Amongst the competing visions of heaven offered by the various prophets and saints, my favourite remains the one conjured by St. Alberto Manguel. For him, heaven is a place where you can read all the books that you did not finish. It would be difficult for me – proud member of the tribe of bibliophiles- to imagine a better idea of paradise than this. I would even hazard a bet that many of you fellow tribe members would probably imagine yourself in this other world (with enough time) curled up in a  comfortable sofa, opening a copy of Joyce’s Ulysses for the 28th time – saying finally this time.

But even within the order of the saints, one must respect the subtle rules of hierarchy and pecking order, and by that count St. Manguel would have to make way for the highest ordained of them all- the blind seer who saw everything- Jorge Luis Borges, who had much earlier been granted a vision of paradise and he declared that it was shaped like a library.

A young Alberto Manguel found himself chosen to read aloud to an already blind Borges, and in the course of one of the reading sessions, Borges confessed to him that as a young boy he would accompany his father to the national library, and being too timid to ask for books, he would simply take out one of the volumes of the Encyclopedia Brittanica from the shelves and read whatever article opened itself to his eyes and in this  way learnt about Druids, Druzes and Dryden.

In 1950 when he was nominated as the director of the national library of Argentina, the irony was not lost on him and he captured his own paradox saying

No one should read self pity or reproach
Into the statement of the majesty
Of God, who with such splendor and irony
Granted me books and blindness at one touch

Earlier this week, a website which had become second home on the internet for many of us was shut down on the grounds of copyright infringement, and it seemed amongst other things like a rude intrusion into a collective paradise that we had discovered. And those who discovered it recently understood Borges’s irony only too well.

The reasons given for shutting it down are the same tired ones that we have heard for many years now- huge loss of revenue for publishers, theft of private property etc. One could of course provide counter arguments based on numbers and statistics, or even appeals to counter normative grounds such as access v. pirvacy, but it’s a bit too early for that. For those of us who experienced the shutting down of first and foremost as a visceral experience of loss, the time of mourning is not yet over. We will eventually move to anger and action, but for now, grant us our private and collective grief.

Writing about the loss of public spaces in cities, John Xiros Cooper writes “And with the disappearance of a favorite building, or space, or the place where you once saw an angel loitering among the living dead, a small part of your memory vanishes. Don’t get me wrong, when the familiar vanishes, there isn’t some dramatic alteration in your well being. It isn’t one more piece of theatrical distress in a life of sustained self-display. It’s just a bit of an empty feeling, merely a private awkwardness, no more.”

But if it is a library that is destroyed, the emptiness just seems more amplified. W.G.Sebald captures this quite poignantly in Austerlitz where he says

The old library in the rue Richelieu has been closed, as I saw for myself not long ago, said Austerlitz, the domed hall with its green porcelain lampshades which cast such a soothing, pleasant light is deserted, the books have been taken off the shelves, and the readers, who once sat at the desks numbered with little enamel plates, in close contact with their neighbors and silent harmony with those who had gone before them, might have vanished from the face of the earth.

And yet I find myself refusing to fall into absolute despair, after all hope is what one maintains against all evidence to the contrary. I return often enough to and find my browser opening a page that says “the site could be temporarily unavailable or too busy. Try again in a few moments”. Indeed I shall, and in the meantime I will keep myself busy with all the books that I have borrowed from the library so far, and in one of them I find the words of Borges again, reflecting on the coincidence that the man who ordered the construction of the nearly infinite Wall of China, the First Emperor, Shih Huang Ti, also ordered the burning of all the books before him. At the end of the essay he says “Music, state of happiness, mythology, faces shaped by time, certain twilights and certain places, try to tell us something, or they told us something that we should not have lost…

58 thoughts on “ R.I.P”

  1. Just wanted to say thank you for these words. Let’s hope that this is not the end, but rather a beginning of something new.

