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User statistics guide for publishers

Please note that this guide is in the process of being updated

Provide user statistics to support institutional purchase and renewal decision–making.

Associated standards

COUNTER Code of Practice

College and university librarians are often faced with difficult decisions when considering the purchase, subscription and renewal of electronic resources. User needs and demands must be balanced against a finite budget and there is rarely enough money to meet all user demands. Examining and comparing usage statistics often plays an influential role in decision making about which resources to select, renew or discontinue.

Although electronic content providers have always made usage statistics available to librarians, a lack of consistency in data definition and reporting has traditionally made resource comparison difficult and unreliable. In 2000, the Publisher and Librarian Solutions Group (PALS, formed by Jisc, ALPSP and the Publishers Association) began working to address this problem. Their activities evolved into COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources), an international initiative dedicated to developing acceptable global standards for measuring online resource use. COUNTER was launched in March 2002 and released its first Code of Practice in December 2002.

The Code of Practice defines the data elements to be measured, format and content for reporting online usage and provides guidance on data processing. The first release focused on journals and databases; a second release with a similar focus will be published in early 2005 to replace the existing code in January 2006. A Code of Practice for e-books and e–references is currently under development.

COUNTER has international support among librarians, publishers and their professional societies. Content providers (vendors) can sign up to the Code of Practice and also join COUNTER, which is a membership organisation. A list of compliant vendors is published on the COUNTER website. From 2005, vendors’ usage reports will be audited independently (periodically) as a condition of remaining on the Register of Vendors.

Content provider benefits

By becoming COUNTER compliant you will produce usage statistics that are consistent, credible and compatible. These will be trusted and used with confidence by librarians and others that make purchase and renewal decisions. Widespread support for COUNTER in the library and publishing sectors means compliance is likely to become an expectation. The statistics produced can also provide valuable insight into actual usage patterns for your content.

User benefits

Decision makers want reliable statistics and reporting that is easy to understand and comparable across resources. This enables sound decision making when trying to balance user needs with budget constraints.

References and further information

Last updated: March 2016