Return Of The Zinesters

According to an article in the Sunday Style section of today’s New York Times, there’s a new, decidedly more commercial, kind of ‘zine on the rack.

Though there is no official body that tracks the number of small-circulation glossy magazines with obscure sensibilities and arresting design like Lemon, those who pay attention to these niche publications say they are multiplying in bookstores, boutiques and high-end grocery stores.
Created in apartments or after work at the office by writers, graphic designers, artists and grown-up skateboarders, the magazines tend to be expensively produced quasi art objects published two, three or four times a year with the intent that they will be collected and saved. They sell for anywhere from $3.95 to $14.95.
James Truman, the former editorial director of Condé Nast Publications, said the new magazines are a sort of “update of the fanzine,” the scrappy photocopied pamphlets of the 1980’s and 90’s in which writers catalogued their enthusiasm and disdain for everything from music and movies to grocery store products.
But perhaps because of their often hefty price tags, bookstore owners say they have a different audience from the zines. “It’s not the anarchist zine crowd that’s buying them,” said Rachel Whang, who with her fiancé, Benn Ray, owns Atomic Books in Baltimore. “It’s more the young professional, graphic design types.”
There’s another distinction, too, as Greg Means, a zine librarian at the Independent Publishing Resource Center in Portland, Ore., pointed out. “Zines were like artists and writers putting stuff together,” he said. “Magazines like Anthem, with their big Smirnoff ads, are more akin to the dot-com start-up companies. They’re selling access to cool communities.”

With the prohibitive cost of paper and printing (and the rise of blogs), one might think ‘zines would fade. But that does not appear to be the case. Print has a many dedicated caretakers and craftspersons. And there’s something to be said for the commitment it takes to put out a publication that costs thousands of dollars to produce. They’re not casual affairs.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.