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What are zines?

A zine (pronounced "zeen," like "magazine") is a self-published, small circulation, non-commercial booklet or magazine, usually produced by one person or a few individuals. Zines are publications made out of passion, not to make a profit or a living. Most zines are photocopied, but their production can range from handwritten or handmade booklets to offset-printed magazine-like publications (but with a print run of hundreds or a few thousand instead of hundreds of thousands).

Zines come in all shapes, sizes, topics, and formats. They can include personal essays, political discussions, fiction, craft or do-it-yourself advice, articles about music or movies, comics, reviews - anything under the sun, really. In a zine, you might find typos, misspelled words, improper grammar, and brilliant or radical or just plain honest ideas that simply aren't allowed in Time, Newsweek, or People magazine.

Underground press, small press, alternative press... these are just a few of the names for publications that are not produced by a corporation with an eye to the bottom line, but by ordinary people who want to make their voices heard. The underground press is written by street punks and lawyers and stay-at-home moms. At its best, it offers insight into the real lives of the 95% of us who don't look like the people on TV.

Where do I find zines?

Zines and other underground material are generally hard to find or just plain unavailable in most stores. Usually, the most reliable way to get a copy is to buy it directly from the publisher (via a website or mail order). You can find out about available zines by reading publications that review zines; you can also find info through several of the websites we have listed on our resources page. The asking price for a zine is usually a couple of dollar bills to cover costs for printing and mailing.

Zines can sometimes be found at funkier bookstores (especially in larger cities) or can be purchased from zine distributors, aka distros. Keep in mind, however, that authors, who are usually losing money anyway, get a much smaller cut when you buy from a store or distro. You can also find zines at zine libraries.

If you've paid for a zine and it doesn't promptly arrive in your mailbox, please be patient. Remember, at most zines there's no paid staff to promptly open your letter and fill your order. Most zine publishers, between work, family, and other real life commitments, don't have as much time to spend on their zines as they might like, but if you don't hear back within a couple of months, send the zinester a polite follow-up note.

Don't wait. Don't be late. Don't hesitate. Don't procrastinate. Send for some zines today!