Saturday, February 18, 2012

Free illegal knowledge and how (not) to deal with it

keywords: gigapedia, vs publishers, intellectual property, copyright, E-library, books, ebooks, piracy

1. Introduction (formerly known as Gigapedia) was the biggest site facilitating free (illegal) access to electronic books worldwide. It discontinued its service on February 2012 after a coalition of a dozen publishers served it with a cease-and-desist order. The publishers claim that more than 400,000 books were available on and that the annual turnover of the site was more than $10 million, the press release of the proceedings can be found here.

Such big numbers definitely indicate a popular website and it is safe to deduce that thousands (if not millions) of people were affected when the site went down. In the following article I try to assess if the consequences for closing the site are overall positive or negative. Since I have no particular affiliation with and since similar websites continue their operation today I will refer to all of them collectively as E-library.

Even though I consider myself to be a fervent proponent of the operation of the site, in what follows I made an honest effort to be objective and acknowledge the arguments from both sides.

This blog was created with the sole purpose of sharing my thoughts with you. A pdf version of this article can be found here. Feel free to share these ideas in any way and make sure you post your own comments and suggestions about the issue.

2. Is stealing ever justified?
Ever since the first societies were formed people quickly realized the importance of having laws to promote and safeguard coexistence among the different individuals. By agreeing to participate in a civilized community we are entitled to the multiple benefits that cooperation can bring but we are no longer completely free to do as we please. The golden rule is that our freedom ends where our neighbor's freedom begins and we are implicitly accepting a contract that binds us to the laws decided by our group. We also understand that there will be repercussions if we are to disrespect them.

That being said, there are good laws and bad laws. Even though, our legal system is built on a very solid foundation and most of our laws are to the benefit of the average citizen, sometimes laws could be passed that are of debatable content and even worse sometimes we would see laws that shamelessly promote the interests of a small group of people (usually the rich lobbies) over the interests of the majority of the population. It is true that people are equally bound by the good and bad laws. It would be a chaotic society indeed if each individual could choose which laws to obey and which not. A society that would practically amount to having no laws at all. It is the duty of the conscious citizens to fight through the legal ways given to them to change wrongful legislation. After all the citizens with their vote ultimately have the power to select who governs them.

Some times a law could be in conflict with our moral standards. In these cases we have to evaluate what the consequences of breaking the law are and how they compare with mutilating our morality. An obvious example is that of a soldier who is ordered to shoot at unarmed civilians. The soldier can refuse and ``break the law'' which might lead to his imprisonment or even his execution or conform and be haunted by it for the rest of his life. It is obvious that the moral thing to do is refuse but it is up to the soldier to decide if doing the right thing is worth his life. Even though this example is not ideal because it can be argued that it is not the soldier who breaks the law but the person who gave the order, nevertheless it conveys an important meaning: Sometimes a moral person can break a law and still remain moral. Another example is that of a woman who stole some food to feed her children when she had no other option and went to jail for it. Most people would agree that she did the right thing. Seen in this light, the punishment for breaking the law is better interpreted as the price we are asked to pay for our actions. Of course, a person that breaks the law also needs to be punished as the law dictates. We have already argued that we cannot choose which laws to obey and which not. But at least we could give that person our respect. It might make all the difference in the world.

Back to the case at hand, we see people who participate in the E-library stealing the knowledge (call it intellectual property if you like) of writers and publishers to spread it freely around the world. It seems so obvious to me that spreading knowledge is a good thing that I can hardly think of an argument to justify it further. Should these people be punished for that? Absolutely. However, think about this question: If every single person read every single book that was available in an E-library would the Earth be a better place? I say YES and I personally deeply respect them for what they offered to the world.

3. But is it stealing in the first place?
The act of stealing is probably the most ancient form of criminal activity and one of the most despicable and it is easy to see why. When somebody takes something away from me I have less resources to survive in this hostile world. It could be something I made myself spending considerable amounts of my time, something I bought or traded for with other resources of mine or something I just found. Nevertheless, by losing it I find myself in a worse situation than before altogether.

On the other hand, in our rapidly advancing society old concepts might not work very well. We could try and force them upon us but it would be like forcing an old key into a new lock. It is much more productive to keep an open mind and modify our ideas as we go. For example, if you have an apple and I steal it from you then I have an apple and you don't, whereas if you have knowledge and I somehow steal it from you then we both have knowledge. Electronic files have exactly this peculiar ability that was unheard of fifty years ago! You can easily make identical copies of them without destroying the prototype. So if you have an ebook and I steal your ebook we both have the ebook. This is obviously not true with real physical books.

