms share usage data and when you are an author of an open access book, you would find that it has been downloaded a certain amount of times. But how should you interpret that number? Unfortunately, the answer is not straightforward. The usage is influenced by the language of the title, its subject, but also by the platform: not all platforms reach the same audiences; furthermore, there might be seasonable differences. For instance, usage of the OAPEN Library is lower in the months of June to August, compared to September to November.

So, it would be helpful to have some clarity. A possible solution is a new metric – the Transparent Open Access Normalized Index (TOANI) score. It is designed to provide a simple answer to the question of how well an individual open access book or chapter is performing. The transparency is based on clear rules, and by making all of the data used visible. The data is normalized, using a common scale for the complete collection of an open access book platform and – to keep the level of complexity as low as possible – the score is based on a simple metric: the usage is either average, below or above average.

How does it work? As a proof of concept, we analysed the usage data of over 18,000 books in the OAPEN Library. Each book was assigned one high level subject, and the language was categorized as either English, German or Other languages. Each book was placed in a group that combined one subject and one language. Within those groups, we looked at the usage data, and determined whether a book was having average, more or less downloads.

Between groups, there are large differences: for instance, a German-language book on Humanities with 300 downloads is doing better than average, while an English-language book on Humanities would need to have reached at least 652 downloads to reach the same level. Another example is the difference between titles on Language in German versus other languages. Here, German-language books downloaded more than 250 times are scoring better than average. For books in other languages the bar is much higher: 385.

In this way, we can see how well a book is performing, compared to similar titles. In other words: when we consider the context of a book, we can actually say if its usage is better than expected.

Read more in the newly published article by Ronald Snijder, “Measured in a context: making sense of open access book data,” Insights, 2023, 36: 20, 1–10; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.627

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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Big in Japan, Zimbabwe or Brazil – global reach and national preferences for open access books

To many the internationalisation of academic publishing may mean: a strong focus on global issues, written in English only. However, many academic books are written in other languages than English. We tend to link non-English publications to regional issues, so there is a tension between English as the ‘lingua franca’ enabling a global reach, versus local languages that provide a better cultural ‘fit’.

M. Adiputra, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Now from theory to practice: if you give a global audience free access to (nearly) 20,000 freely accessible books and chapters in several languages, spanning many subjects, will they all choose books in English?

In a newly published paper, we have systematically researched the preferences of readers originating from one hundred countries. By looking at the ten most downloaded books from each country, we can measure the focus on regional topics by counting the books written in languages other than English.

Books, popular in multiple countries

The outcomes of this study do not fit in a story of English language publications as the only or the main source of scholarly communication. There is a demand for regionally focused titles, countering the narrative of the dominance of English as the language of scholarly communication. Instead, this study supports the value of bibliodiversity.

Read the paper here:

Snijder, Ronald. 2022. “Big in Japan, Zimbabwe or Brazil – Global Reach and National Preferences for Open Access Books”. Insights 35: 11. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.580

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!

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…

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