COUNTER: Standardization of E-Books Statistics

COUNTER: Standardization of E-Books Statistics

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3238-5.ch002


Until more recently, COUNTER reports were predominantly used by content providers and consumers of electronic journals and databases. One of the most significant developments with COUNTER Release 4 is that it integrated book reports as part of the latest COUNTER Code of Practice. Release 4 makes it possible for academic libraries to assess e-books usage in a consistent, credible, and comparable manner. However, in implementing the COUNTER standards for book usage reporting, the variant practices among e-book vendors impose challenges for librarians to correctly interpret vendor COUNTER reports. Therefore, it is crucial for librarians to consult the Code of Practice and COUNTER implementation guidelines in order to better understand COUNTER reports by individual vendors. Chapter 2 discusses each COUNTER standard report for e-book usage data, pointing to potential issues as they have been implemented by e-books vendors.
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Counter Usage Reports For E-Books

Release 4 of the Code of Practice lists 36 usage reports, covering various types and formats of electronic resources. These COUNTER reports are categorized either as standard or optional reports. COUNTER requires that a vendor must provide standard reports in order to be COUNTER compliant. The COUNTER standard reports pertinent to e-books usage are Book Reports 1-5 and Platform Report 1.

Book Report 1 (BR1) provides the number of successful title requests by month and title. The report lists individual book titles with associated usage statistics, as well as identification information, such as Publisher, ISBN, Book DOI, and Proprietary Identifier. This report informs customers how many titles were requested, and how many times and in which month(s) they were requested. By specifying individual titles, it also provides insight into what titles were accessed by the user. BR1 is to be provided only if a vendor delivers an entire e-book in a single file.

If a vendor provides an e-book in multiple files, then Book Report 2 (BR2) should be used instead. BR2 contains the exact same data categories as BR1. The only difference between the two reports is that BR1 counts at the title level while BR2 measures usage at the section level. The Code of Practice defines section as “[t]he first level of subdivision of a book or reference work.” The BR2 report includes individual titles and number of section requests for each title, although it does not specify what particular sections were requested.

Book Report 3 (BR3) contains the exact same data categories as BR1 and BR2, except that instead of successful requests, it counts the number of accesses denied (also called “turnaways”). The Access Denied Category column in BR3 lists causes for denial such as “concurrent user license limit exceeded” or “content item not licensed.” Although BR3 does not present usage per se, the turnaway statistics help inform librarians of unsatisfied needs of their constituents or possible gaps in their libraries’ collections. BR3 is to be used where accesses are denied at the title level.

If turnaways occur at the platform level, the standard COUNTER report is Book Report 4 (BR4). No individual titles are provided in this report. One may interpret the actual difference between BR3 and BR4 in a more concrete way: the former accounts for situations where the end user can retrieve hits but is denied access to the content of certain titles, while the latter is used for cases where the user is denied any successful return because access is turned away at the platform or database level.

Book Report 5 (BR5) provides total searches by month and title. Per Code of Practice, BR5 is “to be supplied only for those titles where searches and sessions can be counted at the title level.” BR5 contains individual titles and search statistics associated with each title. The type of searches is specified in the “User Activity” column, and should distinguish between regular and federated searches. This report “highlights different ways in which users may engage with e-book content on a publisher platform” (Librarians’ questions answered, 2016).

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