ePubs as digital and spiritual successor for print zines?
I miss the old days of finding unique material in weird places. Walking into a comic store, an old books store or a zine library and finding something weird and unique someone had made. It was then a further challenge to find more of that person's work. It was exciting. While it is true that you get a similar thing with the web, the same kind of serendipitous discovery, it is missing the same excitement, there is less of an urgency to try and track someone down. Maybe it's because we feel that if it's worth seeing or knowing, it will have some sort of presence on the web. A quick google search of any artist and you will instantly get a smattering of their work.
At the same time I don't think I would exchange the benefits of the web, to satisfy my desire to find some obscure zine in a dusty old box at the back of a store. I just wonder if there is any way to recreate the magic of that old scenario. I think there might be. Let me try to explain.
Zines were printed as cheaply as possible, it wasn't an aesthetic in itself (although it did become that later) it was a necessity. People had a message or an idea they wanted to get out, and they did that on their own terms. Zines are still around, however you're more likely to find silkscreened covers than quick and dirty black and white ones.
I think we have become so in love with the aesthetic of zines that maybe we have forgotten their essential nature, to get a chunk of information out to as many people as possible. They're are also collectible, you can own them, you can follow them, you can make strange connections between them. Maybe initially we thought blogs might be able to fill this electronic space, but I propose that instead of blogs it's eBooks.
I've been interested in comic ebooks since I first heard about musicians selling their songs through iTunes in the mid-2000s. Then again around 2010-2012 when iPads, Kindles, and Kobo e-readers started entering the market. It took me until 2015 to finally create a comic epub file and offer it online. And now six years, later I'm getting back into it again.
Overall these years it has been a slow slog of progress. Most readers (me included) still prefer print. It has a lot of advantages. However, like I have said previously, it's a strange kind of logic. I can think of lots of examples with media where one format or type is better than another, but it doesn't exclude those subsequent formats. For example, a live music performance may be better than a recording, but we don't limit ourselves to live shows only. In that way, a print comic may be better than an ebook, but that shouldn't exclude ebooks as an option.
Ebooks have these advantages over print books (especially for independent artists)
- No need to print more copies than you may send up selling
- The book never goes out of print (unless you want it to)
- Easier for the artist to focus on creation rather than inventory management
- No high shipping costs (especially for artists on the other side of the world)
- Can be purchased from anywhere with the internet (For those that don't live near a book or comic store)
- No need to host/sell the books yourself, as they can be sold through online book stores
- They don't take up physical space, important if,
- you move a lot of
- Have limited space in your home
When you think about digital comics you first thought might be a PDF. PDFs may be good for documents but there is a better format for digital books and it's internationally recognised and open format EPUB standard. Better still, for comics, there are the Fixed-Layout epub files. What this means is that each page is static and can not be resized by the user.
ePub is an internationally recognised file format and is the format of choice of online eBook stores. It's also an open format, which means you don't need proprietary software to create it. It's this fact that I think makes it sit well with zine philosophy, a little bit of knowledge of HTML and CSS, and the right free software and you're good to go.