This act of  "stealing'' has none of characteristics described in the first paragraph of this section. Nothing is physically taken from me. I maintain all the resources I initially had and I am exactly as capable of facing the world as I was before. Therefore, from my point of view I perceive this act as neutral, neither bad nor good. The receiver on the other hand is definitely gaining something from it. She is acquiring skills and knowledge that she did not have before and finds herself better prepared in life. So overall some good was done from it. (I would like to believe that it is inherently good when other people improve themselves.) Since the overall balance for the two of us is positive calling this act stealing is inaccurate. The word stealing has been associated over the centuries with adverse effects on the receiving party so it does not appropriately describe what is happening here. We could call it sharing or splitting or invent a new word all together but the point remains: It is not stealing and ebooks cannot be stolen.

However, money can. This is the heart of the problem. If one hundred people have decided to buy a particular book that costs $10 and then they magically get access to the electronic version for free they are effectively stealing the writer (and the publisher!) for $1000. There is no good way to look at this. This stealing of profit is real stealing and has all the characteristics of stealing that we talked about before. Surprisingly enough, it is not as common as one might believe. Let's summarize the two conditions that need to hold in order for the stealing to happen:
  1.    A person must have decided to buy the physical book in the first place.
  2.    The person does not buy the physical book after getting free access to the ebook.

My claim is that only a very small percentage of E-library users actually fulfill these conditions and are consequently stealing from the writers and publishers . (As a reminder, I am talking about stealing money. As argued before ebooks cannot be stolen.) To support the claim above let us take a closer look at the possible ways people have been using E-library. In what follows I will be giving examples from my personal experience as well as stories that I found over the internet. Even though I cannot guarantee the truth of these stories, they do sound plausible and they give a feeling of what various people have been doing with E-library:

3.1 The math graduate student (myself)
Every semester I spent approximately $200-$250 in textbooks for my classes. Having the book available in E-library is no help since it really tiring to study a hard subject like math staring for hours at the screen of a computer, so I always get the hard copy. For my textbooks condition (2) does not apply. I buy the books anyway. What I do use E-library for is for reference. Sometimes I need to find an alternative proof or explanation of a particular concept, so I will find some relevant books to what I am studying and read the appropriate section or chapter from each book. It is always good to use multiple sources! For these books, condition (1) does not apply. I would never buy these books in the first place. If I were really desperate I might consider walking to the university library to read that particular subject from that particular book but nothing more than that. Not to mention that E-library allows you to access these books in the middle of the night or on weekends and helps you by not interrupting your research. There have actually been cases when neither the university library nor E-library had a copy of the book I would like to consult. In those cases, I just went without the book. I would also be willing to bet that using E-library as a reference tool accounts for a big proportion of the total usage. It is hard to imagine that all the people read all the books they download from cover to cover.

3.2 The indonesian folk 
The indonesian folk wrote a very moving comment on a webpage explaining that many of the english titles are not available in his country and that with E-library closed he has absolutely no access to that material (whether physical or electronic, legal or illegal). This person does not satisfy condition (1). He cannot decide to buy the physical book because the book is not available to him. I personally find it unacceptable that in this modern age of information there are still people out there who want to read but cannot find the books...

3.3 The Middle East historian 
Here is the post as I found it online: also had a TON of texts that you simply can’t get legitimately, sadly. As a Middle East historian, I was able to access a lot of information taken by Germans and English of the area from their surveys after WWI. These texts are only either available digitally through sites like or by going to Berlin or Westminster and looking through records myself.
This person represents a big class of people usually in the social sciences where there are only few copies of the books in question and they are not commercially available. These people do not satisfy condition (1) above. In this case, E-library greatly promotes research in the field.

3.4 The person who reads a book every now and then
This person might see a book she likes on some advertisement and instead of buying the book decides to get the free electronic copy instead. She likes the book so much so she suggests it to few of her friends and a couple of them actually buy the real book. She might even buy the book herself after a few chapters just because it is worth having. Depending on her final decision to buy the book this person might be stealing or not. Nevertheless, because of her, two other people actually bought the book and this resulted in a profit for the writer, so we can imagine that the writer would forgive her for it. A real life example would be the acclaimed author Paulo Coelho who saw the sales of his books skyrocket after some of them became available as torrents. After that, he started pirating his own books making them available himself. For more info see here.

3.5 The literature junkie
This person downloads every book he can come across and reads them all from cover to cover. If he could not find them for free he would buy most of them anyway because nothing compares to reading a good book. Even though this guy looks innocuous he is actually stealing. Something should be done about him.

3.6 Conclusions
Out of all the possible users of E-library only a small percentage is actually stealing. I will take an arbitrary guess and say it would be something like 5%, but no matter how small the problem is a solution needs to be found for it. However, closing an E-library on charges of stealing and then looking for alternative ways to offer the other services that the 95% of the people legitimately used, sounds terribly inefficient. It would make much more sense to keep an E-library open and deal with the 5% that cause the problem. Some ideas on how to do that are outlined in the next section.

