JK Rowling and John le Carré are among thousands of authors whose work is being offered free on one of the world’s biggest book piracy sites.

Writers including Joanne Harris and Tracy Chevalier have told The Times of their anger that their work is being given away without their permission by Ocean of PDF, a website that hosts almost 42,000 titles by 8,800 authors.

The site, which appears to have uploaded its first title in December, has only recently come to the attention of publishers such as Penguin Random House, which has issued it with “a significant number of takedown demands”. The website owners have ignored them and said that they intended to “keep it active as long as we can”.

The site’s mission statement declares: “We believe that knowledge . . . should be free and accessible to everyone around the globe. There are many developing countries where you cannot easily buy your favourite books. They are literally out of reach to many people.”

Harris, whose novel Chocolat is one of 14 of her titles available on the site, said that it would put authors and publishers out of business. “Ocean of PDF are copyright thieves,” she said. “There’s nothing in what they do that helps either authors or readers. On the contrary, they’re contributing to the decline in diversity in publishing, the falling earnings of authors and the disappearance of small presses.

“Their claim that they are helping people who find it hard to get access to books is disingenuous, at best.” The website, which appears to be hosted in Bulgaria, includes a notice that claims that it wishes to support authors. It states that “making money as an independent author isn’t easy” and encourages people who illegally download books to “leave a nice book review on Amazon” and recommend that their friends buy a copy.

Chevalier, whose novel Girl with a Pearl Earring is among three of hers on the site, said that this statement was an admission that pirated books were damaging to authors. She added that more than a quarter of her sales were ebooks, which would vanish if readers thought it was acceptable to get her work for nothing. “Talk about cheek. Take 25 per cent from a writer’s average wage, which is estimated at just £10,500 a year by a new survey from the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, and many will have to stop writing. Simple as that,” she said.

The owners of the site have concealed their identity by registering the domain with the American company Godaddy, which has so far declined authors’ appeals to deactivate it.