Introduction The publishing world is a competitive industry that is constantly changing and adapting to new methods of publication and

distribution of media. In this heavily commercialized world there is the Independent Publishing Resource Center (referred to as IPRC from here forth). Located in the city of Portland, Oregon, the IPRC created a community based around media, giving a voice to authors that are commonly ignored by big name publishing houses. In our cities, each person observes around three thousand advertisements a day. While creating and distributing media artifacts in an already over-saturated world is difficult, independent publishing leads the way in the fight to create new media that would not be published in any other way. While zines, comics, art pieces and photography may contain subject material that is too controversial or potentially offensive for the mainstream, the IPRC allows its members to explore the boundaries and uses of the First Amendment to its fullest extent. Independent media coming from the IPRC and other resource centers around the world see the need for media that is not shown by the mainstream because of its controversial nature or the fact that many people see it as unprofessional. While these pre-conceived notions are incorrect in many ways, there is part of the independent movement that fails to live up to the standards of the professional world and in some cases remains stagnant against the multi-billion dollar companies that create media on a nearly factory like scale. In today’s society that seems to be centered around either the creation or consumption of media, creating a new community to spread independent media is a one of the primary goals of the IPRC. In this paper we will show how independent media coming from the IPRC and other resource centers has many difficulties and the types of things that they are doing in order to challenge the norm of big publishers dominating the market. Throughout history print


media has given voice to those opinions that have no other avenue to reach their audience. The concept of community media will be explored and how places like the IPRC are expanding and contributing to the world of community media and the independent publishing. In an effort to focus on creation, distribution, media rights and ownership, research of the IPRC and zine community was done in order to see how those things factor into the creation of a community. The IPRC, community media, and independent creators are creating new communities that are formed by the use of media and the distribution throughout preexisting communities. Through the advocacy of creating art and an area where people can work, the IPRC has created a community solely based on the use of creating and spreading media throughout the Portland-Metro area. The IPRC is the next form of community media through sharing zines, comics, websites, books, and other publications sending a message to anyone willing to look at what is on the page. We are dealing with ink media (things printed; text, drawing, image) and the way that these things are passed to people in a physical form. Unlike community TV or radio which isn't archived very often, all work created at the IPRC has a spot in its library, along with submitted works that weren't created at the center.

History of the IPRC Beginning in 1998, the Independent Publishing Resource Center, a nonprofit center, has worked hard to develop an area for people to create art and group people together based on the “growth of a visual and literary publishing community”( Creating a community of artists within the larger community of Portland and contributing to the idea that the creation of community is done with media like zines, hand-bound books, comics, and artwork, the IPRC is more than just a resource center. Giving people a place to work, the center provides 2

access to computer workstations, copiers, letterpresses, a binding machine, along with all the materials that may be necessary to create the forms of media that are typically seen at the center. The IPRC also has an art gallery and a large zine library that is constantly growing. Along with the workspace, workshops ranging from bookbinding to copyright law are given often. Additionally the area is also available for members to create groups and smaller communities. The intention of the people running the center is that the media that is created by members will entice more people to join, create new work and helps the community grow. Establishing itself in the already art rich community of Portland, the IPRC had to bring something new to the people. They did this by getting lead type presses, bookbinding equipment, and computer workstations with high-end software, things that are relatively difficult to find and are generally prohibitively expensive. The tools that they provide are not something that every individual can afford and often occupy too much space for an average residence. By making these things public to anyone that received the minimal required training, members spread word of the facilities to their audiences. Growing with each person that said their work was created at the IPRC, a library was the next step in expansion. Building a library for the zines created was not a new idea, as many other public libraries in the Portland-Metro area have zine sections in their catalogues. The IPRC wanted to create a library that would exclusively house zines and wouldn't restrict content, as well as operate outside of the public library. Because many zines are ephemeral and have a limited lifetime, creating a place that would wrap them in plastic and categorize and catalog them was an important thing for the creators and readers of zines in the Portland area. This gave new zine publishers a vast amount of previous work to look at so they could improve the craft of their own publications. More that 5,500 self-published and independently produced 3

