Pipfrosch Press was founded in 2020 by Michael A. Peters partially out of frustration to the lack of access to academic journal articles.
When there is a paper I want to read very often I have to either see if the author is willing to send me a copy, pirate a copy, or pay a very high fee often for something written decades ago. The cost of an article PDF from JSTOR is usually higher than the price I would have to pay for a brand new field guide.
For those of financial means this may not be an issue, but for me, it makes it very clear to me that as far as society is concerned, I am nothing but a piece of trash that should not have access to knowledge.
As you can probably guess if you know who he is, I am a big fan of Aaron Swartz. Aaron Swartz was a brilliant computer programmer, he helped develop many technologies widely in use today. He also was a very vocal and passionate supporter of Open Access. I encourage you to read his article ‘Guerrilla Open Access Manifesto’. Aaron Swartz was mercilessly prosecuted by the United States government during the Obama administration, leading to his death. Knowledge is power and the oligarchy wants to keep the power to themselves.
I believe lack of Open Access to academic science empowers climate change deniers, evolution denial, and even the anti-vaccine movement. When the general public does not have ready access to scientific knowledge, many of them turn to propaganda. This is why, I believe, embracement of those flawed ideologies within the United States is much higher in areas where poverty is higher.
When I do get access to an academic paper, even one I had to pay $40 for, what I get is very often a poor scan of printed material. Scanned images are low quality, drawn figures often have wavy lines where I know they are suppose to be straight, the OCR applied to the text demonstrates that JSTOR did not even use a simple spelling checker to find mistakes, etc. It often makes me feel like the victim of a con artist, paying that much money (a lot for me) for a product that does not even remotely meet expectations.
If the current state of financially restricted access to scientific knowledge makes me feel like trash, how much more so it must make those who need assistive technology to consume the content feel like trash! Even when they can get access to the paper, they still do not really have access because publishers did not believe they were worth accommodating.
Open Access can not just be about access to the resource without a paywall, Open Access must also be access to the resource in a way that has content accessibility for those with disabilities. Their lives are not any less valuable then mine, their lives are not any less valuable than Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos.
Academic papers that have aged into the Public Domain may now be Open Access strictly from a financial point of view, but when they exist in digital form it is almost always as a scan of the printed material that is difficult for many to properly read and therefore still does not qualify as Open Access.
Pipfrosch Press wants to change that. Pipfrosch Press wants to republish as many of these older journal articles as possible in a format that is easier for as many people to access as possible, including those with disabilities that interfere with proper consumption of scanned material.
Republishing the content in an accessible manner is not only of benefit to those who have accessibility barriers to the scanned PDF copies of these journal articles, the ePub publications will also enhance the ability of those without disabilities to use and benefit from the content.
The text is easier to read, photographic plates will be reproduced with better quality, drawn figures will be reproduced with vector graphics, a glossary of terms will be provided, works cited will have links to where the referenced resource can be obtained whenever possible, and supplemental content will be added whenever possible.
Field Guide for Contra Costa County
In addition to republishing academic journals that have aged into the public domain, Pipfrosch Press has a very ambitious project. An Open Access ePub field guide to everything living in Contra Costa County that can be seen with the naked eye.
Printed field guides tend to be expensive and therefore exclusionary, much like many academic journal papers. They are also rather bulky, it is difficult to carry more than two or three on a hike.
At this point, most people carry phones with them that are capable of rendering an ePub and color tablets that are smaller in physical size than some field guides are also relatively common.
I believe that conservation efforts will be more successful if there is more public interest in the biological diversity that we have, and that interest can be fostered by quality field guides that both take advantage of current technology and cover more than just a specialized grouping within the local fauna.
This will obviously be a project that involves multiple people, and a project likely will never be completely finished but will be very usable early on, much like Wikipedia will never be completely finished but is very usable.
More on this will be disclosed in the near future.