The Thing About E-Zines


I’ve been reading Meta Zine by Davida Gypsy Breier (review to come later this week), and Davida touches on the subject of the changing face of what zines are. For instance, in the 90s, having a zine with an ISBN was to go against that which was zine culture. Zines spat in the face of print matter with ISBNs and told them they should be ashamed of themselves. (Not even close to quoting Davida’s words, by the way. Davida has a more mature writing style than yours truly.)

In more recent times, some zines have grown an expanded to a point of needing ISBNs. Where zines were the answer to an inclusive mainstream publishing machines back then, the ease of self-publishing these days means ISBN’d productions can still be the answer to traditional publishing now.

So where do e-zines fit in all this?

Davida mentions our mutual desire of reading more international zines but postage making it difficult to do so. It seems only natural that PDF versions of zines rise up in answer to this call, and yet… PDF zines, online zines, etc seem to be to the modern zinemaker what ISBN’d creations were to the 90s zinemaker. I have seen smug disgust thrown at them amongst comments of how e-zines are ruining zine culture.

But are they?

I would say no, but I’ve struggled with the question. In this zine, Davida brings up the facet of intent when it comes to the creation of a zine as well as the parallels between zinemakers now and those 20 and more years ago.

The zinemaker now may have something to say but not the means to say it in modern media. Sound familiar? The zinemaker now can’t afford to make [an ISBN’d creation accepted by mainstream publishers/physical copies of the zine], so the zine maker uses the means available – [cut and paste/a computer] – to make the creation and distribute it through [postal mail/email].

Sound familiar?

Davida does a much better job of illustrating the parallels, but when you look at the intent of creation along with the means by which the creations are made, you find things to be… rather interchangeable.

The picture above features the digital section of my Etsy store. After receiving a few comments about shipping, I decided that PDFs were a whole lot better than not being read at all. Some people scoff at others for selling digital media, but I now can’t help but think of how some people must have scoffed at those wanting a dollar or two in exchange for their few pieces of photocopied paper.

I often feel like a hypocrite, as I only review physical zines (for now) but I still sell digital ones. I feel mostly justified, given the stack of physical zines I have yet to review. But there is still that niggling bit that wonders if I don’t also have some of the deep-seated prejudices that have come with stepping into the zine community at this point of its evolution.

I haven’t put up this post to provide answers or even step on a soap box as such. More that I’m thinking a lot about this, and I’d be interested to read your thoughts if you have some to share. Is the digital somehow less than the physical? Is that only applicable in the terms of media – be it books, music, zines? Is it only about words? Is it strange we’re seemingly more okay listening to thousands of songs on our mp3 players rather than carting around tapes or CDs and yet have this resistance to reading thousands of books on our e-readers instead of carting around novels or zines?

3 Replies to “The Thing About E-Zines”

  1. While I absolutely prefer paper zines and think they have a specific merit that other forms of media don’t have, I am not a fan of the whole “e-zines aren’t zines!”-policing. First, it goes against the whole “a zine is whatever you want it to be!”-rule of zinemaking. Although I do think that there’s a lot of stuff out there labelled “e-zine” that I wouldn’t consider zines, not because of the medium, but because of the content: company magazines/newsletters for example.

    Second, the hating on e/pdf-zines reminds me of the whole “You’re a sellout, bruh!”-mentality often seen in young/activisty/punk/anarchisty circles, and having been an insufferably judgemental (and – in hindsight – quite elitist) @#$%^in my teens who thankfully (sorta kinda) grew up, I have zero patience for that now. #hypocritemuch I understand that it might be different if you have a large zine community where you live, and can basically exchange zines with your neighbours, but for a lot of people this just isn’t the case. What are they supposed to do? Not make zines? Exchange zines with themselves?

    Third, the world has changed: while printing costs have gone down, postage has gone up. I think we can assume that the internet is here to stay, and because of the internet, the world has become smaller. Chances that you want to exchange zines with somebody on the other side of the world are bigger. Which you then can’t afford, because postage. E-zines and pdf’s are a great way to “fix” this problem, so why not use it? /novel

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree completely. Zines are a somewhat specific thing to me, but I would rather see a community that is inclusive of the different forms – as inclusive as it is of different voices.

      As long as we can figure out a way to share our creations in a way that is satisfying to both ends of the trade, then why not? I was obsessed with computers from the word go when I was younger, making newsletters and all sorts of things. That I regularly had access to a printer was a fluke of circumstance. I’m sure I would have distributed via email had other physical options not been available.

      I really want to get another copy of Meta Zine so I can send it to you. I think you’d find the parallels that Davida mentions as interesting as I do.


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