Usage metrics can help you to demonstrate the reach and impact of your open access book. You should speak with publishers about the kinds of usage metrics that will be available once your book has been published.
Many open access book publishers and platforms provide information about how often books are downloaded and cited, as well as the countries from which the books are accessed. It is increasingly possible to see how often books are mentioned on social media, in book reviews, news articles, or on Wikipedia (sometimes referred to as alternative metrics or ‘altmetrics’). Both commercial and community-owned open source tools and services are increasingly available to help publishers and authors make the most of this data and achieve their goals.
Usage metrics can help you to gain a better understanding of the communities engaging with your work. You may even refer to usage data in job and promotion applications as evidence for the impact of your work. You should consider what you are hoping to achieve through the publication of your book and ask your publisher about the kinds of usage data which will be available to them, as well as how they plan to share this information with you.
Though measuring the use of open access books is complex and evolving, for authors interested in maximising the impact of their book, there is growing evidence that:
- open access books are downloaded more often than their non-open access counterparts;
- there is greater diversity in the communities accessing open access books than for books that require paywall access;
- open access books are mentioned more often on social media than non-open access books;
- open access books are cited more often than non-open access books.
Sales of academic monographs in the UK have reportedly fallen from an average of 100 to 60 per book in the UK over the past decade (Jubb, 2017). While measuring the use of open access books is complex and evolving, in comparison, open access books are accessed and downloaded thousands of times (Lucraft, 2018) and research has found they receive 10% more citations than non-open access books (Snijder, 2019).
A 2017 report on usage of open access books by KU Research found that institutions located in the Global South are relatively high users of open access books made available via the JSTOR platform when compared to institutions located in the US, UK and Western Europe (Exploring the uses of OA books via the JSTOR platform, 2017).
According to a white paper released by Springer Nature in 2017 (The OA Effect, 2017):
- on average open access books were downloaded more than seven times as often as non-open access books, during their first year of publication;
- citations were 50% higher for open access books than non-open access books, over a four-year period;
- open access books receive an average of ten times more online mentions than non-open access books, over a three-year period.
Making a book open access ensures that access to the knowledge which it contains is not restricted to readers who are members of a well-funded library or those who can afford to purchase their own copy. Removing paywall barriers may also encourage readers to recommend books to others via social media and make it more likely that a book will be cited by other scholars. Usage metrics can help authors to capture this information, and, when combined with qualitative approaches, can help to tell their book’s unique ‘impact’ story across channels and target audiences.