When my co-authors Ryan, Emily, Isabella, and Jesse and I wrote a book, Data Science in Education Using R, we were inspired by the authors of other books (e.g., R4DS) within the R universe who made their contents freely-available—in addition to publishing a version that could be purchased in print or eBook formats.
Routledge/Taylor & Francs–specifically our wonderful editor Hannah Shakespeare–supported us in doing this, something for which we were grateful. I wrote a blog post trying to sum up some ideas around this mode of publishing (here), but still have a ton of questions about this mode of publishing, such as:
- What impact did the freely-available version of the book have?
- Did having a freely-available version mean that fewer copies of the physical/eBook were sold (a hard to answer question!)?
- Could the book have been open not in terms of being accessible, but also licensed in such a way that permits others’ re-use (e.g., a Creative Commons license)?
- How many people have used the book?
The last question is relatively easy to answer because we used Google Analytics; this lets us speak roughly to how many people are accessing the book. Inspired by other efforts to document access of open resources (e.g., EdTechBooks), here is a brief look at the last year:
- 13,584 people accessed the website (https://datascienceineducation.com)
- They were primarily from the U.S. (5,088 users), followed by China, (577), the U.K. (544), India (532), Brazil (492), and Germany (417)
- These people did so across 25,363 sessions, at an average of 1 minute, 47 seconds per session
- There were 49,029 page views over this period of time
- Pretty consistently, around 200-250 people have accessed the book per week over the past year
Looking over the past two years, those numbers are about doubled:
- 23,000 (precisely) users
- 41,705 sessions
- 89,977 page views
This is, obviously, a coarse look. How do these compare to other open books? To the commercial versions of our book? Is this a sizable impact? How useful was the book? What problems did people encounter?
In any case, thanks to anyone who looked at the book (and, hopefully, found it useful). Thanks to the authors who inspired us to write this book in the open, too.