Books in a bubble.: Assessing the OAPEN Library collection

From Firenze University Press Journal:

University of Florence
3 min readSep 15, 2023

Ronald Snijder, OAPEN Foundation

Open access infrastructure for books is becoming more mature, and it is being used by an increasing number of people. The growing importance of open access infrastructure leads to more interest in sustainability, governance and impact assessment. The assessment of the OAPEN Library — containing over 20,000 titles — fits within this trend. How well does the collections meets the needs of its stakeholders: readers, libraries, funders and publishers?

The composition of the collection is measured using subject and language. Both dissemination and the content-related aspects are paired to the number of publications. The average number of downloads per title is relatively similar for all subjects. However, the mean downloads of titles in English is roughly twice as much compared to German and the other languages. Combining subjects and languages shows that the dissemination of books in languages other than English is less predictable. This assessment has illustrated the composition of the collection and how its readers make use of it. The visualisation helped to tell a complicated story in a simple way; a powerful instrument to guide the further development of this open access infrastructure.

The OAPEN Library was officially launched in 2010 and has been set up to host and dissemi-nate open access books and chapters (Ogg 2010). Together with publishers OAPEN is building a quality-controlled collection; OAPEN also provides services for publishers, libraries, and research funders in the areas of dissemination, quality assurance, reporting and digital preservation. Fur-thermore, OAPEN collaborates with research funders, allowing the deposition of books that have received financial support from several funders. These deposited titles also must have been sub-ject to an external quality control. In 2013 OAPEN improved its reporting by providing COUNT-ER-conformant usage statistics in collaboration with IRUS-UK (IRUS-UK 2018).The OAPEN Library is built using open-source software and all its metadata has been made available under a CC0 licence. It is not optimized to keep visitors as long as possible on the site to show them advertisements or sell them as many things as possible. Instead, it maximises the dis-semination of books and chapters using as many venues as possible. Books might be discovered on the OAPEN Library, or through the Directory of Open Access Books, library catalogues, Google Scholar, OpenAIRE, Twitter, a blog or by any other means.

When OAPEN was in its project phase, discussions on setting up an additional services were taking place. Based on the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) — which was launched in 2003 — the idea of an directory listing open access books was developed. This lead to the develop-ment of the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB). It would differ from the OAPEN Library in several aspects. Firstly, it would not host the full text of books but provide a searchable with links to the publications at the publisher’s website or repository. Secondly, while OAPEN allows books that may be downloaded for private use only, all books listed IN DOAB should be published under an open licence, allowing re-use of the publications. And lastly, the service would be free for publishers that were approved to submit their publications. DOAB was officially launched in 2013, as a joint service of OAPEN, OpenEdition, CNRS and Aix-Marseille Université, provided by the DOAB Foundation (Whitford 2014).

Since then it has become a global focal point for open access books. The growth of the collection — in December 2022 it contained over 63,000 title descriptions — was also aided by other organisations that have become part of the “DOAB Trusted Platform Network”: OpenEdition; Project MUSE; SciELO Books (DOAB 2021). The fourth member of the DOAB Trusted Platform Network is the OAPEN Library. In 2020 and 2021, both the OAPEN Library and the Directory of Open Access Books have been migrated to the DSpace 6 platform.In the next section, we will discuss the literature on library and collection assessments.


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