  2. There is a huge difference between public places like parks, beaches and sites like I agree that something is terribly wrong with the current copyright system and I wonder how piracy on a massive scale facilitated by such sites will be a real solution to this.On the contrary distribution by such sites are used by publishers to argue that they discourage buying books and result in loss of revenue.This cant be dismissed as
    a lie. Academic books are often prohibitively expensive even for institutions.Some academics may not be against others freely accessing their works through such sites but not all academics can be expected to support such sites because they affect sales of books
    at least indirectly. And authors whose books dont sell well as expected may not be preferred by publishers.If one is an academic whose book is printed in limited numbers
    say 1000 in first edition but is made available in the net for free and is being downloaded
    in hundreds how should one respond to this. I know a case where an academic book was shared like this through a site with three links to download, within a week of its publication. But neither the publisher nor the author can keep an eternal watch over this. In the end the sales of the book are likely to be affected as the user(s) may prefer to download a copy than to recommend it to the library to buy as s/he has had free access.

    There problems with both current publishing/film industry model and the large scale piracy ‘solutions’.Lessig’s piece does not address the issues.

    1. Academic books never sold in the millions anyways like blockbusters. They are so prohibitively priced that they are either owned only by libraries or by those who get them for free for reviews. In such a scenario, the only people who buy these books remain the libraries. I fail to understand the joy of an academic who finds more satisfaction in a dozen copies of his/her work being sold to libraries than in 1000s reading it by any means. I am surprised at the Ozymanidan nature of an academic who seeks no permanence in the minds of the readers, rather in the relics of his/her works left in libraries. And to add a personal note, quite contrary to what some claim, readers like me, of books from gigapedia, on reading certain sections of books readily recommended them to our libraries. And as a principle I refuse to recommend books I know only the table of contents of. So more than an RIP to gigapedia, it is an RIP to all you self-confessed anti-piracy academics, who can live with the satisfaction of some libraries buying your books, which they were anyways, and now a much larger population never reading that single copy of your book in the library.

      1. Many thanks! to Lawrence Liang for the article. It’s a good info and broken my heart, due I lived in the third world that so difficult (and extremely expensive) to finds good refferences in my country and only from this kinds of sites, like, I could expanding knowledges. That’s why i felt really sad knowing this site havebeen closed (by any reasons).

        Therefore I strongly agree with you (an academic). That’s really true.

  3. Great post. I can’t help feeling that with this – more than any of the other contemporary moves towards online censorship – the internet itself has regressed. If marked a leap forward in Internet time, we’re now back to the European “dark ages”. And yet did we not see this coming? Did we not download as if we knew this couldn’t last.

    There’s an eerie homology between Firefox’s “can’t establish a connection to the server at” and Horace Smith’s: “I am great OZYMANDIAS..The King of Kings/ this mighty City shows The wonders of my hand.” In both cases, “Nought [remains] to disclose The (web)site of this forgotten Babylon.” I think we tend to experience the finest aspects of the internet as if its annihilation is imminent. We downloaded as if we were going to be the future hunters who would encounter the sign and “stop to guess/ What powerful but unrecorded race/ Once dwelt in that annihilated place.” It was us.

    Absolute despair is not out of place. I know I haven’t downloaded as many books as I could have. Why *didn’t* I just spend all my time downloading simply *everything*? :)

  4. On a more positive note, maybe, following the Hindu cyclical time logic of things on the internet – this is a good thing. Maybe we can use this hiatus, until the new comes along, to actually read some of the books we downloaded in those dizzying days until yesterday.

    1. It may not be called, but something will come to take its place. The internet has a long memory. As an example, Yahoo decided to shut down Geocities, a personal web publishing service from the early days of the public internet, until someone mirrored the entire site, so it lives on as a historic artifact from the late 90s at

  5. Pingback: | Edit Room
  6. @an academic
    Enough with these lies. Publ. companies turn us to acomplices in the copyright crime, promising some kind of making a lion out of our mices. They capitalize on our efforts, ideas and ideals, networks and fantasies. It’s time for a honest open dialogue on CopyLeft to overwhelm these perverts of Knowledge.Enlightnmenet, modern or not, is our axiomatic principle. LNU’s withdrawal – I really hope they ‘ll resurect – might be a chance for such a dialogue. Besides we all chat on this behind closed doors.

  7. beautifully written piece Lawrence. you must be aware that on 20th Jan. a major spactacle of raid/crackdown was performed on the outskirts of Auckland, New Zealand. In a cordinated fashion, helicopters, local police and FBI team raided megaupload’s headquarter and arraested Kim Dotcom. The crackdown was an outcome of pressure excercised by the lobby of Hollywood producers and music companies who had hired a battery of top notch lawers to force US government for such a measure. this was one of the most high profile raids in recent years. The closure of and various other intermediary sites is another outcome of this spectacle.