4. What can be done?
4.1 The publishers' fallacy
To begin with let us estimate what the publishers can realistically hope to earn from closing The naive estimate would be approximately as much as the E-library generated, ie $10 million per year. This is a lot of money! Unfortunately for the publishers it is highly unlikely they will ever see this money. generated this amount mainly by displaying advertisements to its users as well as from donations. Neither of these methods will help the publishers once is closed. There is no reason why their income from advertisements will increase and it is rather improbable that people will start donating to them instead. So the publishers will not be getting new ways of supplementing their income, but they will be getting something else instead: A way to prevent (or at least make it harder) for people to steal their profit. The amount of money they will be saving will be much less than ten million. In fact, assuming the number of people that are actually stealing are in the range of 5\%-10\% as argued before, this means the publishers will only be getting an extra of 0.5-1 million dollars annualy. This is still a lot of money but is it worth it? Closing an E-library interrupts the service to all the other users the majority of whose were not stealing in the first place while keeping it open promotes knowledge, education and research. Surely, the big publishing companies can sacrifice some of their income to help make the world a better place?

For the sake of the argument let's assume that they cannot. It is conceivable that these big companies might have started with the intention of promoting books but somewhere along the way they turned into multinational businesses with the sole intention of maximizing their profit. Still it is in their best interest to keep E-library working. According to this site, had around 35,000 unique visitors every month. It is safe to assume that each one downloaded at least two ebooks which means there were around 840,000 downloads per year. Now if would charge $1 to show the download link for the book and then distribute the money to the publishers, then the publishers would make as much money as if they closed the site. But the above estimates are rather conservative. The number of unique users is not a good indicator since the same person could be visiting the site every day and s/he would still count as one. This option has the potential of making much more profit for the publishers than closing the site.

4.2 Everyone wins
It is true that in the method outlined above all the users will have to pay, not just those stealing. However, by keeping the amount so small we guarantee that the books will still be accessible practically to everyone. This way people can keep use E-library as a reference, to access rare books or books that are not available in their region and this way education and research is promoted worldwide.

Furthermore, if the publishers are in the game, they can provide the electronic versions of the books themselves ensuring the highest possible quality for the ebook and making available thousands more titles than were available when the operators of the site were working against them. So the users might lose one dollar per download but they gain access to better quality documents and a bigger selection.

Finally, by being a legitimate business that promotes education and research it will be easier for an E-library to secure external funding. For example, the NSF in USA spends millions of dollars to promote research. Surely they could give some money to support the most fundamental requirement for research: The access to the books that the researcher needs. Many companies would give donations too. Investing in education is investing in our future. All this money could cover the expenses of running the site and further reimburse the publishers as well.

5. Epilogue
Let me start with a question: Is it good for humanity to have a freely accessible depository of knowledge? Possible answers:
  1.    Yes, but...
  2.     No, but...
If you tend more towards answer (1) than (2) then you agree with me that we should keep an E-library open as a starting point and then work form there to make everyone happy. In the article above I have argued that this is probable the most efficient strategy and I have also suggested possible improvements that can be made to make the system viable, namely to charge a very small amount for every download. I hope that this point of view will find the support it deserves so that everyone can start enjoying again the benefits of having an E-library around. After all, it is a library of the world.


A. A war that cannot be won...
The war against E-library is like fighting a hydra. For every severed head two more will appear. So far internet history has shown that no matter how many such sites will close another one will pop up and offer the same functionality. Even as we speak the heirs of are already out there. But even if there is absolutely no E-library site around the determined user can nevertheless find a particular book she is looking for on the internet. It is the inherent nature of the internet that makes this possible. That leaves only one option for the publishers to gain back the money they are losing: Hop along! As outlined above their cooperation will make them at least as much money as fighting against the tide and this one is a war that CAN be won because it is no war at all.

B. Do we still need publishers?
So far I tried to take into account all points of view and present a solution that has the potential of making every one happy. However, what if the publishers turn out to be scary monsters thirsty for blood and money that will not reason with anyone whatsoever? (I am not claiming they are, this is a highly hypothetical idea.) Then we should ask this question: Do we still need publishers? There are two answers I can think of:
  1. Yes. People will always need hard copies of books. They are more convenient to read and can be carried around in places where there is no electricity.
  2. No. Like many other professions the internet has rendered publishers obsolete. The writer can put his book on a webpage where readers can download it for a fee. There is no reason to have a middle man to reduce the author's profit.
I will not attempt to chose between the above two answers. Each reader can give his or her own answer. I will only draw your attention to one point: If you chose (1) then E-library is harmless. There is no justification for closing it down. If you chose (2) then E-library is essential. It can be the place where readers can collectively find the books they want instead of hunting the internet for the personal page of an author. And even though they amount the readers pay would only be $1, this would be pure profit for the author. With no printing expenses and no publisher to share the rights the authors would probably be making more money than otherwise.

Therefore, the choice is obvious: Keep E-library open!


  1. Thanks a lot for a brilliant analysis!

    I have just two comments to add.

    The first one is about stealing. You say that stealing takes place when:

    "1. A person must have decided to buy the physical book in the first place.
    2. The person does not buy the physical book after getting free access to the ebook."

