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This is a shadow library for scholarly journal articles, academic and general-interest books, photos, comics, audiobooks, and periodicals that uses file-sharing technology. The site makes content that is otherwise paywalled or not digitized available for free. This Library would bill itself as a "links aggregator," with a searchable database of materials "gathered from publicly available public Internet resources" as well as files supplied "by users."



Copyrighted materials, such as PDFs of content from Elsevier's ScienceDirect web-portal, are available on the following websites.  Others argue that academic publishers profit unfairly from government-funded research, which is written by academics, many of whom work for public universities, and aids in the dissemination of material that should be freely available.

It has its origins in the Soviet Union's illegal underground samizdat culture. Dissident intellectuals hand copied and retyped texts for hidden circulation in a culture where access to printing was rigidly controlled by heavy-handed censorship. This was allowed in the 1980s under President Mikhail Gorbachev, and it grew swiftly at a period when desktop computers and scanners were inexpensive, and research funding were tight. In the 1990s, the volunteers migrated to the Russian computer network ("RuNet"), which became flooded with hundreds of thousands of uncoordinated contributions. Librarians became particularly active, downloading copies of scientific and scholarly articles from Western Internet sources and then uploading them to RuNet using borrowed access passwords.


The activities became coordinated and merged into one large system in the early twenty-first century. It then absorbed the contents of library.nu, which was shut down by legal action in 2012, and became its functional successor. With 1.2 million records, its catalogue was more than twice the size of library.nu by 2014. The Library claims to have over 2.4 million nonfiction books, 80 million science journal articles, 2 million comics files, 2.2 million fiction books, and 0.4 million magazine issues as of July 28th, 2019.



Sci-Hub, which gives free access to millions of research papers and books, relied on this site for storage until the end of 2014. Users requested papers from this, which were served from there if they were accessible; otherwise, they were obtained from other sources and then stored here.

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