2022-10-07 09:17:21
The disappearing virtual library – Opinion – Al Jazeera English books/Scrapbook

Los Angeles, CA – Last week a website called “library.nu” disappeared. A coalition of international scholarly publishers accused the site of piracy and convinced a judge in Munich to shut it down. Library.nu formerly Gigapedia had offered, if the reports are to be believed, between 400,000 and a million digital books for free. And not just any books – not romance novels or the latest best-sellers – but scholarly books: textbooks, secondary treatises, obscure monographs, biographical analyses, technical manuals, collections of cutting-edge research in engineering, mathematics, biology, social science and humanities.The texts ranged from so-called “orphan works” out-of-print, but still copyrighted to recent issues; from poorly scanned to expertly ripped; from English to German to French to Spanish to Russian, with the occasional Japanese or Chinese text. It was a remarkable effort of collective connoisseurship. Even the pornography was scholarly: guidebooks and scholarly books about the pornography industry. For a criminal underground site to be mercifully free of pornography must alone count as a triumph of civilisation.To the publishing industry, this event was a victory in the campaign to bring the unruly internet under some much-needed discipline. To many other people – namely the users of the site – it was met with anger, sadness and fatalism. But who were these sad criminals, these barbarians at the gates ready to bring our information economy to its knees? They are students and scholars, from every corner of the planet.Pirating to learn”The world, it should not come as a surprise, is filled with people who want desperately to learn.”The world, it should not come as a surprise, is filled with people who want desperately to learn. This is what our world should be filled with. This is what scholars work hard to create: a world of reading, learning, thinking and scholarship. The users of library.nu were would-be scholars: those in the outer atmosphere of learning who wanted to know, argue, dispute, experiment and write just as those in the universities do.Maybe they were students once, but went on to find jobs and found families. We made them in some cases – we gave them a four-year taste of the life of the mind before sending them on their way with unsupportable loans. In other cases, they made themselves, by hook or by crook.So what does the shutdown of library.nu mean? The publishers think it is a great success in the war on piracy; that it will lead to more revenue and more control over who buys what, if not who reads what. The pirates – the people who create and run such sites – think that shutting down library.nu will only lead to a thousand more sites, stronger and better than before.But both are missing the point: the global demand for learning and scholarship is not being met by the contemporary publishing industry. It cannot be, not with the current business models and the prices. The users of library.nu – these barbarians at the gate of the publishing industry and the university – are legion.

via The disappearing virtual library – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.Los Angeles, CA – Last week a website called “library.nu” disappeared. A coalition of international scholarly publishers accused the site of piracy and convinced a judge in Munich to shut it down. Library.nu formerly Gigapedia had offered, if the reports are to be believed, between 400,000 and a million digital books for free. And not just any books – not romance novels or the latest best-sellers – but scholarly books: textbooks, secondary treatises, obscure monographs, biographical analyses, technical manuals, collections of cutting-edge research in engineering, mathematics, biology, social science and humanities.The texts ranged from so-called “orphan works” out-of-print, but still copyrighted to recent issues; from poorly scanned to expertly ripped; from English to German to French to Spanish to Russian, with the occasional Japanese or Chinese text. It was a remarkable effort of collective connoisseurship. Even the pornography was scholarly: guidebooks and scholarly books about the pornography industry. For a criminal underground site to be mercifully free of pornography must alone count as a triumph of civilisation.To the publishing industry, this event was a victory in the campaign to bring the unruly internet under some much-needed discipline. To many other people – namely the users of the site – it was met with anger, sadness and fatalism. But who were these sad criminals, these barbarians at the gates ready to bring our information economy to its knees? They are students and scholars, from every corner of the planet.Pirating to learn”The world, it should not come as a surprise, is filled with people who want desperately to learn.”The world, it should not come as a surprise, is filled with people who want desperately to learn. This is what our world should be filled with. This is what scholars work hard to create: a world of reading, learning, thinking and scholarship. The users of library.nu were would-be scholars: those in the outer atmosphere of learning who wanted to know, argue, dispute, experiment and write just as those in the universities do.Maybe they were students once, but went on to find jobs and found families. We made them in some cases – we gave them a four-year taste of the life of the mind before sending them on their way with unsupportable loans. In other cases, they made themselves, by hook or by crook.So what does the shutdown of library.nu mean? The publishers think it is a great success in the war on piracy; that it will lead to more revenue and more control over who buys what, if not who reads what. The pirates – the people who create and run such sites – think that shutting down library.nu will only lead to a thousand more sites, stronger and better than before.But both are missing the point: the global demand for learning and scholarship is not being met by the contemporary publishing industry. It cannot be, not with the current business models and the prices. The users of library.nu – these barbarians at the gate of the publishing industry and the university – are legion.

via The disappearing virtual library – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

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