Beyond the Download: Issues in Developing a Secondary Usage Calculator

  • Carol Tenopir University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Lisa Christian University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Robert Anderson University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Lorraine Estelle Project COUNTER
  • Suzie Allard University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Dave Nicholas CIBER


Since 2002, Project COUNTER has led the way in developing and maintaining systems of measurement for download counts.  While these counts have often been used as a proxy measure in determining journal and article value for libraries and publishers, they miss an important post-download secondary usage factor – namely, that of sharing.  Likewise, altmetrics, while accounting for the impact of social media, misses some aspects of sharing as distribution often occurs via email. This creates difficulty in quantifying an exact measure of use. One aim of the Beyond Downloads project was to develop a calculator for measuring total digital usage – including sharing.  Through an examination of a range of sharing systems, we identified the most commonly used platforms for sharing scholarly articles, while an international survey provided data on access, download, saving, and sharing behavior.  Survey results indicated that a range of sharing patterns can be estimated, but post-download usage often is too skewed to establish exact calculations.  Therefore, in lieu of a sharing calculator, we derived ranges of sharing patterns at a confidence level of 95%.  These ranges vary dependent on many factors.  Furthermore, our project highlighted the primary issues in developing a secondary usage calculator –namely, the lack of global standards in sharing data and the necessity to extend a survey data approach into a longitudinal study.  As a consequence, we recommend a two-fold approach going forwards: 1) data-based approach in which a COUNTER-like universal standard for sharing data is developed and adopted across multiple platforms; 2) survey-based approach in which a longitudinal study is administered to a multi-disciplinary online community. 

How to Cite
TENOPIR, Carol et al. Beyond the Download: Issues in Developing a Secondary Usage Calculator. Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Libraries, [S.l.], v. 5, n. 2, p. 365-377, july 2017. ISSN 2241-1925. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 03 apr. 2020.