Open Access is not a Panacea, even if it’s Radical – an Empirical Study on the Role of Shadow Libraries in Closing the Inequality of Knowledge Access.
Institute for Information Law Research Paper No. 2020-05
Bodó B, Antal D, Puha Z (2020) Can scholarly pirate libraries bridge the knowledge access gap? An empirical study on the structural conditions of book piracy in global and European academia. PLoS ONE 15(12): e0242509. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0242509
31 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2020 Last revised: 9 Dec 2020
Date Written: June 16, 2020
Library Genesis is one of the oldest and largest illegal scholarly book collections online. Without the authorization of copyright holders, this shadow library hosts and makes more than 2 million scholarly publications, monographs, and textbooks available. This paper analyzes a set of weblogs of one of the Library Genesis mirrors, provided to us by one of the service’s administrators. We reconstruct the social and economic factors that drive the global and European demand for illicit scholarly literature. In particular, we test if lower income regions can compensate for the shortcomings in legal access infrastructures by more intensive use of illicit open resources. We found that while richer regions are the most intensive users of shadow libraries, poorer regions face structural limitations that prevent them from fully capitalizing on freely accessible knowledge.
We discuss these findings in the wider context of open access publishing, and point out that open access knowledge, if not met with proper knowledge absorption infrastructures, has limited usefulness in addressing knowledge access and production inequalities.
Keywords: shadow libraries, open access, piracy
JEL Classification: Z11, Z13, R19, O17, O3, O34, O52
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation