Opportunities for and limitations of the Book Citation Index



This article offers important background information about a new product, the Book Citation Index (BKCI), launched in 2011 by Thomson Reuters. Information is illustrated by some new facts concerning The BKCI's use in bibliometrics, coverage analysis, and a series of idiosyncrasies worthy of further discussion. The BKCI was launched primarily to assist researchers identify useful and relevant research that was previously invisible to them, owing to the lack of significant book content in citation indexes such as the Web of Science. So far, the content of 33,000 books has been added to the desktops of the global research community, the majority in the arts, humanities, and social sciences fields. Initial analyses of the data from The BKCI have indicated that The BKCI, in its current version, should not be used for bibliometric or evaluative purposes. The most significant limitations to this potential application are the high share of publications without address information, the inflation of publication counts, the lack of cumulative citation counts from different hierarchical levels, and inconsistency in citation counts between the cited reference search and the book citation index. However, The BKCI is a first step toward creating a reliable and necessary citation data source for monographs — a very challenging issue, because, unlike journals and conference proceedings, books have specific requirements, and several problems emerge not only in the context of subject classification, but also in their role as cited publications and in citing publications.