The History of Zinelibrary.info
as told by pirate to library researchers from San Jose State University. Attached in pdf form is their report on Zinelibrary.info.
1)What is the story of how the site came to be?
The early history of the site came by chance. I printed zines at the local college computer lab in Olympia. I was the guy printing out books and multiple copies strictly against the rules. I was the guy who said “I’m almost done printing” and printed out 200 more pages.
I hogged the computer lab printers to the point that they removed Pagemaker from the computers. I had no other free way to print my zines without pagemaker being on those computers. I started to make pdf files to print out in the computer lab.
The first pdf files all the pictures were dark and not very esthetically pleasing. I was embarrassed about my zines looking crappy with black rectangles for pictures.
Meanwhile Adobe corporation realized their pdf file format had serious font and format issues. Pdf files weren’t pictures of the pages, those images rested on your computer’s fonts and printing defaults. Our first homemade pdf files suffered from basic layout issues in the pdf file format.
The early zines on the site came from the Olympia Zine Library. Anarchists traveling through Cascadia brought in a lot of zines. People from Olympia traveled to places with zines and brought them back with them.
The Olympia Zine library moved a couple of times and I helped it unpack in the back of a local bookstore. While going through the zines I realized that many of them were becoming rare and that a history was recorded in them.
At that time I had made a handful of zines myself and put them online. I also formatted historical anarchist writings from Anarchy Archives and put them into pamphlet form.
I got some web space with Mutual aid.org, an anarchist webserver collective, and I taught myself basic html and how to use html editing software. I made a basic site with links to the zine pdf files.
An anarchist printing collective in Indiana wanted to share their zines with us on our website. We realized that we could share zines in pdf file format and that we could print each other’s zines. We made an online collection together. Our local zines could be distributed on the internet.
Other sites like Zabalaza out of South Africa, Workers Solidarity Movement in Ireland and Schnews out of the UK inspired us. These sites already had pdf files and the concept of decentralized printing. The idea to make a library of anarchist pdf files came from us collaborating. People could make an infoshop of printed out zines in their town with the zines from the site.
I went to the Olympia Zine Library and checked out hundreds of zines to scan. I had to teach myself how to scan the zines.
We added hundreds of zines to the site anyways. I would get some beer, turn on some music and scan zines all night. We have pdf file formatted hundreds of zines since then. Our first zines weren’t scanned that well. Quiver Distro labeled our first zines as “poorly scanned” when they put them on their site.
When we started the site we had lots of decisions to make. Were we going to layout the zines for reading on the internet or printing? Were we going to commercialize the site like other anarchist distros? Were we selling a product, or were we sharing history and building a library. Were we going to try to make a living off our political beliefs?
I was stubborn and insisted that the zines would be better if they could be reproduced on home printers. Information being free has also been important to us. A lot of anarchist texts are only on the internet. A focus of mine was to get anarchist ideas off the internet and into the street. This was a means to that end.
Meanwhile our site was hacked by hacker thugs. The content of the zines has made them a target of reactionary hackers throughout the site’s existence. Each time our library got hacked and destroyed we built a better site after it.
One of us hooked up a php site through Meta-Mute. This site was really ugly and limited and we didn’t really know what we were doing with it. We posted hundreds of zines to the site.
Then we switched to Mambo (website content management software) and built our own php site. One of us learned how to install it. Mambo had tons of problems and most features we couldn’t use or didn’t work well. This site got hacked numerous times.
Meanwhile drupal came along and we didn’t use it because we had to rely on someone else to install and configure it. We chose to go with Joomla, the system that came after Mambo. Joomla had almost as many problems.
I attempted to update the Joomla site and crashed it. Mutual aid.org, our host, didn’t get back to us with tech support. It looked like the site had died.
I looked into drupal and convinced myself that I could learn how to install it and rebuild the site. I found out it wasn’t as intimidating as I thought it might be. I successfully installed Drupal and then had the biggest data entry job of my life ahead of me making a website entry for each zine. We’ve also started adding pictures of the zine covers to most zines.
The site is much more participatory now that people can post zines and make comments. Now we have zines coming in from Europe and elsewhere. We are figuring out ways for the site to grow beyond the English language and have included multiple languages. We would like for the site to be open to zines in any language much like a-infos. We can create whole sections of the site for each language.
2) When was the site established?
I think around 2002
3) Who designed the site?
The site has gone through many designs. Drupal theme developers designed the current layout.
4) Who operates the site? How is it funded?
The zine library is funded out of pocket. We haven’t ever asked for money from site visitors. We want to free information not commodify it. The costs to host the site aren’t much.
5) The languages of several countries are represented on this site. Are many of the readers/contributors from these countries?
6) Zines are usually a tactile and often local phenomenon. What do you think changes in an electronic representation of zines?
I think a lot changes when zines are digitized. The quality can change, the local connection to the zine (like inside jokes and local references), the author not having to pay to print and ship zines, the reader not having to buy the zine. There are lots of differences with scanned zines, but not so much with computer generated imposed zines. Zine makers have also done great experimenting with papermaking, binding, and other layout features that mostly gets lost in digitized form.
7) How would you describe the website’s daily traffic?
8) Do you have statistics on your most viewed zines? If so what are they?
I think “Anarchism in Action” by Shawn Ewald is the most popular zine we’ve ever had.
9) Zines are often a labor of love, not intent on generating profit. Do you think this encourages zine creators to upload content to the site?
Yes. Most often now it is the authors of the zines who post them to the site. I think it is because we are not making money off the zines and distributing them for free as is, that appeals to zine makers to share. Zines online for free relieves the zine maker from having to pay printing and shipping costs to make and distribute a zine. We don’t offer many zines because their authors don’t want them on the internet for free.
10) Approximately how many zines are uploaded per month on average?
11) Who is the target user of the site?
Because we are a library that is not selling stuff, we don’t have a target user or research user demographics. The library has a focus on anarchist literature and thought.
12) Is all content user-generated or do library administrators also upload content?
13) Can you describe the purpose of the "hidden" section?
The hidden section came from indymedia where articles are not deleted (censored) they are un-featured or “hidden.” It is to show transparency in editorial decisions. Mostly the hidden zines are duplicates.
14) Who determines if submitted material is inappropriate?
The site editors. Sometimes we get emails about zines that shouldn’t be available for different reasons. We look into it.