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

Our research paper with Balázs Bodó and Zoltán Puha has been submitted for peer-review, and it is available as a preprint on SSRN. All comments, suggestions are warmly welcome.

Library Genesis is one of the oldest and largest illegal scholarly book collections online. In the middle of 2018, this shadow library is hosting and making available without the authorization of copyright holders more than 2 million scholarly publications, monographs, textbooks, as well many works of fiction. It also provides a back-up archive of scientific papers illegally accessed via the Sci-Hub service. Using new, extensive, first hand direct observation data on its usage, this paper follows up on earlier studies on the role this shadow library plays in the global scholarly publication ecosystem.

The paper analyzes a set of weblogs of one of the Library Genesis mirrors, provided to us by one of the administrators of the service. The weblogs contain records of individual book downloads from the period between September 2014 and March 2015. We use the date, the book identifier, and the geo-coordinates of the downloader included in the dataset to reconstruct the global black-market demand for scholarly literature. We then proceed to build a model to explain this traffic with various macroeconomic indicators on the global stage, and with economic, educational, R&D, and other cultural consumption indicators on NUTS-2 level in the European Union.