Downloads, books and book chapters

Downloads, books and book chapters

Can apply to:  Books and book chapters.

Metric definition: A download is an event triggered by a user clicking on the download button, in contrast to simply viewing a web page.

Metric calculation: A simple tally of downloads over a period of time.

Data sources:  Publishers, subject repositories, and institutional repositories.

Appropriate use cases: Book and book chapter downloads can be used as a leading indicator or proxy for others intent to use, rather than actual usage. This may (or may not) be reflected in eventual citations.

Limitations:  The number of file downloads is not an accurate count of consumption or how many people have read the item, despite its common use in this way (Glanzel & Gorraiz, 2015; Haustein et al, 2014; Snijder, 2013). Downloaded files may languish unread in personal libraries (resulting in an inflated count of readership) or may be shared with a journal club or other individuals (resulting in an underestimate of readership). Additionally, relationships between citations and downloads may vary by discipline and institution. This is compounded by tools that allow for automated crawling and downloading of content.

In order for web analytics tools to provide an accurate count, they need to be configured to monitor and count these events.  Standard analytics provided for commonly used platforms for professional portfolios (such as may not see downloads when people connect directly to the file through Google or Google Scholar. Platforms commonly used for institutional repositories can count these from the server side, or use plug-ins to provide an accurate count.

Inappropriate use cases: Book and book chapter downloads are not direct measures of usage, research quality, or impact.

Available metric sources:  Varies.

Transparency:  Varies by source.

Website:  Not applicable.

Timeframe:  Typically immediate, but there may be a reporting delay of a few hours up to a 30 days, depending on the source.


  1. Glänzel, W., & Gorraiz, J. (2015). Usage metrics versus altmetrics: confusing terminology?. Scientometrics, 102(3), 2161-2164.
  2. Haustein, S., Peters, I., Bar-Ilan, J., Priem, J., Shema, H., & Terliesner, J. (2014). Coverage and adoption of altmetrics sources in the bibliometric community. Scientometrics, 101(2), 1145-1163.
  3. Snijder, R. (2013). Measuring monographs: A quantitative method to assess scientific impact and societal relevance. First Monday, 18(5).



Posted on

July 24, 2017