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Use this guide as a starting point for research on zines and as an introduction to major zine collections. This guide will help you locate zines and materials about zines at Charles Library, in other libraries, and in online databases.


cover of zine

By their nature, zines resist categorization and cataloging. Zines are innumerable, largely self published, and printed in small runs. No guide could ever provide a comprehensive review of the world of zines. This guide intends, however, to provide an introduction to the most useful resources available for anyone interested in studying zines and their place in popular culture or simply finding out more about them. 

This guide will show you how to locate zines and works about zines in our library and in the collections of other libraries and will introduce you to helpful Internet resources.

Many thanks to Margery Sly and Jill Luedke for their invaluable resource suggestions.

What Is a Zine?

Short for “fanzine” or “magazine,” a zine is a noncommercial, often homemade, mini magazine. Zines are published in small print runs. One definition includes that a zine must have a circulation of under 5,000 copies and most zines are produced in editions of under 1,000. As zines are not typically made to turn a profit, they can often give expression to views and interests outside the cultural mainstream. 

The term zine first appeared in the 1930s, as an abbreviation of “fanzine,” referring to the small, self published science fiction fan magazines that emerged in this period. Science fiction fanzines, or zines, grew steadily in importance from the 1930s to the 1960s. 

The 1960s, with its increase in political activism, also saw a surge in self published political papers, laying the groundwork for a later zine culture. Punk zines emerged in the late 1970s as part of the punk movement. These zines developed the photocopied, cut-and-paste style that has come to be associated with zines. In the 1980s, the zine Factsheet Five began cataloging and reviewing zines, helping to form a network of zine creators and readers. In the early 1990s the Riot Grrrl scene encouraged an explosion of feminist zines, which captured the attention of the mainstream. 

In the late 1990s, the rise of the Internet, with its new opportunities for self publication, curtailed the pop culture influence of the zine. Internet publishing also led to an eventual resurgence of interest in the zine as a material art object and as a craft, however. The current period has therefore seen a rise in the publication of art zines. Zines, past and present, have also increasingly come to be studied in academia and collected by libraries, as they offer invaluable access to often marginalized voices, practices, and subcultures.