Findings, Discussion, and Recommendations

Findings, Discussion, and Recommendations

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3238-5.ch007


Examining inherent challenges with interpreting usage from different vendors' reports leads to the authors' reflections on how to deal with the challenges of comparing “apples” with “oranges” in different types of usage reports and look for possible solutions. The case study intends to help librarians make sense of usage reports provided by e-book vendors and to introduce library science students to benefits and challenges of usage reports. Chapter 7 summarizes findings of the author's research on COUNTER and non-COUNTER reports and vendor practices. The authors hope to share with vendors and the standards community librarians' perspectives and their experiences with vendor-provided usage reports. The chapter concludes with the following recommendations for best practices in dealing with vendor usage reports: 1) read and become familiar with the COUNTER Code of Practice; 2) observe terminology used to describe data categories in COUNTER reports; 3) consult vendor documentation to understand exactly how data are counted; 4) find the unique data that are offered in non-COUNTER reports; 5) gain perspective on overall usage by cross examining data between COUNTER and non-COUNTER reports; and 6) contribute to the ongoing process of improving usage reporting.
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Which Reports To Use For E-Books And Do They Compare?

COUNTER standards provide usage reports specifically for e-books, including Book Reports 1-5 and Platform Report 1. The title of each report reveals the primary category of data it intends to deliver. For example, Book Report 1 counts the number of successful title requests by month and title, while Book Report 2 offers the number of successful sections requests by month and title. Book Reports 3 and 4 serve similar purposes, as 3 reports turnaways by title while 4 provides turnaways by platform. Book Report 5 counts total searches by title, while Platform Report 1 counts searches, along with result clicks and record views, by platform.

Closer analysis of these reports reveals a potential challenge for librarians. The standards allow for flexibility in the choice of reports vendors must provide, but the alternatives also create the potential for variations that prevent a comparison of COUNTER data across vendors. The Code of Practice requires vendors reporting e-book usage to provide either Book Report 1 or Book Report 2, either Book Report 3 or Book Report 4, and either Book Report 5 or Platform Report 1. In other words, vendors may choose one of the alternatives for COUNTER-compliance. The pairing of these options creates issues because the options are not quite compatible. For example, Book Report 1 counts titles, while Book Report 2 counts sections. These are different ways of calculating usage, making their comparison like apples to oranges.

A further look at the reports raises the question of exactly what data are being counted, because some key terms are not clearly defined or leave room for interpretation. As discussed in previous chapters, COUNTER defines “Section” as “[t]he first level of subdivision of a book or reference work” (“Appendix A”), but leaves “Section Type” in Book Report 2 for vendors to specify. Absent more specific guidance from COUNTER, not all vendors interpret the section definition in the same way. For example, while one vendor may consider sections to be chapters, another might count abstracts. As demonstrated in this case study, ebrary, EBSCO, and Safari each defines their BR2 section type differently.

The standards also allow vendors to include multiple types of sections in Book Report 2, where they need only to identify the predominant type. While each individual report provides an indication of usage, context for the overall picture is missing. For example, the number of successful section requests is less meaningful if librarians do not know what sections are being counted. Likewise, the option for vendors to provide turnaway data at either the title level or the platform level makes it impossible to compare usage between vendors who choose different alternatives. For librarians, a report that cannot be compared with other data can still be informative but is limited in its ability to present a larger perspective.

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