First published: 22 December 2022 | Last Updated: 10 October 2023
The internet is a reservoir of information of all kinds. It is sometimes difficult to locate the most useful weblinks because there are too many of them. In this post, I am sharing the details of some of the most useful and open-access web resources. These are mostly related to my broader field of research, i.e., literary and cultural studies. This is an ongoing list. I hope the academic community at large would benefit from this post. If you are comfortable reading books on laptop or tablet, then, this article might save you time and money.
Shadow libraries are online reservoirs of electronic books, available in pdf, epub, and similar formats, that are downloadable for free. Some of the contents might involve copyright infringement but the onus is mostly on those who run the websites and not on the reader. Because of copyright issues, the shadow libraries frequently change their URLs. Good news is they do NOT require any payment details or user information. The ethics of using shadow libraries might be questionable. They are an open secret in the academia. Disclaimer: This article does NOT encourage the use of shadow libraries. Currently, the most frequented shadow library is Library Genesis while the biggest network of shadow libraries is Anna's Archive.
Legit Open Access Resources
Open access resources are legit reservoirs of academic documents downloadable for free. They require no payment details. But, in some cases, you might have to put in your user information.
Academia.edu is a very popular platform in the academic community. Almost every academic has a profile there. One can open an academia.edu account for free but, for premium membership, one needs to pay. I have personally found this platform very useful. In many cases, scores of open-access articles and even articles not freely available elsewhere on the internet can be downloaded for free from academia.edu. If you are unable to trace a research paper, check academia.edu and particularly, if the author of the article has a profile on this platform. You might be pleasantly surprised.
CORE, described as the world's largest online collection of research papers, has been created jointly by the Open University and Jisc, a digital media agency, both based in the UK. The website contains about 254 million academic papers from all around the world.
The Directory of Open Access Books or DOAB is a fantastic portal that I suddenly discovered one fine evening. It contains pdfs of "Over 63,000 academic peer-reviewed books" on various humanities and social sciences subject that can be downloaded absolutely free of charge. This is a legit repertoire, a "community-driven discovery service," and you do not even have to put in any user information.
EBSCO contains thousands of open access dissertations from all over the globe.
With a motto taken from Rabindranath Tagore to make knowledge free for all, Grontho Network offers downloadable pdfs of Bengali books absolutely free of cost.
HathiTrust is an online archive brought to the public through the partnership of various academic and research institutions. The website offers a collection of titles digitized from the libraries around the world. Over 17 million digitized items are available currently.
Rare Bengali books are available in digitized formats in this collection which has been made available jointly by CSSSC and the University of Heidelberg.
Internet Archive contains about 35 millions books, 9 million movies, television shows, and videos, 14 million audios, among millions of other items. It advocates for a free and open internet, preservers web sources and digitizes huge amount of resources.
National Digital Library of India (NDLI) is a virtual archive sponsored by the Ministry of Education, India, and developed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. The repository contains hyperlinked texts and media and books, in most cases in html and pdf formats. Multilingual in nature, it usually directs you to the source websites where the documents are originally located.
NDLTD is a major international web platform collating and preserving electronic theses and dissertations from all over the world. As of now, theses and dissertations are available from the following countries: Armenia, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brasil, Canada, Central Asia, Europe, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latin America, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, North America, Pakistan, Peru, Portugal, P. R. China, Scandinavia, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, United Kingdom, and Wales. Additionally, NDLTD contains hyperlinks to severalrelevant international databases.
OAPEN is an online library and publication platform that works with publishers and research sponsors to create e-versions of academic books and make those fully or partly available for free.
The idea of eBooks was primarily invented by a gentleman called Michael Hart. It was he who also founded Project Gutenberg. It is considered to be the first ever site created to provide eBooks absolutely free of cost. The books - primarily, literary works - available here are those whose copyright has expired.
The Shodhganga@INFLIBNET Centre contains PhD theses submitted to Indian universities. Usually, scholars submit hard copies of the theses along with CDs which are officially sent to the Shodganga Centre by the concerned universities. In December 2022, the number of theses uploaded on Shodganga crossed 4,00,000. Over 720 universities contribute theses to the Shodganga repository.
The World Digital Library is a project of the U. S. Library of Congress. It aims to truly represent the diverse cultural outputs and knowledge societies of the world. According to the website, "Books, manuscripts, maps, and other primary materials in the WDL collection are presented in their original languages; more than 100 languages are represented, including many lesser known and endangered languages." The collection contains millions of documents comprising audio recording, books, films, videos, legislation, manuscripts, maps, notated music, newspapers, periodicals, personal narratives, photos, prints, drawings, software, 3 D objects etc.
Subscription-based Repository of Scholarly Articles
Founded in 1994, JSTOR is a digital library which is partly open-access but mostly subscription-based. JSTOR provides access to 12 million journal articles, books, images, and primary sources in 75 disciplines. It is certainly the most frequented platform to avail critical resources from top scholarly journals from all over the world.
2. PROJECT MUSE
Project MUSE is another important and useful reservoir of digital scholarly content on the humanities and social sciences. As per its website, it currently "hosts more than 800 journals and nearly 100,000 books from some 400 leading university presses, scholarly societies, and related publishers." Some articles and books are open access but most of the content is to be availed only after subscription.