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

Marijuana law ushers in new business age

The Latest
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
062315panelthumbBY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

Oregon’s new marijuana law is expected to lead to a bevy of new business opportunities for the state. And not just for growers. Law firms, HR consultants, energy efficiency companies and many others are expected to benefit from the decriminalization of pot, according to panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast meeting on Tuesday.


Read more...

Queen of Resilience

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Astrid Scholz scales up sustainability.


Read more...

5 things to know about veterans in the workforce

The Latest
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
070215-vetsthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

There are more than 10 million former military members working in the United States.


Read more...

Green workplace 2.0

Linda Baker
Thursday, May 28, 2015
IMG 2808BY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

Reinventing capitalism. Office dumpster divers. Handprints versus carbon footprints.


Read more...

Hall of Flame

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

A Power Lunch at Oswego Grill.


Read more...

Eco Zoned

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY HANNAH WALLACE

Travelers have always come to Oregon for its natural beauty. But will the increasing popularity of agritourism, European-style hiking getaways and forest resorts relax Oregon's notoriously strict land-use laws?


Read more...

Biker dreams

The Latest
Friday, May 15, 2015
bike at ater wynn-thumbBY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

The Portland Bureau of Transportation is seeking input from businesses on a $5.5 million initiative to create a network of biking, transit and pedestrian trails within Portland’s central city.


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