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Usage Statistics

We are starting to get inquiries from subscribing libraries about usage
statistics for our electronic journals.  Although we are eager to be of
service to our library customers, I am concerned about providing numbers
that can't be used reliably.  Does anyone on this list either receive or
provide such statistics in a way that they find useful and would be
willing to share with others?  Is there any discussion of establishing an
industry standard practice in this area? 

The raw number of hits from a given domain is clearly a meaningless number
as it is a function of how many pieces the text is chopped up into and how
complex the text is.  In our online edition of the Astrophysical Journal
(ApJ), for example, the ratio of articles to actual files of all types on
the web site is around 100:1.  As HTML and web browsers improve that
number will change significantly.  Comparing the raw number of hits from
one publisher or product to another without some adjustment for
presentation and content is potentially misleading. 

To get the numbers that we currently use for "total number of articles
retrieved"  in a given time period, we add together the number of PDF
files, the number of PS files, the number of *.html files that contain
entire articles, and the number of *.html files that contain the
abstract/table of contents, but exclude all other *.html files and any
graphics files such as figures, tables, inline formulae, decorative html
elements, etc.  This corresponds to the structure of the electronic
materials that we provide and is based on some assumptions about how users
read the material.  (We provide articles in four different formats at
present.)  For other electronic journals, we will have different HTML
designs and different available formats and that will require different
methods of calculating usage.  The problem will only be worse in comparing
numbers from different publishers. 

I hope that this topic is not too far off the scope of this list.  If so,
please reply to me directly. 

Evan Owens
Electronic Publishing Manager, Journals Division
The University of Chicago Press

**[MOD NOTE:  Thanks to Evan for raising a topic of prime importance.  
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