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].
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?