publications greet you walking through the open doors of the IPRC. Relying on membership dues, grants, and donations to fund the center, the IPRC is essentially like most other community media organizations and receives very little from government. Under the title of being an Oregon 501(c)(3) Nonprofit organization, funds are limited and whether or not the center is running a particular day relies entirely upon volunteers. With a sliding scale for yearly memberships, it can cost anywhere from $45-$100. With those fees comes training and access to all of the workshops, resources, workspace, and zine library, along with the chance to participate in certificate programs in independent publishing and weekly workshops. Again the purpose of all of this is to basically flood the market with new publications as often as possible in order to compete with major publishing companies that have the money to advertise on a grand scale and get into chain stores like Barnes & Noble or popular web stores like The IPRC is housed in a small office with three rooms, all of them very small, and a one room gallery/board room across the hallway. With the constant growth of zines, comics and books coming out of the IPRC, this area is quickly becoming inadequate for their needs. For the 12 years that the center has been around, it has grown in size, yet a large portion of the local population is still unaware of its existence. Attempting to spread its name and the knowledge the collective center possesses, the IPRC has launched the Media Action Project, or MAP, which is an Outreach team focusing on teaching “media literacy, critical thinking and zine-making skills to teenagers”(IPRC 4). Along with being a community in itself, the center and the people that are part of it actively want the membership to grow and become stronger. With larger membership comes more funds and therefore better materials, equipment, and space. The danger of creating controversial media though is the fact that some people will fail to see any artistic side or the media activist side of the situation. Perhaps the community can 4

change that though.

The Zine Community The question of community is a very compelling one. The dictionary defines community as: a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage. Basically this means that a community is anything that you want it to be. This is wholly unhelpful when trying to define something like community media. The thing to remember is that community media isn’t something that’s produced by a bunch of media enthusiast, but rather media that services a certain group of individuals based in interest or geography. Communities are defined by their members and can be grouped and divided based on the preferences and biases of the individuals belonging. By looking at the world of print media, community print has become more important than ever. The increased proliferation of the Internet in modern lives has diluted the significance of the messages that it carries. That is not to say that the Internet isn’t a critical communications tool in our lives. No other medium has ever made so much content so readily available to so many. However the massive amount of that content causes users difficulty in disseminating the value of the information. Print on the other hand has become far less prevalent in our society, and we tend to encounter it far lees often. Print is generally more expensive to produce, ship, maintain and store than electronic media. This results in the perception that community print media, commonly called zines, operates outside the market and its profit motives (Dodge, 1995), giving the messages contained an increased sense of value to its audience. Zine culture is often discounted for its marginal or poor production value, in the same 5

way that community access radio and television are criticized. However when communities find a media provider that serves its needs their tendency is to support it. Communities support and finance these independent media outlets where members can improve their craft and produce higher quality media artifacts. Refining typographic style, page layout, editorial design, illustration and photography are all skills that are learned in print, and taught at the IPRC. One of the defining elements of web based media is that it somehow has to fit into the limited structure of how web browsers can display information. Simply speaking this structure is based on a flexible matrix of rectangles. A box with text or a box with and image is essentially what your seeing when you look at the web. Many creative works have been created for the web using this series of boxes. Now there are even template sites where the boxes have been placed if visually pleasing, if not somewhat innocuous places just waiting for content. Contrast that with print where there are no limitations. Image and type can be set at any angle or size, in any color, value or texture imaginable. This gives the zine producer personal authorship over, not only content, but also the entire construction of their media artifact. This ownership contributed to creativity and the overall Do It Yourself (DIY) mentality that surrounds zine culture. Another advantage of zine culture is its appeal to young people. The beginning zinester only requires a very simple set of tools to get started, and as skills develop more complicated publishing techniques can be incorporated. It allows young people to circulate their publications amongst their groups of peers with less fear of their messages being misinterpreted by outside individuals. A place like the IPRC further supports the young zinester by providing selected hours for only ages 8-18. Giving young people the opportunity to develop their skills without the intimidation of older individuals encourages youth to focus 6

on issues that concern them. It also helps to instill a sense of free speech at a younger age. Many young people have a lot of thoughts and ideas about the media, free speech and that world around them. They very often suffer from an inability to express these ideas in ways that would appeal to older generations. Titles like Fucktooth, Lardass and My Own Cum would be less likely to exist were they subjected to the disapproving conservatism of older generations. It also encourages free speech outside of the realm of the profane. Many controversial issues confront today’s youth that they aren’t exactly comfortable talking about with older generations. Questions of sexuality, race and social justice can be securely expressed and consumed via the youth zine community. Another advantage of printed media is the variety of ways that it can address its audience. A combination of humor, metaphor, personal narrative, cartooning, poetry and direct address are commonly employed in the construction of zines. Often times an individual is unable to express, usually due to a lack of formal training or controversial content, in other community access mediums like radio, cable and newspapers(Poletti, 2005). In almost every community media avenue available there is a gatekeeper. Weather is an editor who is focused on readership and advertising or the FCC whose goal is to protect media consumers from dangerous content; somewhere along the way someone has the authority to censor content. The need for these gatekeepers is understandable, when considering the high costs associated with running broadcast or traditional print media, and require a certain amount of protection if they are to continue. Comparatively, the individuals that are providing and distributing the content can produce zines relatively inexpensively. An individual is a lot more likely to take a risk when $20 worth of materials and a few hours time are at stake versus several thousand dollars and several persons livelihoods. The amount of people that can consume a particular zines content is not limited by the lower costs to produce. Because of 7

