A List Of The World’s Largest Shadow Libraries

Shadow libraries are online databases of books and articles that are otherwise not readily accessible. The content may not be available because the publications are out of print, hard to obtain, or protected by paywalls.

Shadow libraries often provide access to content that may not exist anywhere else online. Often, they are used by underprivileged readers who could not obtain the content by other means. Shadow Libraries are also by some readers to preview content before purchase. GreyCoder supports the ethical use of these libraries but also encourages readers to compensate authors whenever possible.

Library Genesis: 4.6 Million Books, 80 Million Articles

Library Genesis (or LibGen) was created around 2008. The library originated from Russian file-sharing media collections. Library Genesis includes scholarly journal articles, academic books, general-interest books, images, comics, audiobooks, and magazines. 

In 2020, the Library Genesis project was forked to the domain Libgen.fun. This was due to an internal conflict within the project. As a result, the databases are being maintained independently. Thus the content differs between libgen.fun and other Libgen domains.

Library Genesis claims to have more than 2.4 million non-fiction books, 80 million science magazine articles, 2 million comics files, 2.2 million fiction books, and 0.4 million magazine issues.

ZLibrary: 10 Million Books, 86 Million Articles

The largest Shadow Library is probably ZLibrary (abbreviated as z-lib). Most of its books come from Library Genesis while some of them are uploaded directly to its site by individuals.

The developers of this library claim that it contains more than 10 million books and 86 million articles. Hence it claims to be “the world’s largest e-book library”, as well as “the world’s largest scientific articles store”.

Unlike Library Genesis, not much is known about Z-Library in terms of its operation and mission statement. Z-Library describes itself as a non-profit organization sustained by donations.

Z-Library does not open its full database to the public. However, the Z-Library database was mirrored by archivists in 2022.

Sci-Hub: 83 Million Scientific Papers

Sci-Hub is a popular but very controversial website that hosts pirated copies of scientific papers. It is said to contain about 83 million papers. Statistics show that users accessing Sci-Hub from China are by far the most active. The United States has about one-third as many downloads.

If Sci-Hub cannot locate a copy in Library Genesis, it then uses multiple institutional access systems to search across publisher platforms, bypassing any access control barriers.

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