Digital book piracy is considered a very minor problem by the United States government. The Office of the United States Trade Representative has just published its annual overview of the world’s most significant and problematic piracy websites. The vast majority of the sites focus on file hosting websites, streaming IPTV boxes and pirating websites. Over 25 different sites, in addition to gaming and music piracy, made the lists for this. Still, only three sites were mentioned when it came to book piracy, so not many people see piracy as a significant problem when it comes to piracy.
The two major piracy sites the report mentioned were Sci-Hub and Libgen and the relative newcomer, Annas Archive. The first two focus on academic journals and scholarly papers that are usually paid for, but they make all this content available for free. This helps students and anyone involved in higher learning read reports without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars. At the same time, Annas focuses on pirated ebooks.
Sci-Hub is a shadow library website that provides free access to millions of research papers, regardless of copyright, bypassing publishers’ paywalls in various ways. The service started in 2011 because there was no centralization. Website or service that focuses on academic papers.
Library Genesis (LibGen) is a file-sharing-based shadow library website for scholarly journal articles, academic and general-interest books, images, comics, audiobooks, and magazines. The site enables free access to content that is otherwise paywalled or not digitized elsewhere. LibGen describes itself as a “links aggregator,” providing a searchable database of items “collected from publicly available public Internet resources” as well as files uploaded “from users.
Anna’s Archive is a search engine for shadow libraries. It was founded by the Pirate Library Mirror, a team of anonymous archivists, in response to law enforcement efforts to close down Z-Library in 2022. It describes itself as a project that aims to “catalogue all the books in existence” and to “track humanity’s progress toward making all these books easily available in digital form.” As of February 1, 2024, Anna’s Archive includes 25,530,302 books and 99,425,822 papers. Z-Library quickly reopened after being shut down and remains one of the most popular ebook piracy sites in the world, but due to its complex nature now, Annas seems to be more popular.
These are the three sites that the report mentioned when it came to piracy that affected publishers directly. There were other players on the list that people visited to pirate books or audiobooks, such as Pirate Bay or newcomer TorrentGalaxy.
Michael Kozlowski is the editor-in-chief at Good e-Reader and has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past fifteen years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.