the ephemeral yet personal nature of zines they tend to be read and passed along. People recognize a zine as the work of a few, or even just one person and tend to hold it in higher esteem than they might a magazine or newspaper that is produced by hundreds of faceless people. Another major advantage of the zine community is its limited and somewhat underground distribution. Intellectual property rights are a legal quagmire that stifles creativity. Zining on the other hand makes common use of collage, pastiche, homage and critique in the construction of its artifacts. Within the zine culture a person can learn, expand and critique others work much more safely because they are generally circulated amongst friends and other zine enthusiasts. That is not to say that the zine community disrespects others intellectual property, but rather that they are less likely to be noticed by larger media conglomerates and thusly be much less of a target for them. This can occasionally hinder people finding out about places like the IPRC because when people keep zine runs intentionally small less people come into contact with that particular zine and are les likely to find out where and how it was made.

Major Versus Independent Publishing The United States is a country that is very much centered on its various media outlets. The spectrum of media institutions runs from community, nonprofit outlets to major corporations. For the most part, the major news and entertainment media are owned by 5 corporations: Disney, Time Warner, Bertelsmann, Viacom and News Corporation. The spectrum of ownership and control in the publishing sector, which is part of the media, also constitutes a continuum that runs from non-profit community type publishers, to major publishing corporations operating on traditional profit motives. At the corporate end are 8

companies like Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, and Random House, which are owned by News Corporation, Viacom and Bertelsmann, respectively. At the nonprofit end of the spectrum are institutions like the Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) in Portland Oregon. The following is a comparison between the IPRC and corporate publishing in general. The categories for comparison include artistic freedom, cost and accessibility, community involvement, profits and structure, and overall purpose. The goals of the IPRC and corporate publishing are essentially polar opposites. As stated on its website, the IPRC…facilitates creative expression and identity by providing individual access to the resources and tools for the creation of independently published media and art…dedicated to encouraging the growth of a visual and literary publishing community by offering a space to gather and exchange information and ideas, as well as to produce work. The language of this mission statement is very community oriented. Terms such as “offering space” and “exchange information and ideas” suggest a shared use of ideas and commodities, which occurs when the profit motive is removed from the pursuits of an organization. Normally, within the context of capitalism, space is not offered, only sold on the basis of supply and demand. Ideas are typically protected and become “intellectual property”. The income of the IPRC consist of the revenue generated by workshop fees, membership fees and donations, which are used to continue to facilitate the growth of the artistic community. On the other hand, corporate publishers have the same goal as any corporate enterprise: profits. The profit motive is the one thing that drives the corporate sector to keep producing. Each corporate publisher may have their own specific goals based on the types of products they are creating or their target audience, but the fundamental goal is the same for each and obviously drastically different than an institution like the IPRC. A statement made by Michael Eisner, the CEO of Walt Disney Co., sums this up the best, “We have no obligation to 9

make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective.”(Stewart, 2005) The differences between the IPRC and corporate publishing, in terms of cost and accessibility, are not quite what one would expect. Companies like Random House and Harper Collins do not accept unsolicited manuscripts and publish relatively few of the total number they see. In order for an artist to publish his or her work it is necessary to hire a literary agent who then represents the artist to publishers. If the publishing company decides to publish the book, and assuming it makes money, 8 -15% of the sales profit goes to the author, 45-55% goes to the publisher, 10% goes to the distributor and 40% goes to retailers.(Strauss, 2011) While the artist receives the smallest portion of the dividends they aren’t responsible for any of the up front costs to print and distribute the work. Getting the work published is another story. Out of every 10,000 manuscripts submitted for publication, 3 are chosen(Harper, 2004). Also, the trend in corporate publishing is toward fewer titles and more profits. Big name authors are chosen for publication because of their proven potential as moneymakers. At the IPRC the cost and accessibility of publishing are very much determined by the individual’s income and initiative. Publishing equipment and workspace are available at a $5 dollar hourly rate or on a $45-$100 dollar sliding scale, depending on what fits the artist’s needs. Participation in workshops is also fee based. Of course the fees go into maintaining the programs, workspace and equipment. Some of the equipment, like the binding machine and letterpress, can only be used if an individual has completed the workshop, and can only be used without assistance if the individual has been fully trained. The entire community of artists is able to produce and publish, and also enjoy the diverse array of art by exercising their creative or artistic freedom. Creative freedom is hampered by major publishers by virtue of the fact that their fundamental purpose in 10

