Could Kindle Self-Publishing Spark A Zine Revival?

Almost the first story we wrote for Rocks Off was a nostalgic trip through the old word of zine publishing, those wonderfully Xeroxed newsletters you used to see in music stores published by fans and usually costing about a dollar.

We don't know anyone who ever made money off his or her zine, but that wasn't the purpose. The purpose was to help spread the word about music that you weren't going to hear on the radio.

Nowadays, every sub-genre of music from every continent is just a Google search away, and zines have been replaced by blogs.

But what if you began publishing your zine through Kindle?

All it requires is the zine in a pdf file format, and a few minutes to upload via Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing. After about half an hour of filling out e-forms and uploading your files, not only are you reaching a potential audience of millions across the U.S. and Great Britain, but you might also be able to actually turn a profit now that you're not beholden to the high price of physical distribution.

"Interesting; the thought of publishing zines to Kindle hadn't really occurred to me 'til now, actually. It'd be neat to see what could happen, definitely," says Jeremy Hart, whose zine evolved into the popular Houston music blog Space City Rock. Nicolas Arcia, who published a goth music zine in the '90s, is enthusiastic about the idea is as well.

"Publishing digitally would be ideal. No more making copies at work while the boss is not looking," he says.

However, despite the popularity of magazine sales on Kindle, it's possible that the idea of zines in the digital book age is simply an anachronism. Back in Rocks Off's near-first article, we mentioned that one of the greatest aspects of the old zines was the tactile feel of the paper in your hand no matter how crummy the copy was.

They were, in a sense, works of art created by the love of other works of art, and maybe a great deal of their charm would be lost if they simply glowed up at you from a sleek digital display.

"There is something special about having a paper zine in your hands," says Bear Wilder, who published the zine Zillah's Lamp. "Likewise, there is a place in my heart with making fanzines the old-fashioned way. Anything from cutting and pasting to only paying for 50 copies of pages while the other 213 pages are hidden in your duffle bag."

Nonetheless, Rocks Off hopes that the ease that an individual can put together a zine and have it published through KDP will inspire a new generation to take up the art. Sure, most of us can fulfill our music news fandom through blogs (which we appreciate) but a blog is an ever-changing present, whereas a zine is a set work representing a specific time.

Once again, let's not forget that the publishing service allows you to charge. Sure, at 99 cents you're only getting 39 cents for each copy sold, but it's at least a profit. Surely there's at least one music fan out there willing to try.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner