Basics and Resources: COUNTER

COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of NeTworked Electronic Resources) is an organization and a set of standards to report usage of library electronic resources by vendors and publishers.
Why understand COUNTER reports?

When database vendors and publishers use different methods of counting and reporting usage of their platforms and items, it is difficult for librarians to determine accurate use counts (and rejections). Thus, it is hard to calculate the cost-per-use.  Different figures often make database comparison difficult when deciding between the value of two similar products.

COUNTER provides a way to standardize and compare database usage statistics across vendors and time.

COUNTER reports can also show demand for titles not owned by reporting access denied to books (BR3) and journals (JR2). These reports can be helpful for library resource acquisition decisions.

The Basics

There are four types of item-type usage reports each with their unique statistics:

  • Books – Electronic or print monographs, including reference works.
  • Journals – Serials including conference proceedings and newspapers.
  • Media – Non-text items such as images and video.
  • Databases – Collections of online data.

The Platform report provides an overall count at the top level, which could be a database platform or publisher platform.

The Title report is a combination of book and journal counts.

The Consortium report counts all usage across a group of institutions.

COUNTER 4 reports selection page
COUNTER Report Request Screen

COUNTER statistics are reported on a monthly basis and reports can typically cover any custom time period in addition to calendar year.

Reports are distributed electronically. Sometimes they are available from vendors as immediate downloads, but other times they must be requested and emailed. Typically, to request COUNTER report you log in to the Administration site or portal of a database or journal website. On the usage report request page, you select the date range and report(s) desired.

“COUNTER reports are available in two formats: delimited files, which are readable using Excel and similar spreadsheet tools, and XML or JSON, which is delivered using SUSHI.” The two types of delimited files are comma-separated value (CSV) and tab-separated value (TSV) files.

Download an example COUNTER 4 report.

If the vendor allows, you can avoid the manual running and downloading of COUNTER reports. COUNTER offers an automated way to accomplish this using  the SUSHI protocol.  “The Standardized Usage Statistics Harvesting Initiative (SUSHI) protocol is designed to simplify the gathering of usage statistics by librarians, and it uses a series of XML schemas to do this.”

The current version (or revision) is COUNTER 5. However version 4 is still supported and is sometimes the only version offered by vendors and publishers. We’ll present the basics of both versions which report usage in several different, and non-comparable, ways.


Below is a list of all COUNTER 4 reports with a brief description of each. Vendors, depending on their size and platform content, usually offer a subset of these reports.

Book Reports

Version 4 has six reports on book (ebook) usage at both the book and chapter (or section) levels.

BR1 – Counts whole book access only
BR2 – Counts book content accessed in sections
BR3 – Counts access denied book sections
BR4 – Counts access denials at the service (collection) level
BR5 – Counts  regular and federated searches of single books
BR6 – [Not used]
BR7 – Counts whole book and section access (BR1+BR2)

Consortium Reports

Consortium reports do not count specific resource types.  They provide a wide, multiple-institutional usage view.  “Consortium reports were designed to allow consortia to see usage information from all member institutions in a single report.”

CR1 – Counts book chapter or journal article access (BR7+JR1)
CR2 – Counts searches of databases
CR3 – Counts multimedia access

Platform and Database Reports

These reports provide figures at the mot general platform or database level. A platform might contain multiple databases. A database might contain a mix of books, journals, and media.

DB1 – Counts database searches, result clicks, and record views
DB2 – Counts database access denied to content
PR1 – Counts platform searches, result clicks, and record views

Journal Reports

Journal reports are possibly the heart of COUNTER. Thus, there are more and varied reports for journal- and article-level usage.

JR1 – Counts full-text article access (views and downloads) by journal
JR1-GOA – Counts Gold Open Access (GOA) articles (similar to JR1)
JR1a – Counts article access (like JR1) from archives [optional report]
JR1b – Counts article access (like JR1) by platform [optional report]
JR2 – Counts access denied to full-text journal articles
JR3 – Counts journal article full-text, sections, and files [optional report]
JR3 Mobile – Similar to JR3 but from mobile devices [optional report]
JR4– Counts journal searches by collection [optional report]
JR5 – Counts full-text article access by year of publication

Multimedia Reports

Less common are multimedia reports. “Multimedia means items of non-textual media content such as images, maps, streaming or downloadable audio or video files.”