publishing is creating a profit and not a work of art. This significantly narrows the range of what they are willing publish and thus how much creative license they are willing to give artists over their own work. Big publishers often intervene by not allowing the author final copy approval, not allowing the author to choose a title and fail to consult the author on cover art and book design. Another restriction on output can be discovered by starting with the publishing company and backtracking to the parent corporation. In the case of Harper Collins, which is owned by News Corporation, one can image that certain ideas would not be published for ideological reasons. The IPRC’s goals are to foster creative freedom. While no person is ever physically barred from using the facilities in the IPRC, the fees and training required may prevent some people from using the equipment as easily as others, In this way the IPRC can be seen s a gated community that only allows those with the required funds to enter and create the publication that they want to. People are free to create any sort of publication the want, in fact there is no preference given to one artist’s creations over another’s. While certain artifacts may be included in the adjacent gallery, they are in no way reflective of all of the creations coming from the IPRC. The IPRC is responsive to the artistic public’s demands for new techniques and innovations related to publishing and art in general. While the center has every desire and intention to expand and buy new material, as is usually the case with independent media, they simply lack the ability to do so. One final difference between the IPRC and corporate publishing is in the area of community engagement. The IPRC supports all of the arts and attempts to give a voice to everyone. Musicians, sculptors, animators, filmmakers and industrial designers are all able to communicate to their audiences via the print services provided by the IPRC. Even persons wanting to publish material of a non-artistic nature use the facilities. Community newsletters, 11

political commentary, local advertising, alternative history, and social campaigning are also produced and distributed by members of the IPRC.

Conclusion The IPRC is a place of creation and strives to be a place where people can do what they want and be comfortable making media that may not fit the norm. The world of media is constantly changing and adapting to fit the technology of the times. As this continues, new media will be created and creators will be found in the most common places. There is a need for new and traditional media to converge to make better and smarter media that will bring people together and reinforce the communities that are centered around the media that already exists. In the research that has been shown above, there are obvious challenges to overcome and it will not be easy for independent publishers to compete with big name publishing houses. Key differences include the willingness to work together instead of competing against one another. The communities that are centered around the IPRC and independent publishing want all members to succeed and will not try to hinder the progress of the movement for their own profit. The DIY culture of zines is meant to be seen next to the mainstream media in a way that people will see all sides of an issue and be introduced and aware of art that may not be shown in large galleries. Independent media is often pushed away and seen as unprofessional or cheap, but this viewpoint needs to change and the products of the IPRC need to be seen as more than just alternatives to mainstream media. In contrast, independent publishers need to not see themselves as superior, but attempt to be equal to what the mainstream publishers are. The IPRC is a resource center that will advance the media world and make it so that more people become both consumers and producers rather than one or the other. By 12

enabling all people to make the media that they want to see there is no room for anyone to say that they can't do anything to affect the media world. The growing IPRC is an invaluable resource for all independent creators and is a great place where new communities are created, and with the multitudes of media that are being created, people are connecting outside of the center through the work that is coming out the building. Independent media can only be seen as an equal when people realize that lack of funds doesn't mean lack of quality. The stigma around do-yourself-projects is one that likely won't go away anytime soon. But that needs to change and people need to see that consumer created media is the way of the future and makes the media world better by having more sources. Along with creating new communities and spreading communities through this media, there is nothing bad about the rise of independent media.


Sources: Dodge, Chris. (1995). Pushing the boundaries: zines and libraries. Wilson library bulletin, 69, 26-30. Poletti, Anna. (2005). Self publishing in the global and local:situating life writing in zines. Biography, 28(1), 183-192. Stewart, James B. (2005). Disney war. Simon & Schuster. Harper, Tara K. (2004). On publishers and getting published. Retrieved from Strauss, Victoria. (2011, May 31). Contract red flag: net profit royalty clauses. Retrieved from Various Contributors. IPRC May & June Catalogue and Zine 2011 IPRC