    I disagree. Imagine you enter a shop to buy an apple. You browse the shop, you see one, you think 'yes, I might take this one'... And then suddenly you realize that you have an apple-tree in your garden where you can get apples for free. You leave the shop but the owner of the shop calls you: "hey, you stole the money for the apple you wanted to buy!" and calls the police.

    Absurd, isn't it? The point is that you cannot even call stealing the change of your decision. No one can call stealing when you did not do what you could have done. It could be called so if the future actions were strictly morally prescribed. Then you might call stealing if I was prescribed to pay but did not do it. But I thing everyone would agree that we are free to choose our future actions and therefore cannot be punished for not doing something.

    The second comment is about publishers. I think you considered their role in the knowledge production as manufacturers and distributors of products but ignored their role as gatekeepers who guarantee that a book published by them is worth reading, that it contains reliable information, that it has been checked, corrected, that it satisfy certain standards. For this reason I think we cannot go on without publishers, but what's certain is that their current functioning is against interests of majority of people and supports geographical and economical uneven distribution of information.

    I agree with your proposition about a small fee for each download. The fee could be extracted from the ads revenues or could be organized as a sort of monthly fee or a culture tax. I don't know, but I think that if publishers want to go along the evolution of technology and their readers consciousness they absolutely should reconsider the current mode of functioning.

    1. You are probably write about the stealing part. Maybe I should have just said that people satisfying conditions 1. and 2. are the people who could have potentially given money to the publishers but they didn't, and therefore are the only users of an E-library that the publishers should care about. In my opinion, the rest of the argument is still valid. Thank you for this clarification.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. I believe the first objection can be dismissed if we adopt a subtle theory regarding the identity between what is gained by the stealer and what is provided by the merchant. Of course it will not be a simple task to establish a convincing theory, but not impossible.

  2. Actually, I might be wrong about the importance of having publishers since actually they seem to be paying nothing for peer-reviewing and editing while getting huge profits. I refer here for an interesting article in "Guardian":

  3. @Author

    The claim by publishers of 10 million a year (and rising) is absolute bullshit, did not even have advertising btw!

    The library operators are being smeared in a deliberate campaign by the publishing industry in order to prevent any debate on the subject, the fact that you are quoting their made up figures as fact as well as other media outlets (some of whom are owned by same publishers) just shows how easily people can be manipulated.

    1. According to the publishers the amount calculated includes advertizements displayed at as well as premium memberships for This would make sense since the two sites are obviously connected.

      I admit it makes more sense that the amount above is greatly exaggerated. After all, if the site were so profitable why don't the publishers follow this method themselves?

      On the other hand, it does not matter if the profit is 10 million or $1000. The publishers will want a piece of this pie anyway. In the article above I am claiming that even if the ridiculous amount of $10 millions is correct, could be made viable and therefore should remain open.

    2. displayed advertisements to unregistered users only. This let them get some income, while not bothering the primary users of the site.

  4. I agree to the fact that the books I want to read simply are not available to me geographically. Why should readers in USA have access to all the information and readers in Asia have no means of accessing and in some countries no means of even ordering books. You live in India where they at least deliver the book but there are some parts in Asia where even delivering is not listed. What are people like us to do, we hate stealing and would never cheat someone on their fee but we don't get a chance to acquire even a paid copy and also the prices are high. And I like the idea of e library because that means unless we really NEED we can have books in digital format and save trees as well as space, but I also think that there is nothing like a real solid book, it doesn't tire the eyes, you can use it where ever you want and I personally like it, but on the other hand ebook browsing is faster.

  5. the only books that should be circulated for free are those stemming directly from research that is/was tax payer funded. Journals in particular should be open access, the silly money they charge for subscriptions is unjustifiable, it keeps knowledge locked-up in the institutions; many of which receive funding from public coffers (UK).

  6. Perhaps similar to the Indonesian folk you mentioned, I am a student from Indonesia, and also works as a freelance. LNU has supplied many important books, especially monographs that is either too expensive for me to buy (more than US$50 per title, some even more than US$100, either in hardcopy or ebook format), or just unavailable in where I live (either because it is out of print or is only sold by vendors which doesn't ship to Indonesia, such as Amazon Marketplace). The libraries that I have access to hold no more than 20-30 thousand titles, do not have any digital access to sites such as netlibrary etc, so you can imagine how LNU has really really helped me.
    I do try to buy those that I can buy (there are 30-40 titles so far) through abebooks or, most of those titles I actually know about in the first place from downloading it in LNU. I'm afraid I'm beginning to run out of resources now without LNU. As Roland Boer said,
    "On top of all this, many people in parts of the world where books are simply unaffordable are probably the highest users of sites such as So the publishers are saying: can’t have all these lesser human beings reading anything much."
    Those publishers may regard people such as me as lesser human beings, but we will remember what they did.

    1. There are not many translated books locally here in Indonesia, the profit margin for translated books are minuscule, they're sold around 20% of the original title. As for the non-translated works, they're mostly too expensive. I myself can't afford a $50 book, my room where I live costs around $50 a month, too :D Also note that the minimum workers' salaries set by government in Indonesia is less than $200 per month on average.

