Can Scholarly Pirate Libraries Bridge the Knowledge Access Gap? | Balázs Bodó, Dániel Antal and Zoltán Puha | PLoS ONE 15(12), 2020

This paper has analyzed the weblogs of the Library Genesis, to examine the factors, such as country-level average incomes and Internet penetration rates, that affect the use of illicit scholarly literature. The empirical data has been derived for the period between September 2014 and March 2015.

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Go to the profile of Pablo Markin
over 3 years ago

Whereas this article concentrates on the demand side of the scholarly publishing market without paying attention to its interrelationship with the supply, such as in terms of model sustainability, it also underestimates the effect of illicit downloading side on the demand-supply interrelation, as it acts as a market shock that removes potentially, directly or indirectly, paying consumers from the market. This effectively lowers the equilibrium-level content prices, while reducing the amount of future content output, given constant costs. Furthermore, illicit access to paywall-protected books and articles does not change their legal status in terms of intellectual property rights, while reducing the viability of their underlying business model. In other words, rather than rectifying a perceived market failure, such as when only the self-interest of a single content consumer is taken into consideration, illicit access to proprietary content apparently leads to suboptimal market effects both at the moment of its occurrence by creating unmet supply and exerting a downward revenue pressures on content producers and in the future, since it will likely produce a shift to a reduced aggregate supply and higher or unchanged future price levels, as firms seek to either maintain profitability. As these outcomes lead to the destruction of either supply or demand, one can conclude that illegal content downloading leads to Pareto inefficient or sub-optimal outcomes. Therefore, rather than rectifying market failures, illicit downloading sites bring them about. This also indirectly indicates that Open Access models have evolved on the background of content digitization and the market opportunities and risks it involves. Since this article also shows that illicit access to scholarly content does not necessarily stem more prevalently from low-income countries than from high-income ones, it, thus, demonstrates that globally barriers to scientific knowledge are not economic but likely social and structural. As the access to content via existing local infrastructures was also shown to be negatively related to illicit content use, one can assume that Open Access models, by enriching the digital collections of academic, research and public libraries, can effectively contribute to the amelioration of market failures in the academic market.