  8. Bunch of hypocrites here who continue to publish their work with proprietary publishers rather than mailing people all their work by pdf or hosting them on a free website and publicizing it by facebook – much like intellectuals who are in ‘solidarity’ in movements, who egg on crowds but dare not to sweat. From the ashes of, what will arise is a bunch less hypocritical – who do not publish their work through commercial outlets but give back to the people their work ( that is , the same folks who pay their salary and their rum and coke).

      1. yes, I know, but incomparable with, however for time being it is OK, beggars don;t have the choice!

  9. “…There should be a distinction made: Between works of authors still living and those of former lifes that left behind cultural gifts to the world. Everybody from the naked city in the midst of the jungle to the decaying metropolis of the western world should have a free access to these cultural gifts to reunderstand the past and future of humankind. Society never seems to be ready for this, although it is so well predestined…” Interview with Marcel Türkowsky

  10. Lawrence Liang, you expressed so well what we all feel deep within and more. Thanks a lot for this article.
    But as well all believe, the spirit of learning never ends and so is the joy of sharing and collective growth.
    The disappearance of is a big loss…bringing in a terrible sense of missing… perhaps one can build things anew brick-by-brick …it is just that bricks are distributed :-) , it is a constraint as well as an advantage too.
    … these days when publishers compete and strike deals with universities to bring out customised textbooks with prohibitively unaffordable price tags, the only hope for the ones who cannot really afford to buy those books to study will be the surviving electronic versions …yes the bricks must come together and who can destroy a fortress spread across the globe, the one that will only continue to grow !

  11. Why is it “too early” to discuss a universally open library system on the Internet, in which we all pay an annual fee (just as in print libraries) and withdraw four or five volumes per week, or more? Or why can’t there be an alternative model for e-books at least, with reasonable pricing – such as two to four dollars per book? I was a member (and donor) at, and still am at any number of other similar websites. I paid what I could, gladly and voluntarily. At one stage an author came online to complain that his book was being pirated, and did online forum members know that they could buy an e-copy from Amazon for 99 cents only? Within a few days he was back to report that since posting on the forum, his sales had “surged”. People WILL pay, if they feel the price is right. Inspite of having downloaded heaven knows how many books from, I still bought, and continue to buy, as many print books as I can afford. It should have been pure and obvious logic, when the phenomenon first took off, that e-books should have been priced cheaply. Damn all these short-sighted publishers to hell – they will pay, and dearly. I’m still downloading happily, though perhaps this is not the place to disclose websites where “all izz (still) well”…otherwise that Nazi coalition of copyright protectors will be down on them sooner than you can say “lib rip”….

    1. Exactly. I for my part, speaking as an academic who loved, but also occasionally publishes books, I will surely boycott all of the publishers who killed LNU! May they rip off other people to get their profit margins!

    2. at Anupama,
      this is Umesha from India. it is very regretable to hear that is closed. I am a visually challenged (blind) student. the library was a great boom for us for e-books where it is difficult for us (those without eyesight) to read the printed books. I consulted many publishers and no one agreed to give me the digital version of their publications. at that time this site was a great source of hope. I am in urgent need of your help which cannot be discussed publicly as you said. please write me at my address waiting for your reply. Umesha

  12. was a very special place. I recommended to every student and colleague.
    I wish the best for Smile and all contributors!

  13. Friends belong­ing to a mid­dle class soci­ety it is very dif­fi­cult to man­age sci­ence peri­od­i­cals and costly was pro­vid­ing a break­through to research works by mak­ing the resources avail­able may be by cheat­ing the mis­er­able pub­lish­ers. It’s really a shock­ing news for the students/researchers for whom money is a con­straint and a golden blade for the money hunter pub­lish­ers. was like a Robin hood for the young researchers. At last many many thanks to and as well as this por­tal to give a chance to express my views.


  14. I was devastated to discover that has been shut down. This has been a great source of free books for a person who wants to widen his knowledge like me. Losing is just like losing an Alexandrian Library.

  15. was indeed a great ebooks collection. It was for me a fountain of wisdom! Unfortunately, due to capitalistic motives it was revoked. We all have to be reminded that there is no monopoly of knowledge!

