The use of shadow libraries at Universitas Indonesia

Authors : Fauzan Eka Kusuma, Rahmi Rahmi

Shadow libraries (SLs), such as Sci-Hub, Z-Library, and Library Genesis (LibGen), are online databases that provide content that is otherwise difficult to access (due to paywalls or other copyright controls) using unofficial methods of questionable legality. Interest in the SL phenomenon has focused on copyright infringement that occurs when a database provides library materials, for which access rights need to be purchased, without the knowledge of a given copyright owner.

This study analyzes the use of SLs at the Universitas Indonesia (UI). The research uses a quantitative approach, with a survey distributed to 262 undergraduate students at UI. The frequency of SL use in academic activities of UI students is compared with the use of the UI Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC UI).

The results show that most UI students have not used SLs. However, those who have used SLs report more positive impressions and higher levels of satisfaction compared with OPAC UI.

URL : The use of shadow libraries at Universitas Indonesia


On the culture of open access: the Sci-hub paradox

Authors : Abdelghani Maddi, David Sapinho

Shadow libraries have gradually become key players of scientific knowledge dissemination, despite their illegality in most countries of the world. Many publishers and scientist-editors decry such libraries for their copyright infringement and loss of publication usage information, while some scholars and institutions support them, sometimes in a roundabout way, for their role in reducing inequalities of access to knowledge, particularly in low-income countries. Although there is a wealth of literature on shadow libraries, none of this have focused on its potential role in knowledge dissemination, through the open access movement.

Here we analyze how shadow libraries can affect researchers’ citation practices, highlighting some counter-intuitive findings about their impact on the Open Access Citation Advantage (OACA). Based on a large randomized sample, this study first shows that OA publications, including those in fully OA journals, receive more citations than their subscription-based counterparts do.

However, the OACA has slightly decreased over the seven last years. The introduction of a distinction between those accessible or not via the Sci-hub platform among subscription-based suggest that the generalization of its use cancels the positive effect of OA publishing. The results show that publications in fully OA journals (and to a lesser extent those in hybrid journals) are victims of the success of Sci-hub.

Thus, paradoxically, although Sci-hub may seem to facilitate access to scientific knowledge, it negatively affects the OA movement as a whole, by reducing the comparative advantage of OA publications in terms of visibility for researchers. The democratization of the use of Sci-hub may therefore lead to a vicious cycle against the development of fully OA journals.

URL : On the culture of open access: the Sci-hub paradox



Free access to scientific literature and its influence on the publishing activity in developing countries: The effect of Sci-Hub in the field of mathematics

Authors : Kilian Buehling, Matthias Geissler, Dorothea Strecker

This paper investigates whether free access to scientific literature increases the participation of under-represented groups in scientific discourse. To this end, we aggregate and match data tracing access to Sci-Hub, a widely used black open access (OA) repository or shadow library, and publication data from the Web of Science (WoS).

We treat the emergence of Sci-Hub as an exogenous event granting relatively unrestricted access to publications, which are otherwise hidden behind a paywall. We analyze changes in the publication count of researchers from developing countries in a given journal as a proxy for general participation in scientific discourse.

Our results indicate that in the exemplary field of mathematics, free access to academic knowledge is likely to improve the representation of authors from developing countries in international journals.

Assuming the desirability of greater international diversity in science (e.g., to generate more original work, reproduce empirical findings in different settings, or shift the research focus toward topics that are overlooked by researchers from more developed countries), our findings lend evidence to the claim of the OA movement that scientific knowledge should be free and widely distributed.

URL : Free access to scientific literature and its influence on the publishing activity in developing countries: The effect of Sci-Hub in the field of mathematics


Can scholarly pirate libraries bridge the knowledge access gap? An empirical study on the structural conditions of book piracy in global and European academia

Authors : Balázs Bodó, Dániel Antal, Zoltán Puha

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.

URL : Can scholarly pirate libraries bridge the knowledge access gap? An empirical study on the structural conditions of book piracy in global and European academia


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.