  7. You said "The indonesian folk wrote a very moving comment on a webpage explaining that many of the english titles are not available in his country and that with E-libray closed he has absolutely no access to that material (whether physical or electronic, legal or illegal). This person does not satisfy condition (1). He cannot decide to buy the physical book because the book is not available to him. I personally find it unacceptable that in this modern age of information there are still people out there who want to read but cannot find the books..."

    The problems in the third world are not simple as you argued. A suggestion for you, why don't you come to Indonesia and see it by yourself? This world is unequal. That's a fact. Trust me, you will not understand how the condition in Indonesia if you don't come to Indonesia and see it by your self. I absolutely agree with @anonymous above.

    1. What is actually your intention of arguing? I think both the opinion of Indonesian folk, the writer of this site, and argument above you by anonymous were similar.

      (cape de..)

  8. I am fully satisfied with concept of E-Library. It is like an open-source. In my computer I have open-source operating system and I always use it and I also have few open-source applications. So to express my gratitude for enabling me, use a computer, I would be donating a little amount. I used E-library to decide which book I should have as a physical copy. It helped me to choose the good books to buy according to my interests. Thanks for E-Library for making my life easy. Also I love this article as it is very informative and helpful. I sincerely request the publishing companies to go through this article and make the world a better place to live.

  9. This is a real alternative

    1. Ok, I just want to say, you are awesome for giving this link.

  10. 1) I think that the biggest service this kind of sites makes to humanity is that it provides scientific books or documents that were suppressed by governments or corporations in the past (or present). I'm reffering to books concerning esoteric physics such as those of Tesla, Moray, Bearden, Schauberger, W. Reich. Not to mention that the books of Wilhelm Reich, were burned in the USA in the mid '50... Yes in the 20th century in the "biggest democracy on Earth"! Before the Internet was a common thing I would pay very much for this kind of docs but they were not available anywhere in the world to buy... Think for yourself how this has changed the game!

    2) If I make a discovery in science and I meet resistance from scientific community, mass-media, governments, etc I can quickly upload a document to this kind of sites and spread the knowledge. If I would publish it only on my site/blog I wouldn't have the same great visibility like on e-libraries, and thus the mass-impact...

  11. I agree with all you said. In my country when they released Iron Man the movie it costed about $30, after 6 months the prices dropped to $10, whats the point of buying something you know that 6 months later is gonna cost half of its price? and i agree when you say "A war that cannot be won..." they think that shutting down these sites people is gonna buy their books, great mistake.

    1. Totally agree! Except, the all publishers were not as greedy capitalist as they actually are.
      Just think, why people who can not afford refer to E-Library? Just because they can not afford.

      What the publishers did was only close a hole to dig a new hole. You can perhaps try to search a book (in English, or not locally Indonesia, except popular book like Harry Potter) on, or from Indonesia location, and try to buy it from Gramedia for instance. Then, guess what, you can see that the bookstore has no stock of the book you are looking for.

      My opinion were wrong if the publishers wanted to know the real condition of affording a book in Indonesia.

      Yeah, there will be new and new ways to Rome.

  12. Library.nuis one of te best thing internet ever had . And those who boo and envy it remain down forever

  13. This 10M revenue figure is total bullshit invented by the publishers. They don’t mention the cost of running such a huge site. There is virtually no ads on and most of the visitors are from 3rd world countries which means no payment even if they do click on the ads on The owners of said they can barely cover the operating cost and they NEVER call for donation (there is a button for donation but they never call for it unlike people at wikipedia). The lawyers need to make up this garbage because it is difficult to sue someone who is just giving ebooks away to poor people without anything in return. I hope the best for the admins at It looks like they are now under incredible pressure from the lawyers.

  14. I am an international undergrad in the US from a not-so-rich country. Several years ago I lost my father in a tragic accident while I was still away from home as a freshman. I had a lot of mental health issues that came to the surface which included a very complicated mixture of anxiety, perfectionism, low self-esteem and depression that quickly threatened to ruin everything. My particular condition was very hard to treat by the health services at my school because of a strong recurring tendency to go into complete isolation and try self-treatment. I had no money, was fired from my on-campus employment and I did not have means to treat myself. I then discovered It was exactly what I needed because I had to go beyond the bogus self-help industry to real books based on academic research, some of which were not even aimed at the lay reader. The vast approaches and ideas that I could explore in depth through different books, allowed me to treat myself. I literally read or started reading 50+ on the subject and if I had to do this the legal way, I would be dead. I can proudly say that LNU saved my life. I continued to use the site to get books on Astrophysics/Cosmology and Mathematics that I could not afford otherwise. My education and more important my life was possible because of this library. I have full intention of repaying the authors/publishers of the content that I found useful in whatever way I can as my means permit me in the future. For me, personally, it was as bad a losing another parent because I know that if I face similar problems in the future and I need the knowledge/ideas/discoveries of the world to help me, it will be a lot harder if not impossible.

