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Creating Traditional vs. Online Zines, continued

As mentioned earlier, most paper zines are physical manifestations of an obsession. Used to draw comics on the bathroom walls of your high school, but now you've graduated? Start a zine. Need to share your Southern Gothic poetry with the unenlightened locals? Make a zine.

The point is, zine creators relish the chance to pour their time and energy into the project. The physical manipulation of artwork and copy is a small price to pay for self-expression, and the difficulty of rearranging a layout inspires the creator to be certain of her decisions. The time and care needed to make a paper zine initially seem like drawbacks, but they may actually be attractive qualities of the process.

Duplication costs still loom large for the paper zine-maker, as does the price of distribution. Ironically, this may be where the tables are turned on the Web-based e-zine. Once online, viewers are accustomed to getting their Web information for free. Aside from selling ad space, e-zines don't make money. Sure, an e-zine can request a "registration fee" for viewing, but there's rarely a compelling reason to keep a viewer from simply leaving the site to visit a free e-zine20.

Part of the appeal of traditional zines is that they constitute the backbone of a community where zine-for-zine trades and barter are as common as cash21. There seems to be an understanding that the creator of a zine deserves to recoup at least some duplication and distribution costs, if not actually break even. This takes much of the sting out of the financial end of the process.

This leads to an aspect of paper zines that is mostly lacking online. There is a cultural connection between creator and reader22. A physical exchange of money (or zines, or bootleg cassettes, or whatever) has occurred, and each member of the transaction gets something out of it. In many cases, the creator has control over who receives his zine23, a luxury not associated with e-zines.

A sort of phantom benefit of creating limited-run paper zines instead of online e-zines is this: The creator can use copyrighted material with relative impunity. This comes in handy when appropriating clip-art from magazines and books. E-zines, with their worldwide distribution, are more susceptible to complaints from the owners of the original copyrighted artwork. However, a paper zine with a print run of two hundred is hardly worth the money and effort required to sue for copyright infringement. Whereas this may not be beneficial to the copyright holder, it surely is for the zine-maker.

No doubt about it, putting a zine on the World Wide Web is easier and cheaper than printing one up on paper. The traditional paper zine has several ancillary benefits, though, that make it an attractive option for the zine-maker. The two media choices are different enough to prevent a whole lot of competition, so both paper zines and e-zines will probably continue well into the future.

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Home What's a zine? Traditional zines Online zines Traditional vs. Online My tale Resources