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Back to the dungeon

It is, without doubt, the worst of times. BTJunkie, the haven for cinephiles across the world, was not even cold (neither was Megaupload), when news of lib.nu shutting down hit academics across the world. Lib.nu, formerly gigapedia, was the online reservoir of knowledge, free knowledge to be precise, housing hundreds of thousands of PDFs of books, available to download, no questions asked. As most of us woke up to an ominously bare page that merely had the words “rip lnu”, a sense of reassurance died.

The crackdown on the grey legal area of intellectual property rights has forced us to rethink the kind access that globalization promised us. Books published by foreign publications that were not easily available even at libraries and films that the increasingly strict and not to mention ridiculously prudish Censor Board refuses to release, were accessible to those of us who wanted to watch something beyond the lazy Las-Vegasness of Kareena Kapoor’s latest outing.

Let’s face it, production houses don’t need an audience any more to break even or even to be successful. The economics of production have changed thanks to intermediary players like television rights, music rights, overseas distribution etc. A full-house is just an incidental feel-good factor, an ego massage really. And as far as books are concerned, especially academic books, students or individuals have never really bought personal copies. No profit comes from individuals, and libraries will buy books irrespective. What then is the crackdown going to achieve?

As we pledge our support to the unidentified owners of lib.nu and to the hopeful aggression of piratebay, may be it is time to rethink what freedom means any more and who it is meant for.

And as I end yet another “The end of…” piece, here’s one by Lawrence Liang who seems to hold more hope than I dare to. Click here to read.

2 comments

1 Kayalvizhi { 05.05.12 at 1:17 pm }

There are plenty of alternatives to lib.nu — including purchasing digital versions from academic publishers.

What is the basis for your remark that students and individuals “have never really” bought academic books? It is rather a tall claim.

2 Kuhu Tanvir { 05.05.12 at 7:01 pm }

I am well aware that options like buying a book, whether it is a physically bound copy or a digital version, exist. This post doesn’t argue that all those options are closed. The point or rather the point of view (and it is indeed a personal one) is that lib.nu functioned on an open-access basis, making it easier for students to access books that may not always be easily available in their libraries.

And my observation definitely has been that students in particular don’t buy academic books, they rely on libraries to provide access. The main buyers of academic books are libraries.

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