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Altmetrics for the humanities: Comparing Goodreads reader ratings with citations to history books

Alesia A Zuccala (The Royal School of Library and Information Science, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark & Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Frederik T. Verleysen (Centre for Research & Development Monitoring (ECOOM), Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium)
Roberto Cornacchia (Spinque, Utrecht, The Netherlands)
Tim C.E. Engels (Centre for Research & Development Monitoring (ECOOM), Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, University of Antwerp, & Antwerp Maritime Academy, Antwerp, Belgium)

Aslib Journal of Information Management

ISSN: 2050-3806

Article publication date: 18 May 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to assess the value of Goodreads reader ratings for measuring the wider impact of scholarly books published in the field of History.

Design/methodology/approach

Book titles were extracted from the reference lists of articles that appeared in 604 history journals indexed in Scopus (2007-2011). The titles were cleaned and matched with WorldCat.org (for publisher information) as well as Goodreads (for reader ratings) using an API. A set of 8,538 books was first filtered based on Dewey Decimal Classification class 900 “History and Geography”, then a subset of 997 books with the highest citations and reader ratings (i.e. top 25 per cent) was analysed separately based on additional characteristics.

Findings

A weak correlation (0.212) was found between citation counts and reader rating counts for the full data set (n=8,538). An additional correlation for the subset of 997 books indicated a similar weak correlation (0.190). Further correlations between citations, reader ratings, written reviews, and library holdings indicate that a reader rating on Goodreads was more likely to be given to a book held in an international library, including both public and academic libraries.

Originality/value

Research on altmetrics has focused almost exclusively on scientific journal articles appearing on social media services (e.g. Twitter, Facebook). In this paper we show the potential of Goodreads reader ratings to identify the impact of books beyond academia. As a unique altmetric data source, Goodreads can allow scholarly authors from the social sciences and humanities to measure the wider impact of their books.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the reviewers of this paper for their many helpful suggestions for improvements. The authors are especially grateful to the Elsevier Bibliometrics Programme (http://ebrp.elsevier.com), and WorldCat.org as well as Goodreads for providing us with datasets as well as API access to the data used in this study. The authors also wish to thank the Center for Digital Humanities at the University of Amsterdam and the Flemish Centre for R&D monitoring (ECOOM) for granting us financial support for this project.

Citation

Zuccala, A.A., Verleysen, F.T., Cornacchia, R. and Engels, T.C.E. (2015), "Altmetrics for the humanities: Comparing Goodreads reader ratings with citations to history books", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 67 No. 3, pp. 320-336. https://doi.org/10.1108/AJIM-11-2014-0152

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited