Shadow Libraries : Access to Knowledge in Global Higher Education

Author : Joe Karaganis

Examining the new ecosystems of access that are emerging in middle- and low-income countries as opportunities for higher education expand but funding for materials shrinks.

Even as middle- and low-income countries expand their higher education systems, their governments are retreating from responsibility for funding and managing this expansion. The public provision of educational materials in these contexts is rare; instead, libraries, faculty, and students are on their own to get what they need.

Shadow Libraries explores the new ecosystem of access, charting the flow of educational and research materials from authors to publishers to libraries to students, and from comparatively rich universities to poorer ones. In countries from Russia to Brazil, the weakness of formal models of access was countered by the growth of informal ones.

By the early 2000s, the principal form of access to materials was informal copying and sharing. Since then, such unauthorized archives as Libgen, Gigapedia, and Sci-Hub have become global “shadow libraries,” with massive aggregations of downloadable scholarly materials.

The chapters consider experiments with access in a range of middle- and low-income countries, describing, among other things, the Russian samizdat tradition and the connection of illicit copying to resistance to oppression; BiblioFyL, an online archive built by students at the University of Buenos Aires; education policy and the daily practices of students in post-Apartheid South Africa; the politics of access in India; and copy culture in Brazil.

URL : Shadow Libraries : Access to Knowledge in Global Higher Education

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We’ve failed: Pirate black open access is trumping green and gold and we must change our approach

Author : Toby Green

Key points

Sci-Hub has made nearly all articles freely available using a black open access model, leaving green and gold models in its dust.

 Why, after 20 years of effort, have green and gold open access not achieved more? Do we need ‘tae think again’?

 If human nature is to postpone change for as long as possible, are green and gold open access fundamentally flawed?

 Open and closed publishing models depend on bundle pricing paid by one stakeholder, the others getting a free ride. Is unbundling a fairer model?

If publishers changed course and unbundled their product, would this open a legal, fairer route to 100% open access and see off the pirates?


Sci-Hub provides access to nearly all scholarly literature

Authors : Daniel S. Himmelstein, Ariel R. Romero, Bastian Greshake Tzovaras, Casey S. Greene

The website Sci-Hub provides access to scholarly literature via full text PDF downloads. The site enables users to access articles that would otherwise be paywalled. Since its creation in 2011, Sci-Hub has grown rapidly in popularity.

However, until now, the extent of Sci-Hub’s coverage was unclear. As of March 2017, we find that Sci-Hub’s database contains 68.9% of all 81.6 million scholarly articles, which rises to 85.2% for those published in closed access journals.

Furthermore, Sci-Hub contains 77.0% of the 5.2 million articles published by inactive journals. Coverage varies by discipline, with 92.8% coverage of articles in chemistry journals compared to 76.3% for computer science.

Coverage also varies by publisher, with the coverage of the largest publisher, Elsevier, at 97.3%. Our interactive browser at allows users to explore these findings in more detail.

Finally, we estimate that over a six month period in 2015–2016, Sci-Hub provided access for 99.3% of valid incoming requests. Hence, the scope of this resource suggests the subscription publishing model is becoming unsustainable. For the first time, the overwhelming majority of scholarly literature is available gratis to anyone.