Print makes a comeback

By Brianna Wellen

In the prime of their creativity, before the Internet took hold, musicians, artists and writers put out zines—a precursor to the world of blogging. Independent publishers and bookstores thrived on these products until the young creators eventually acquired full-time jobs, got married, had kids and inevitably turned to new technological tools to put out their messages. Now two bookstores are joining forces and putting out a call for these zinesters to publish one more issue to help keep print alive.

Quimby’s Bookstore, 1854 W. North Ave., and its collaborator, Atomic Books, in Baltimore, challenged bookstores and zines to join “2011: The Revenge of Print!” which asks anyone who has ever created a zine or mini-comic to publish one more issue in print in 2011. In return, the bookstores will distribute their products to reopen the platform for print.

“Most people seemed to say they would [create another issue], they were just waiting for an excuse or the right time or the right idea to do it,” said Benn Ray, co-owner of Atomic Books. “My idea was, well, why don’t we just tell people instead of everybody talking about how print is dead? Why don’t you just make a new issue of your zine or mini-comic, or whatever you used to do, next year, then see how awesome that year would be.”

Ray used the Internet to spread the word, and within a couple weeks of the Facebook group’s inception, more than 60 zines, mini-comics and publishers became part of the movement.

Liz Mason, manager at Quimby’s, is not only promoting the cause through the bookstore, but also participating with a new publication of her zine “Caboose.” She said it’s only right for her to set an example and join the cause.

“It’s actually encouraging me to be a little more prolific in my own work and put something out much faster than every couple of years, to actually practice what I preach,” Mason said. “If you want to support [print] or if you want to believe in something like that or complain about something like that, you shouldn’t be allowed to unless you get involved in some way.”

Chicago-based ALARM Press, 222 S. Morgan St., has been stepping up for years to keep independent print alive. Founder and editor Chris Force started making zines in 1995 and has continued publishing magazines and books on music and art through ALARM Press. Force said he sees this as a great opportunity to encourage independent publishing and distribution.

“It’s important that people go and turn to local bookstores and independent retailers to find things to read,” Force said. “Borders is essentially going out of business. Barnes & Noble is [basically] no longer buying music titles or any sort of independent or creative culture books at all. If you lose the places that buy these things, you lose the people [who] create and author them.”

Mason also acknowledges beyond the creative benefits, the movement will be good for business. Once a wave of zines hits the shelves, she anticipates the entire movement will be reignited.

“It’s encouraging people to read other people’s work, be inspired by that and put out their own work and sell it here, and then their friends come by here,” Mason said. “It sort of activates that fiscal level often left out of independent publishing.”

The final goal of “2011: The Revenge of Print!” is to reintegrate print into a world where too many people claim it is dying, according to Ray. Even with the advent of the Internet, Ray hopes people will realize creating or reading something tangible is always better, he said.

“One of the things I used to love to do was on a Saturday or Sunday morning, [I’d] go to Atomic Books and buy a huge stack of zines and mini-comics, and go to the cafe around the corner and sit and have breakfast,” Ray said. “While you can still go to the cafe around the corner, going to the cafe around the corner with an iPod and some Web comics isn’t exactly the same fun.”