    The point of telling my story was simply to put forward an idea/experiment. Couldn't we, the people who have benefited from LNU come out and tell our personal stories, however small or different it's impact on our lives? It is depressing to know that the press release is the only side of the story that the world has heard. I am positive that there are just as many stories waiting to be told on the other side. Our stories don't negate the central issues that piracy faces but it enriches the current perspective.

    Would anybody be interested in making a crowd-sourced or decentralized film which would merely be a collection of your personal statement(s) (anonymous or otherwise)about how LNU impacted your life. Additionally, you could argue a position; make a plea etc, if you wish so. I personally think that even a small collection of stories, which are representative of a lot of people, would be compelling enough in itself to demonstrate what a loss it has been to the world community.

    Maybe I am being too cavalier but if anyone is interested, I would love to discuss it or upload my personal statement and try to figure out a way to collaborate and make this short film.

    1. I stand by your statement, and not in a way of not having money, but in a way of receiving an instant gratification of my curiosity on the usefulness of the context of a book. I usually search for a title and when array of the books would come up, I select a number of titles to download for a preview, scroll through the downloads and select the most relevant to the subject of my inquiry. What a tool, today, I would think that paying monthly subscription for this service is something I would highly consider, because buying all these books or pouring over the dust in libraries around the world is the only alternative. However, over the years I have accumulated a hefty pile of downloads, and I could see that gigapedia collects books from numerous online resources, but most of those where from Google books project. Before Google limited the access to their books, there was a brief period of time when most of the books were 100% view-able, without omissions. That is where most of those books came from. Some rare submissions came through user like myself. I have personally scanned and made available some obsolete and obscure textbooks. But the segment of these submissions is insignificant. A lot of rare books are still available on the net and perhaps will never be confined again. is shut, but they must have made mirrors prior to their imminent shutdown. These mirrors will pop-up in a near future somewhere in the world. The nature does not tolerates voids. So my mood today is pessimistically optimistic :)))

    2. Why U said is absolutely correct. It is not stealing but sharing. has not gone, in new avatar it may reappear again. I am waiting for that - sooner the better.

    3. It is already up, and running, I have searched for some of my "unique" titles and they are present. So I am assuming it is's reincarnation.

    4. Where have you searched?

    5. Give atleast a hint

  15. I enjoyed every line of your text. thanks for writing it... I will also share it...

    thankx !!!

  16. shut down its operation today.

    "Bibliotik has shutdown all operations. We are no longer able to assume the risks involved. The staff would like to apologize for the sudden (but necessary) decision and thank everyone that participated and made Bibliotik such a great place for so long. We love you guys!"

    It seems the momentum favors copyright owners, at least for the time being. Perhaps we witness the dawn of a new era with regard to file-sharing practices.

  17. What an editor does? He (or she) selects a work that *he* considers 'valuable', and invests in several stages (typists, correctors, printing, publicity,...) to get a book ready to sell. And maybe to make some profit.

    Any sensible law protects this edition; but only this *specific* edition. If the editor chooses an old, public-domain work, the edition is protected, but not the work itself. The work itself belongs to author(s) (old and new works).

    If I scan a book, then there is a problem with the editor; but if I change the format (as epub, for example), then the only problem is with the author. Would be interesting to ask authors how they like to be read, and if they have problems with that.

    First question: Sharing e-books harms authors?

    Once a book is in bookshelves, it can become a bestseller, but most of the time, it will not. The percentage of books that get a reprint is scandalously low. Since the editor looks for profit.

    Most 'academic' books share this fate, and are never reprinted. One cannot get a copy of such a book, even in a traditional library.

    In LNU there were tons of out-of-print academic books, what is then the problem, Wiley and sons?

    Second question: Why an editor has the power of deciding which books can be read?

    Any sensible law has provisions for 'fair use'. Law in different countries state that I can make a copy of a book (piece of music, computer program, movie,...) for my own personal use, if I do not redistribute it or make profit. What is wrong with that?

    Third question: How far from 'fair use' is sharing e-books?

  18. Replies
    1. Nice post! The more we are the better! I hope over the next days, weeks and months many more people will participate in this effort to spread the word. We all agree that something needs to be done and we should start putting pressure on the publishers. I have myself started emailing my open letter to authors. I hope I will not be alone in this fight...


  20. Just want to copy Steven Lyle Jordan's comment to the article on to make it appear here:

    "It’s never good when the poor and disadvantaged can’t get access to something they want or need; however, illegal is illegal. If people really felt bad about this, they can pay for copies of said books to be donated to needy students… vote with your wallets. “But poor folks like it!” is simply not a good enough reason to keep a piracy establishment running."

    What I am missing in this discussion is that no one understands that e-books users download illegaly for free have been paid for by authors and publishers. Why should a bus company invest further if most of the passengers in its busses are free riders so that the company loses money when buying busses and paying the bus drivers?

    1. You miss one important point in this article that if what is illegal is actually morally good, we do have moral obligations, at least to some extent, to make it legal, and vice versa. We must justify the law with morality, not the other way around.

      Therefore, when this article presents strong (even decisive) moral reasons for allowing practices like LNU to bring about just distribution of knowledge, it is questioning the very legitimacy of the current law, rather than arguing that some illegal actions should be overlooked.

  21. we the poor living in the south, we have have been suffocated by the rich and able north, denying the poor access to knowledge is a crime answerable to one in heaven. l know in the shortest time,the good publishers will have a second thought about our cries

  22. There is something that was so binding between the and me. Like the author of the article, I am also a math student and unlike him, I don't have a problem looking at the screen for hours, days, and years. There are some things I need to clarify in a little depth.

    First, I come from India and when I started my Masters course in 1999, there were no books available in Statistics (for MSc) to buy in the first place. The library allowed borrowing of only two books and any advanced course requires access to each subject with at least 2 books. Four subjects and 8 books required. The ONLY option was photo-copying of the original books which was of course illegal. Did I break the law then? Yes.

    Second point. Let us fast forward to 2009 when I discovered (one of the earliest avatars of I am in a fairly good position earning decent money. My money is spent as much as possible on the books. Wiley, Springer, etc publish a lot of low-priced editions in the Indian subcontinent. Almost every statistics books available in low priced were purchased by me and my hard-copy collection is not less than 400, and that costed me over Rs.1,00,000/-. Having said that I have never hesitated to download an e-book from any source that I knew of. Did I rob the authors? No. Here, I agree with the author of the blog that it is important to consider the moral aspects. So many scientists, students, teachers have benefitted from E-library that it has now become difficult without them.

    Let us wait what is in the future.

  23. The best thing in such a case of deciding whether something is an acceptable action is to divide between three different point of views on a human action:

    1) Is something legal? Is it against human made law?

    2) Is it against an ethic code (meaning is it right or wrong)?

    3) Is it against personal moral (meaning is it a good behavior or a bad one)?

    These are three different kind of aspects and they should alway be viewed each on its own.

    So is copying a book without paying the copyright owner legal? In many jurisdictions it is not. In some it is in special cases.

    Is it right to copy? As long as it does not constitute an act of infringing on a right of another person it is (the question remains whether copying is an infringement of property).

    Is it a morally fitting action to copy without paying the author (if he/she wants to be paid)? That something each has to decide for him/herself.

    On the question whether copying is stealing I recommend:


    Against Intellectual Property by Stephan Kinsella

  24. I'm a post graduate student from India. I'm pursuing my education by bank loans & part time job. The place where I study has no libraries & college library doesn't have good resource. All I want out of life is to get a job to clear my family's debt problem & to help my little brother to have a great education. In my country getting a job is very difficult. Today's industries demand skilled workers. The only way this can be achieved is thorough quality education. The has been a wonderful source of knowledge to me. It helped me to get better grades at college, get appreciation from my employer for doing good job & finally to excel myself & be a confident person. But today I'm unable to access the website & its a sad day for me.

  25. A sad day for me and sad days to come. I'm a maths student myself. However, I fear that our reasons would not go through the publishers anyway (I think that many authors don't care much, they are scholars themselves), since they are doing what society deems as "legitimate" even without being actually reasonable.

  26. Shutting down of library.un is really very unfortunate.knowledge should not be bounded like this.the world is 50 years beck now..........the mad, nazi and authoritative justice ....

    1. Myself as a beneficiary of gigapedia, I am deeply depressed by closing down of that site. I am from a middle class family and i am unable to afford to those hefty price tags of those books..

      Please let me know if there are any others sites like gigapedia

  27. is their any alternative for the please tell as it was the one of the useful sites........

    --- XYZ.....

  28. hey there people, am very down because what happened with this site, is one of the best resources for books for me, and for me knowledge should be free to share, but what can we do with such governments, just want us to be more ignorance more than before, keep walking in dark path :D

    any way i think the best thing to do now is to gather all the books we have and start a new project, so we can spare knowledge back up again, in some country where the "public" can access easily to this book away from SOPA, PIPA,ACTA

    and am ready to start with you and uploud evry thing i have ...

  29. There's another way to use Elibrarys, one that I do frequently. I either buy a physical copy of the book and then download an electronic copy, or, after downloading an electronic copy, decide that I really want a physical copy and buy it. In the first case, the publisher loses nothing, and in the second case, they gain a sale.

    Why have a book in both paper and electronic formats? They each have their advantages and disadvantages. My favorite parts of electronic books is that they are searchable, and that they weigh nothing (I'm a frequent traveller). Physical books are often easier to flip through and use as a quick reference, although these days I prefer reading non-reference books on my e-reader. If I didn't have an ereader, the other advantage of physical books would be no eyestrain from looking at a backlit screen.

