A Zine – publishing purity

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A zine is a cheaply made, reasonably priced publication, often in black and white, which is mass produced by a photocopier and bounds with staples.The term “zines”, while commonly thought to be an abbreviation of “magazines,” actually is derived from “fanzines,” the term that is used for specialised science fiction and horror publications that were popular during the first half of last century.

These small, often handmade, magazines, sold in record stores or through the mail, were often the result of a person who is restless or in a dead-end job who had access to a photocopier. During the 1980s and early to mid-1990s, the world of zines laid out the blueprint for what the Internet would become. It was a virtual community that happened to be linked by the postal service.

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Zines are produced and distributed erratically – they are deliberately left lying around coffee shops or traded among friends. In their heydey in comparison to a regular print magazine, their circulation ranged from 10 to maybe 1000. Most often or not they were free. Quality and content varied widely, which made the zine rack a browsers paradise. They included short fiction, poetry, essays, comics, and art. Some were explicit and contained sexual or pornographic references, cursing and vulgar graphics; anything goes in the zine world. Because zines seem did not have any corporate backing, they were usually very robust, quirky and individualised and much more charismatic than larger, more popular commercial print magazines.

During the mid-90s when the print versions were extremely popular in the United States more than 20,000 zines were being produced. Like-minded, or just curious, people subscribe to or swap zines and referred readers to their favourites.

The zine culture is alive and well even among the computer literate. There are a countless number of websites devoted to reviewing and distributing the scenes, as well as the electronic counterpart – the Webzine. Zines are accessible despite technology. They are tactile even in the world of smart phones. They are not for Luddites; they combine the best of technology with the best of the print world.

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