  16. I am deeply, deeply aggrieved. That site has been so much a part of my life. I joined way back when it was I have come to consider the internet as an intellectual refuge, but with the way things are going in the wake of the SOPA, PIPA and ACTA threats, I am deeply fearful of the future of the net. I want everyone to have as rich an intellectual experience as I did in all my years on that site. I know that many, many devoted people put a great deal of effort into scanning and uploading books, including myself. I once painstakingly scanned and uploaded a 700 page textbook as a token of my gratitude to that wonderful site. When they changed to gigapedia and then, the warning signs were visible that they were on the run, or were mildly harrassed for their activities.

    But in truth, the business models of the past are obsolete. It would be absurd for each and every person to pay $400 for a textbook only to find it outdated within a year or two. Shutting down will NOT force people to buy textbooks, because they are too expensive. The time has come for the large corporations to conceive of a new business model which will entail disseminating books at very low cost, rather like iTunes sells music for under a dollar. This is a better compromise than just shutting down the entire free internet and monetizing absolutely everything. What a nightmare that would be.

    1. no. my e-mail ID is valid and actively working. it is I think you copied the dot at the end after or else you give your e-mail Address and I will write back to you privately. it is not regarding that discussion. it is regarding the alternative sources which you said cannot be revealed publicly.

  17. I was terribly confused when, a few days ago, noticing that I couldn’t access I tried several times, but to my disappointment, I ended up in futility. Today, I know what has happened to this helpful site. It’s really a grievous blow for bookworms. Actually, we, who live on the other side of the planet, unluckily do not have good access to quality books. Good books are beyond affordable reach. Accordingly, we were really grateful for the presence of It was of great help in providing many books unavailable in our campus library. I just couldn’t imagine what would have happened if I had not downloaded many a book from that site for the accomplishment of my thesis. Now, I fervently hope that any similar site will resurrect to fill this stressful gap. The presence of this kind of site would greatly benefit many students in our region, who just don’t have any simplest and more accessible way of getting quality books. Thanks, by the way, for the enlightening article.

  18. Thank you so much for this article. I feel it is impossible for me to do academic research without many of my friends share the same feelings. i consider it as a greatest service to humanity. a new revolution. attack on capitalism and its policy of commercialization and confinement of knowledge. perhaps ‘ users of the world should unite’ together and share their collections, that is how we can rebuild the at least to some extent.

  19. RIP You will surely be missed. There will be a 2.0 version of you one day. I joined that site when it was known as gigapedia. This site was like a dream come true. It had books on almost every thing i ever desired.

    I must say that this site gave me the knowledge that i required to excel in life.The knowledge that i couldn’t afford otherwise back in my uni days.

    If books were cheaper then more people would have had access to them and there would have never been a need for sites like

    I bought a book via the internet and it’s cost was more than a factory worker’s monthly salary. This made me realize that sites like should be allowed on the internet.

  20. We don’t need hypocrisis about knowlegde.
    Education is a very powerful motor to change this absurd way of life. Consume and make some people rich. These people are not people who works, creat things…
    This model of consume creates quantity not quality. That’s why several books become outdated but makes people who evaluates (managers, directors) rich from editors.
    This issue about intecletual property is ridiculuos, because what we do in life ecoes in eternity.

  21. All is not lost. I believe there is some routing via gigipedia. If only I can figure it out…

  22. I recently found out about this free virtual depository of knowledge,and to be honest, in as much as i was happy ,planning to drag knowledge at my fingertips,I also felt that there is something wrong about this Idea.It is just not fair as an an end user to spend a fixed percentage of one`s income on acquiring books taking time and effort untill they reach their destination, while others just for free get their fancies satisfied, and for that value that should have gone in to the pockets of those who sweat their nights and burn their candles paving the way for the lazybones, they just burn it out on a a bottle of beer or a cigar, for definitely one cannot download a free tangible luxury.Thank God I did not sin into biting from this forbidden, stolen fruit of knowledge. By shutting library nu my suspicions were right

  23. Loss of – void created. was excellent site. Almost two years ago, I came to know about the site due to my student who was pursuing research for his PhD. That actually brought a new life for me as far as using the net to access for knowledge. I found thousands and thousands of books – gems of knowledge – on Physics, Astronomy, Popular Science, History of Science … thanks for Some times I felt amaze – how all these books once a priced possession of huge Library made available freely, because in one estimated that there were almost million books in digital format. So, that was simply ocean of books and books. No other site can match it and difficult to replace it. Shear joy to go for the site, search for the books, down loading and reading and sharing. Oh! difficult to believe – the whole world of Library – in front of you. I feel it is the real spirit of open source.