MR1 – Counts full, standalone multimedia content access by collection
MR2 – Counts multimedia by collection and item type [optional report]

Title Reports

Title reports allow for simultaneous reporting of book and journal content and are provided in XML format only due to size.  All title reports are optional.

TR1 – Counts full-text book section or journal article access by title
TR1m – Same as TR1 but formatted for display on mobile devices
TR2 – Counts access denied full-text items by title and category
TR3 – Counts book and journal items by title and page type
TR3m – Same as TR3 but formatted for display on mobile devices


COUNTER 4 is slowly being phased out by most vendors in favor of COUNTER 5.  In 2019 we saw the introduction from many vendors of usage reports available in COUNTER 5 format.

Unfortunately, COUNTER 5 reports are not simply COUNTER 4 data reorganized into renamed reports. They report usage in different ways that are not entirely comparable. So comparing COUNTER 4 and COUNTER 5 statistics is not straightforward. COUNTER 4 usage categories such as “Record Views” and “Result Clicks” no longer exist. COUNTER 5 added many new categories:

  • Total_Item_Investigations
  • Total_Item_Requests
  • Unique_Item_Investigations
  • Unique_Item_Requests
  • Total_Title_Investigations
  • Total_Title_Requests
  • No_License
  • Limit_Exceeded.

Access to COUNTER 5 reports is similar to COUNTER 4, in fact they are sometimes mixed together. Popular platforms for reporting COUNTER 5 usage are Atypon Insights and XXXXXXX. Master Reports generation typically includes the ability to filter report fields and display fields. Usage reports (and access denied reports) are provided as-is.

COUNTER 5 report request page

Below is a list of all COUNTER 5 reports with a brief description of each. Vendors, depending on their size and platform content, usually offer a subset of these reports.

Database Reports

Database reports provide figures at the database level. A database might contain a mix of books, journals, and media.

DR – Database Master Report
DR_D1 – Counts searches, total and unique item requests
DR_D2 – Counts access denied due to no license or limit exceeded

Item Reports

Item reports provide figures either at the journal article level or multimedia item level.

IR – Item Master Report
IR_A1 – Counts total item requests for journal articles
IR_M1 – Counts total item requests for multimedia items

Platform Reports

Platform reports provide figures at the most general level. A platform might contain multiple databases or collections.

PR – Platform Master Report
PR_P1 – Platform Usage Report counts searches, total and unique item requests

Title Reports

Reports for books, journals, and titles in COUNTER 4 were consolidated under title reports in version 5.

TR – Title Master Report
TR_B1 – Counts book requests (excluding OA_Gold)
TR_B2 – Counts access denied for books
TR_B3 – Counts book usage by access type
TR_J1 – Counts journal requests (excluding OA_Gold)
TR_J2 – Counts access denied for journals
TR_J3 – Counts journal usage by access type (Controlled and OA Gold are separate)
TR_J4 – Counts journal requests by year of publication (excluding OA Gold)


Here are some great online resources to learn about COUNTER:

  • Project COUNTER – The main site for the COUNTER organization.
  • SUSHI – A NISO standard for automatic COUNTER report harvesting.
  • SUSHI for Librarians – Getting Started guide and FAQ from NISO.
  • EBSCO – COUNTER reports FAQ.
  • Ex Libris – Using COUNTER with Alma.
  • Gale – Information on usage reports offered including COUNTER.
  • OCLC – Information on provided COUNTER reports and SUSHI.
  • ProQuest – COUNTER 5 Reports information and what is provided.

Articles and books about COUNTER:

Friendly Guide to COUNTER by Tasha Mellins-Cohen
Friendly Guide to COUNTER

This short manual is written for publishers and database vendors but gives helpful basic information about COUNTER reports. Published in 2016.

Access the full-text guide (PDF).

The Friendly Guide to Release 5 for Librarians by Tasha Mellins-Cohen
The Friendly Guide to Release 5 for Librarians

This new manual gives an introduction to COUNTER and basic information about COUNTER 5 reports and how they differ from COUNTER 4 versions. Published in 2018, revised in 2019.

Access the full-text guide (PDF).

Getting Started with COUNTER Statistics by Jennifer J. Leffler
The Serials Librarian

Article from The Serials Librarian.  Although the article is a summary of a conference workshop, it provides some helpful information with basic COUNTER use. Published in 2016.

Read the full-text article online or download (PDF).