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What is COUNTER?

COUNTER stands for Counting Online Usage of NeTworked Electronic Resources. Our website is at

COUNTER was one of the first, if not the first, standards organization established for the modern information environment with a focus on usage statistics. It has succeeded in bringing together a collaboration of publishers, vendors and librarians to develop and maintain the standard for counting the use of electronic resources. It has also ensured that most major publishers and vendors are compliant by providing their library customers around the world with COUNTER usage statistics.

COUNTER publishes the Code of Practice, which is the standard for counting the use of electronic resources. It also maintains and publishes the register of COUNTER-compliant vendors and publishers.


Who uses COUNTER reports?

The COUNTER standard was developed to provide a service to librarians and others who purchase subscriptions to publishers’ content. The intention was to allow librarians to easily compare their usage across different publishers’ content, and let them use that information to calculate a cost-per-use for their subscriptions. COUNTER reports were not originally intended to be used by publishers as a way of measuring usage across their client base, but are increasingly being used for that purpose.

Academic and other libraries across the world use COUNTER usage reports to:

  • Inform renewal decisions based on COUNTER data about well-used content
  • Inform new purchasing decisions based on COUNTER data about access denied as the result of a content item not being licensed or because concurrent/simultaneous user licence limits were exceeded
  • Inform faculty about the value of the library and its resources
  • Understand user behaviour and improve the user experience

Most major vendors and publishers also use COUNTER reports to:

  • Provide reliable and consistent usage data to their customers
  • Upsell using COUNTER data about access denied as the result of a content item not being licensed or because concurrent/simultaneous user licence limits were exceeded.
  • Inform editors and authors about the usage of their publications


How is COUNTER funded and organized?

COUNTER is a not-for-profit membership organization, funded by membership fees and sponsorship.

The membership – publishers, vendors and librarians – lead COUNTER. A Board of Directors has oversight of financial matters and appoints the Executive Committee to oversee the operation. A Project Director, reporting to the Executive Committee, is responsible for the day-to-day management of COUNTER. The publisher, vendor and librarian communities are all represented on the Board and on the Executive Committee, as well as on the Technical Advisory Group.


How do I become COUNTER compliant?

Select the usage reports that are relevant to your products

Some of the usage reports are obligatory for COUNTER compliance; these are the ones listed as ‘standard’ in this guide. However, only the ‘standard’ reports which are relevant to the categories of content that you publish are required for COUNTER compliance. For example, if you publish full-text journals but no books or databases, then you need to supply the ‘standard’ set of journal reports, but no book or database reports. If, on the other hand, you publish multimedia databases, then you will need to supply database and multimedia reports but no journal or book reports.

The ‘optional’ usage reports are genuinely optional: they are not required for COUNTER compliance. Optional reports are generally those which vendors may not be able to supply for technical reasons, and do not indicate a judgement of value or interest for the report.

Your customers will welcome and use all of the COUNTER reports, whether ‘optional’ or ‘standard’. COUNTER has classified some reports as ‘optional’ in order to minimize the COUNTER audit.

As the range of content types increases, it is not always straightforward to decide which category of COUNTER report should be used. The following definitions may be helpful:

  • Book: A non-serial publication of any length, including reference works. A book may be available in print (in hard or soft covers or in loose-leaf format) or electronic format or only in electronic format.
  • Journal: A serial that is a branded and continually growing collection of original articles within a particular discipline. Conference Proceedings and Newspapers can be reported under this category because while they may not have an ISSN number, they are serial publications.
  • Database: A collection of electronically stored data or unit records (facts, bibliographic data, texts) with a common user interface and software for the retrieval and manipulation of data.
  • Reports that have neither an ISSN nor an ISBN may be part of a collection of online content that includes books and/or journals. Usage of such reports may be counted in COUNTER journal or books reports (but not in both).
  • Supplementary data sets, video clips, etc.: an online journal can be more than a collection of articles and some now include supplementary data. You can record the usage of such features in Journal Report 3.


Prepare your COUNTER-compliant reports

The information in this guide, and in the full specification, will help you.

Enable SUSHI

There is a brief introduction to SUSHI (Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative) in this guide, and more information at

Send your reports to COUNTER

Provide the auditor with access to the COUNTER reports. COUNTER will arrange for a library test site to check them before they are made live: this usually takes between seven and ten days. Alternatively, one of the COUNTER-approved auditors will check them for a modest fee.

Complete the paperwork

Two pieces of paperwork are needed for COUNTER compliance: you need to become a COUNTER member, and to complete the Declaration of COUNTER Compliance. You will find both the Membership Application and the Declaration at end of this guide.

Undergo an independent audit

You will need to be audited within six months of signing the Declaration of COUNTER Compliance, and annually thereafter. A very small publisher may find an annual audit particularly difficult, if so please get in touch with COUNTER to discuss permission to be audited every other year.

Report formats

COUNTER reports are available in two formats: delimited files, which are readable using Excel and similar spreadsheet tools, and XML, which is delivered using SUSHI.

Delimited files

With the exception of consortia reports, the reports specified in COUNTER release 4 can all be delivered as delimited files:

  • Comma separated, or .csv
  • Tab separated, or .tsv

Delimited files can be opened and read in all spreadsheet tools, including Excel, OpenOffice Calc, Google Sheets and Numbers for Mac.



‘The SUSHI protocol, allied with COUNTER compliance, has been a real godsend for the provision of standardized journal usage statistics’ (JUSP, 2012).

The Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative (SUSHI) protocol is an ANSI/NISO standard designed to work with COUNTER usage statistics. It enables the fast and efficient collection of usage statistics. SUSHI allows libraries and providers of usage-consolidation products to download quality-checked data from many publishers, removing the need to visit numerous websites.

The SUSHI protocol is designed to simplify the gathering of usage statistics by librarians, and it uses a series of XML schemas to do this. For the purposes of COUNTER release 4, we are interested in only two of these:

  • the core SUSHI schema, which is generalized to retrieve any compatible XML-formatted usage statistics reports
  • the COUNTER-SUSHI schema, which references COUNTER to generate XML versions of COUNTER4 reports

Please see for more information on SUSHI.


How will my customers know I am COUNTER compliant?

We will list you on the COUNTER Registries of Compliance and you can use the COUNTER logo on your website.


How do I find a COUNTER auditor?

There are two approved COUNTER auditors:

COUNTER will also accept an audit by any Chartered Accountant (UK), CPA (USA) or their equivalent elsewhere.

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