    I had apprehension that one day the site will be stopped and forced to shutdown. And that apprehension became true. Publishers joined together and by forcibly made the site to quit by that they have drawn the shutters for those people who really wished to read scholarly books for acquiring the knowledge to scale new heights in their chosen field.

    In fact, books on Sex and pornography should be heavily priced so much heavy that people who really wish they have to pay and buy them – not the scholarly book, since the knowledge and wisdom should freely available or at least at minimum price. But this is the other way. The books on Frontier areas of Science and Technology can’t afforded by the common people. Only library can have. Sorry, that too not for all library – only for Institutes which are heavily funded. That means they are only for the selected people. actually made those books available for all those – simply they require the net connection. My self, and other millions and millions, certainly have enriched by this site
    In the era of Internet, I believe, publishing Industry has changed. One should accept the fact. Just few years ago, no one have dreamt the possibility of reading NewYork Times, Gurdian, and many other frontline news papers and magazines without paying in our home which are situated in remote areas – other corners of the globe. But now it is possible. In the name of piracy if they stop, who are the losers? We the the readers and the society in large. In a way Wikipedia is an alternative for Encyclopedia. It is the collective efforts of the people to share the information. is also an alternative for the standard Journals. Slowly it has acquired more and more acceptability in academia. Many scientists – even Nobel laureates – are publishing their findings in them. Those people who wish to derive more knowledge are now heavily depend on Off course, they know that all those information there are not fully authentic. But whatever information available are at least sufficient for them as guiding light.. LINUX , LATEX and many other open software are also the voice against the monopoly of the company. There was a time – pictures and photos were priced to print and copy one should have pay heavily. But now scenario has changed. They are available freely. By giving the proper credit, breath taking pictures taken by Hubble, Chandra and other telescopes can be used. The same is happening in the field of music and arts. YouTube itself is the example. The society is enjoying this new trend. Music has gone into the masses. But the music industry has not closed. On the contrary the music industry has been flourishing. The same is true in book publishing.

    That means has not done any criminal activity. It has done the activity in pace with the changing time. By forcing the site to shut down, the people behind this action have created a huge void in millions and millions people who were using the site to acquire the new information and knowledge. Shut down of is a terrible loss. Hope soon it will be restored and available for the public.

  24. My eyes couldn’t stop being wet after i read the comments and in fact i was the one who was greatly disappointed after the shut down of the site. I wish it could be reopened for the good of all. Thanks to all…

  25. I didnt know about the closure of the site but came to know about it just now when I needed a book and as I typed for in my browser, but it didnt open as always, so I searched for it on google and it came out that it has been closed. The moment I got to know about it, a sudden shock hit my mind, “now what?!”.

    I mean it was the ultimate source for me not just for stealing books from publishers but to gain knowledge. Everyone is not rich enough to buy all books he needs and publishers should think about it. May be they can allow to continue as a social cause to enlighten the world with the knowledge and also support needy people like me who can barely afford monthly internet. :)

  26. “And yet I find myself refusing to fall into absolute despair, after all hope is what one maintains against all evidence to the contrary.” – I loved that line. In fact, I loved the whole article. It made me think of Robert Sapolsky, a biologist at Stanford, and his urge to keep trying to change things in despite of how imposible it seems, and of having more reasons to do so as it appears to be more and more complicated.

  27. As Information age surpassed all limits due to digitalisation and knowlede is free everywhere . The copyright could be valid till the print media was only the source of propagation of knowlede and cost involved in printing the books with the help of printing press,paper and labour where as digtal media is simply copying without any cost involved. In this background , copyright is a obsolete rule under digitalisation. Copyright remain valid to print media only.The old has forgo copyright digitalised world. It is applicable only for print versions.So the has all right to remain.


  28. Those in Poor countries do not have any other option. You kill and grave Curiosity of knowledge. Westerners Please re-open our only knowledge center,

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