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I have several laptops and I noted that with one laptop (and only this one laptop, and no access at all with other laptops) I have access to all Springer articles (at least in mathematics) and seemingly even to all math books (such as this series of books) in the Springer website without even being logged in any account.

How is that possible?

I have access to the journals in my university computer, but even there I do not have access to the books.

When I go to a journal website like this one, I see on the right of the page "You have access to our articles". I am not logged in there (at the end of the page, above the copyright, it even says "Not logged in") or have ever tried to log in. When I click "My account" on the top right of the page, I'm told to login and thus I assume I'm not logged in in any kind of form. (I only log into Springer journal sites when submitting or checking the status of an article and then logout, but that is not via any university system that grants access).

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    Are you accessing from an institutional IP range? (e.g. university WiFi) – GoodDeeds Sep 10 at 14:35
  • @GoodDeeds No, Im more than 10 kilometers away from my university and it just works with one laptop and not any others (I tried 4 laptops) in my home. Also, my university has no access to the Springer books, it has only access to the articles. I even have access to all books from this one laptop. – Mare Sep 10 at 14:35
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    Probably a cookie on that machine. How it got there is a question, of course. – Buffy Sep 10 at 14:38
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    Note that sometimes you can find the same articles either using Springer's main corporate website (www.springer.com) or the SpringerLink site (link.springer.com), and sometimes I find that I'm allowed to read it on one but not the other. – David Loeffler Sep 10 at 14:53
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    Not the answer, I think, but Springer made a large number of books free because of the pandemic. – Bob Brown Sep 10 at 17:33
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It looks like Springer does this using cookies.

I also observed what you described in the question. I was able to access articles that had a paywall when I was neither in my university's IP range nor logged in. However, at the footer of the page, near the copyright notice, it showed name of my university and a mention that this was what gave me access to that particular page.

This did not work while browsing incognito, which suggested the use of cookies. I was then able to verify this by clearing cookies from link.springer.com in my browser, after which I lost access.

I suspect the cookie was stored at some point when you were in the institutional IP range, and had a sufficiently long validity that you continue to have access, and will probably do so for as long as it is valid or until you remove it.

Edit: I was able to verify this as well, accessing Springer from my institution's VPN resulted in me getting access again, which persisted even after leaving the network. A further check showed that the cookie is a session cookie, valid till the end of the session. The duration of storage of such cookies varies by browser and operating system, but should generally persist for at least as long as you keep the browser open (which on a laptop could potentially be a long time), and often even beyond system restarts (e.g. Firefox, Chrome).

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  • But that does not explain why I have access to books with my laptop to which I do not even have access with my university computer. – Mare Sep 10 at 14:48
  • Above the copyright thing, it says for me : "Not logged in ". – Mare Sep 10 at 14:49
  • @Mare I do not know the answer to that, sorry. Does the footer provide any information on this? It shows "Not logged in" for me too, but without the cookie it shows "Not affiliated" next to it, and otherwise shows the name of my university's library. – GoodDeeds Sep 10 at 14:50
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    @Mare Did you visit some other university at some time and perhaps access through their WiFi? Just a random guess. Maybe that university had a subscription to those books that yours doesn't. – GoodDeeds Sep 10 at 14:52
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    This definitely persists long after system restart. I still have access via Mathematisches Forschungsinstitut Oberwolfach, which I haven't been to for 3 weeks. – darij grinberg Sep 10 at 16:20

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