Destination DIY: Zines Thrive Even With The Internet

By Julie Sabatier, host of radio show Destination DIY

Before the Internet, self publishing was a time-consuming, lonely endeavor. Even so, small publications called zines have been thriving for decades. You’d think these do-it-yourself pamphlets would die in the digital age. Not so. Our story comes from Julie Sabatier , host of the public radio show, Destination D-I-Y.

Zines define a subculture that strongly identifies as DIY. You can trace zine publishing pretty far back. The term sine popped up in 1930, when science fiction readers began publishing their own “fanzines.” Zines really took off in the 1970s, when both the punk movement and the copy machine were gaining steam.

Seth Freedman: “My name is R. Seth Freedman.”
Julie Sabatier: “What does the R stand for?”
Seth Freedman: “That I don’t tell anyone.”

Seth knows a lot about zines, mainly because of the zine he used to publish called, Factsheet Five.

Seth Freedman: “I published it in 1992, when I took over from Hudson Luce and published it until 1998.”

Fact Sheet Five was a zinester’s zine. Each issue included articles about culture and self publishing tips. It was a kind of clearinghouse of information about zines, what was good, who was publishing and how to get in touch with them to order their zines. If you can’t imagine why such a publication would be necessary, I’m going to guess you’re a child of the digital age.

Chloe Eudaly: “Factsheet Five provided a kind of paper Internet before there was an Internet. Or before the Internet was accessible to the average user.”

Chloe Eudaly first picked up a copy of Factsheet Five back in 1988.

Chloe Eudaly: “Factsheet Five was like this portal to another universe that really kind of blew my mind.

Chloe is the owner of Reading Frenzy. It’s an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon that sells zines and other small press publications. Choe told me that if it hadn’t been for Factsheet Five, she might never have opened Reading Frenzy in the first place.

Chloe Eudaly: “I really can’t imagine if it hadn’t had existed how I would have discovered zines or really gotten a grasp of the phenomenon as a whole.”

Julie Sabatier: “So it’s safe to say that Factsheet Five changed your life.

Chloe Eudaly: “It is.”

It changed Seth’s life too.

Seth Freedman: “The amount of mail that I got every day was phenomenal.”

His main job, as he saw it, was to encourage people to self-publish. Of course, that also involved offering some constructive criticism.

Seth Freedman: “I would say, ‘this sine is good but this person needs to work on their stapling or their Zeroxing skills.’”

The unstoppable influx of mail, coupled with a small trickle of money, led to an unsustainable situation. And then there was that whole Internet thing.

Seth Freedman: “The growth of the Internet really meant the death, not of zines per se, but for independent magazines.”

The thing is, zine culture is alive and well. It persists even with all the options for self expression that the Internet provides, even without a resource like Factsheet Five.

I recently attended an event at Portland’s Independent Publishing Resource Center. While I was there, I spoke to a lot of younger zinesters who had never even heard of Factsheet Five. They told me they find out about new zines online through Facebook or Tumblr, their favorite zine distributors or just through word of mouth. So I guess you could argue that the Internet has made zines more widely available.

Seth Freedman: “But zine publishers are all about paper and the intimacy of the exchange of paper through the mail is very different from the Internet.

Hand-made physical zines are still a mainstay of DIY culture. Hundreds of zines trade hands at events like the annual Portland Zine Symposium. And in some places, you can even find them at your local library.

Optional host tag: Julie Sabatier curates the public radio show and website Destination DIY. Find out more at destinationdiy.org.

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