    I wish there was a way for printed books to come with a free, legit download of an electronic text. I know there are some publishers that do this (Syngress has been doing it for years).

    It may sound strange, but one of the things I miss most about is the ability to contribute back to the community. I will often get an ebook in an image format, OCR it, and convert it to an epub. It takes a lot of work and error-fixing to generate a good epub, and I want more people than just me to enjoy the fruits of my labors.

    Since closed, I've installed tor and i2p, and have been trying to find its successor, with no success so far.

  30. I am outraged at the profit-seeking bastards who did this to After having purchased thousands of dollars worth of books from Springer, Addisson-wesley, Pergammon Press, Apress... How much money do you think I had left as a young researcher? People are hungry for knowledge - it is what makes us human. I gave you all my savings each month you bastards, and then I went to to read a few more books for free, and whenever I found a good reference in them, I went out and purchased that in the next few months. Do you seriously think I was planning to hurt your bottomline? You are so full of greed, and have such an appetite for taking other peoples' money that you can't even imagine people wanting to read books simply to understand the world better, to understand themselves better. You publishers who were part of this can go to hell. From now on it is piracy all the way - I will not give you one more dime, and If I have to spend a hundred hours to find a book and pirate it I will, rather than shelling over money to you.
    I have published two books, and got 2000 Pounds from 6000 copies sold@90 pounds each - so don't tell me you worry about income lost to authors! My dad has published 45 books that have sold more than a million copies, and at 75 he still cannot go into pension, because the income he has earned from publishers like you is not enough to support him. Shame on you... I hope to see you all go bankrupt. I will be opening a bottle of champagne the day I read the news about each of your printing houses going down!

  31. To those who used to contribute to : it is still possible to share your files on the ed2k network. The advantage over torrents is that it is designed to distribute thousands of files slowly but steadily and essentially functions like a giant database that can be searched. The software is best run on a 24/7 basis which is ok as it doesn't require either a lot of bandwidth or memory, but it takes time to propagate files on the network. It is less restrictive and exclusive than other similar p2p networks which makes for a larger filebase.

  32. I used to purchase at least one book per month (including two very expensive NCLEX-RN review books for November last year) because I discovered them at To me, was a way of discovering the content that I was interested in--- a trial. And if I love the content, I went ahead and bought it.

    I haven't purchased a single book since shutdown. Go figure.

    Did the publishers get what they wanted? I don't think so. But they've made reading such a turn off for me.

  33. this whole post,when i was reading,istrayed into a different school of thought.i'm a third world student(implying i might be biased in my views here,so bear with me) in a good college,with a below average source of money,so i cant afford text books(citing my tuition fee,misc.expenses etc) as much as my dear developed counterparts in America,Europe and such.And I do like to read,alas my A/C balance wouldnt allow me to buy 'em pricey books.And see,this is why I love(d) and was heartbroken when it went down.
    stealing?hardly matters actually,the whole world does that.Europeans colonised the whole world(no offense)(for a contemporary scene,look at the Iraq war,not being judgmenttal again,just stating the FACTS),aint that stealing?Well,they(the people with power)have a idea that there is no need to justify stealing if there are nobody governing them,nobody to ask them questions.But wait,,we dont apply the same to the common burglary scenario,do we.Why the double standards?Is it because the power-people are more "civilised"?,because THEY MAKE THE LAW?.
    Well,I am definitely not greedy,if my account were any more healthier,why would I not buy books and support my beloved authors?(i am certain I would),but that is not the case.SO,sadly I would have to resort to sites like,to get my fix.
    Capitalism seems just another form of slaving people with piracy laws.We need laws,they treat all people EQUALLY,but therein lies the problem,all of us are not EQUAL..And I

  34. Sir, with all respect, I see that you come from USA and I think you haven't, at least, see situation in Indonesia. In USA, you may buy many textbook with many choices. Because you introduced yourself as a math graduate, I think you can solve this problem easily. In Indonesia, many English textbook priced at least Rp500.000,00 (~USD50), which meant if college student have income from their parent budget around Rp2.000.000,00 (~USD200) for each semester (this value is in middle-strata family). In each semester, a college student usually take around at least 10 different courses. Can you solve this problem: how much money does the student have for basic needs beside the required textbooks if he/she took at least 10 courses in each semester?

    Thus, I think it is unacceptable that someone who don't know anything the situation here, in Indonesia, to say that impossible if there are still people out there who want to read but cannot find the books....

  35. This comment has been removed by the author.

  36. Great article. I'm also postgrad student and helped me a lot. Just few another aspect i want to add. I'm using E-books also as a archive copy of my already purchased hard copyies. I'm buying the esential books, others keeping as a reference, as you said. There is another problem - prohibition of photocopying books you ALREADY both, which is in now in EU countries actual. It is aslo stupid, because, I can scan it at my home, and this is not a stealing in any way.

  37. friends knowledge is knowledge, it is neither illegal or legal.

  38. They wrote here, fate of a virtual library


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