Traditional print media may be struggling in the deep end of declining ad revenues, but niche print magazines are alive and well in Portland and San Francisco. Ironically, as social media and technology become ever-pervasive parts of society, communities of DIY self-publishers are dedicated to the craftsmanship of little print periodicals.
This August, zinesters will congregate at the Portland Zine Symposium and the San Francisco Zine Fest, both thriving grassroots conferences. Zines range from graphic novels, witty comics, illustrated biographies to alternative cultures.
Independent publishing has long been deeply rooted in the two West Coast cities, partly due to their countercultural climates. Geographically, the West Coast was isolated from the rest of the country during its early development, so self-publication became a natural form of self-expression, according to Art Practical. Zines later evolved into publications closely associated with punk rock, street culture and alternative ideologies, any topic that challenged the status quo. In the early 2000s, The Bookmobile distributed zines and books in a vintage Airstream to promote the spirit of free expression.
Despite the Bay Area’s reputation as a high tech mecca, a sizeable group of zinesters is committed to seemingly obsolete and good old-fashioned print technologies.
In an era when we publish everything in a dizzying river of Facebook, Twitter and blog updates, the humble print zine carries a special value. Because it cannot be distributed and shared online, some say zines are less of a commodity and valued for its rarity. There’s an appeal to an object carefully fashioned from a letterpress.
Unfettered by advertising dollars or the interests of a powerful publisher, some zinesters say their media is a more effective way of fostering deeper discussions, instead of the limited 140 characters on Twitter and the short attention spans of today’s generation.