Home Back Issues October 2009 The hot zine scene

The hot zine scene

| Print |  Email
Archives - October 2009
Thursday, October 01, 2009
IMG_6142
The Independent Publishing Resource Center in Portland has more than 6,000 issues of zines.

Between the wall of bestsellers and the stacks of glossy magazines in the foyer at Powell’s Books is a six-tiered rack of hodgepodge booklets — one wrapped in string, a few as small as a pocket Bible. Several have color covers and neatly bound spines, but many appear to have been printed with a black and white copier and stapled with a Swingline. Many have numbers: Yeti 7, Doris 26, The Stolen Sharpie Revolution 2. A sign above the rack says ZINES.

Powell’s sells about 300 zines a month. “I took over probably about seven or eight years ago and I was always really surprised by how well the zines sold,” says Kevin Sampsell, who chooses which zines to stock.

Zines are dirt cheap to buy and make, which is why the wheels of the zine mini-industry in Portland continue to turn despite the bad economy. Writers and illustrators, small printers and distributors produce hundreds of zines a year locally. The independent book store Reading Frenzy has a wide selection of zines, and zinesters can use the equipment at the nonprofit Independent Publishing Resource Center to print and bind. More than 1,000 zinesters from across the country gathered at PSU for the ninth annual Portland Zine Symposium in July.

The zine scene is also bolstered by its indifference to ROI. “A zine is any handmade publication that’s done, typically, by an individual and traditionally doesn’t have much advertising, if any, and is usually done out of a sense of passion rather than any hope for a profit,” says Justin Hocking, IPRC’s executive director.

There are breakout successes such as Dishwasher, a serial zine about washing dishes in all 50 states. The creator, Pete Jordan, who printed three issues at the IPRC, was asked to appear on David Letterman’s show and later offered a book deal by Harper Perennial.

Though most zinesters pay their expenses out of pocket, breaking even if they’re lucky, some do support themselves with zine revenues. Bitch magazine, headquartered in Portland, started off as a zine and is now a nonprofit with eight employees. The two creators of Yeti, a literary journal that comes with a CD of music, have enough revenue to cover office space and health insurance, but not salaries.

Yeti Publishing shares its office space in southeast Portland with the independent publishing house and distributor Microcosm Publishing, founded in 1996 by Joe Biel. Microcosm carries 2,400 zines and alternative books as well as zinester-appealing merchandise, sold online and through its retail store.

Biel says it’s doing so well that five or six of its eight employees don’t have second jobs, and he expects the prosperity to continue. Low costs, low prices and willingness to take a loss have made the mini-industry recession-proof, unlike for-profit independent magazines.

“[Independent] magazines have had a total bottoming out. When they tried to get bigger, it backfired,” Biel says. “Zines are eternally relevant in that way. It’s economical for the people producing them at any level of demand or any scale… It’s infinitely affordable.” 

ADRIANNE JEFFRIES
 

More Articles

Fast Food Slows Down

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

The ubiquitous fast-food restaurant may be on the decline.


Read more...

The Backstory

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014

In our cover story this month, Wendy Collie, CEO of New Seasons Market, and Kim Malek, owner of Salt & Straw, discuss their rapidly growing businesses and Portland’s red hot food scene. The conversation provides an interesting lens through which to explore trends in the grocery store and restaurant sectors.


Read more...

Gone Girl

News
Monday, September 29, 2014
roundup-logo-thumb-14BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Wehby disappears, Kitzhaber fails to disclose and Seattle gets bike share before Portland.


Read more...

Knight Vision

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY VIVIAN MCINERNY

Travis Knight wants to release a movie a year. Can he pull it off?


Read more...

What I'm Reading

September 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Kim Ierian, President of Concorde Career Colleges, and Deborah Edward, Executive Director of Business for Culture & the Arts, share their recent reads.


Read more...

Podcast: Interview with Pete Friedes

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

082714-thumb friedesbookTom Cox interviews Pete Friedes, author of "The 2R Manager," about becoming a Best Boss.


Read more...

Fork & Bottle

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014

National media can’t get enough of Oregon’s pinot noir, artisan-food purveyors and lively, independent film scene.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS