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Boatwright Memorial Library

Zines!: What's a Zine?

Introduction to zines, including researching and making zines

What is a Zine?

While there is no standard definition for a zine (pronounced "zeen"), it is typically described as a self-published, handmade, or small press booklet that is photocopied and distributed in relatively small quantities for the purpose of sharing ideas, experiences, and perspectives, often of historically marginalized or underrepresented subcultures and social movements. Short for fanzine, zines can encompass a variety of subjects such as music, cooking, gardening, politics, tv shows, travel, personal journals, or anything of interest to the zinester (the person who made the zine). Zines can be filled with drawings, photos, poetry, prose, interviews, comics—unedited viewpoints and personal experiences of the zinester—and are most often photocopied, folded, and stapled. Due to the do-it-yourself (DIY) nature of zines, they are not scholarly or peer reviewed, nor are they part of the mainstream publishing industry.

In this guide you can learn about the history of zines, how to research zines, where to find zines in your community and other libraries, and how to make your own zine.

Nina Nijsten's Definition of a Zine

An image of handwritten text defining what a zine is

Nijsten, Nina. Scissors & Chainsaws No. 2 : Diary Comic Zine Made in July 2020 During International Zine Month. Gent, Belgium: Nina Nijsten, 2020.

(image courtesy of Jenna Freedman at Barnard College)

The (Not So) Secret History of Zines

The Secret History of Zines interactive story map

This interactive story map created as part of the Zines to the Future! exhibit at California State University whisks viewers through the beginnings of zines, to the present, and beyond!

The Secret History of Zines

The World of Zines

The University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections breaks down some key milestones in the growth and development of zine culture:

The World of Zines

Zine Terms

Fanzine or Zine: independently produced, self-published work, often in the form of a photocopied, folded, and stapled booklet.

Perzine: Short for personal zine. A zine that contains one's own personal thoughts, experiences, and observations.

Zinester: A person who makes zines.

Zine Distro: Short for zine distribution. Distros are small distribution organizations, often run by an individual out of their home. They may sell zines to individuals via mail order or ship zines to independent bookstores.

What Isn't a Zine?

Blogs! Blogs are not zines. Check out this article written by Barnard College zine librarian, Jenna Freedman, which should help you differentiate between the two.

Zines Are Not Blogs: A Not Unbiased Analysis by Jenna Freedman

Book Arts Program Director

Profile Photo
Jen Thomas
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.