By Gali Halevi, MLS, PhD, Barnaby Nicolas, MSIS, Judit Bar-Ilan, PhD
Libraries have been looking for ways to measure the value of their collections for decades. Discovering the amount of downloads, citations and views of journal articles are some of the major methods used by librarians to define how much their collection are used by patrons and whether or not they should keep them. Altmetrics, mainly the ability to track the social impact of scientific artefacts via networks, introduced a new dimension to these evaluations. Nowadays, scientific impact can be measured via traditional metrics such as citations but also via alternate metrics such as downloads, views, clicks and so forth.
That being said, studying the scientific and social impact of books still remains a challenge. The main reason is that books vary in format, content and genre. Books not only adhere to disciplinary or multidisciplinary foci, but also differ in categorical type and targeted audiences. Within the general classification of books into “Fiction” or Non-fiction” classes, books also display a complex categorical structure which includes genres (i.e. science, drama, history) and types (i.e. encyclopedia, dictionary, text book).
In addition, while many platforms can track the number of citations, downloads and views of single chapters of scientific and text books, hardly any can track altmetrics or offer a book-level aggregation of such impact.
Our study endeavored to discover whether there are scholarly evaluation metrics that can be applied to a wide range of books’ types and contents. We analyzed over 70,000 books and collected various metrics per each title including traditional and altmetrics measures. Our results show that books display different impact in each of the measurements and vary by types and content. There isn’t one measure that captures the impact of books across the board.
Therefore, we concluded that books should be evaluated by types and contents while using different measures per each. We believe that in order to capture the scientific impact of books, it will be important to use a variety of measures. Furthermore, in light of our analysis, we recommend using both traditional metrics such as citations and reviews as well as altmetrics such as social media mentions, downloads, reads and views. Using platforms such as PLUMx can assist in capturing such metrics.
We also recommend creating topic – related books data sets as well as type-related ones. In this manner, the evaluator can track different metrics around topics and types and compare them better. For example, a library looking to evaluate its books collection should create data sets of text books around a specific discipline and benchmark them against.
Full article DOI: 10.1007/s12109-016-9464-5
Image credit: http://www.spi-global.com/blog/innovation-lab/4-legitimate-sites-that-provide-free-e-books/