12 thoughts on “Why We’re Not Digitizing Zines”

  1. I think your fourth point is actually more significant that you suggest. Think in terms of artist and fine press books, which have similar tactile qualities, and cannot to fully appreciated in a digital environment—the art of the book and the serendipity of archival discovery is also physical.

  2. Thanks for the insightful post Kelly. I’m going to put this on my class’ Blackboard site. We will soon be talking about reformatting and zines have already come up a few times in our last two classes.b

  3. This argument needs to be considered on a collection-by-collection basis rather than to suggest that fanzines are too problematic to be scanned. Science fiction fanzines from before WWII or early comic, punk(and other music-related), or football(soccer) zines might actually be good candidates for scanning (and these 4 types probably account for over 95% of all fanzines ever created).

  4. Thanks Beth. I’d like to add that there are zine sites that scan and archive zines without permission, although there are none I would endorse, and that I think it’s fine for a library to choose not to do so.

    I do want to challenge the idea that digitized zines would have to be available online to everyone. I think that it would be great if a library could scan zines for on site research, including indexing and abstracting them. From my understanding of copyright law this would not be a legal problem. I also understand this would be a tremendous effort that is devalued because it would not be put on the web for free, and libraries simply don’t have the money to do that.

    To personalize this, I founded a zine library in Olympia WA in 1997 and am now a young adult librarian. I have published over 50 zines and despite buying at least three scanners over the years, I have never gotten around to digitizing my own zines or even making copies for the library I started. I lean towards the idea of selling a cheap cd of all my content, indexed and annotated by me at 30, rather than making it available online for free. While this is probably a horrible idea, I’m more comfortable with the idea of people making copies than posting stuff online. It will probably always be that way.

  5. This is a phenomenal piece that has articulated so many of the things that have been in my mind for the past couple of years. Thank you!

    Particularly with regards to privacy and the information age, I think this is an extremely important discussion.

    I would love to meet someday and talk more.

  6. I am left pondering several questions:

    1. In what ways is having a zine available in a library collection for uses in research different than making them available in a digital format on the web? Does the library seek permission? Are there different laws surrounding the distribution and collection of zines within an academic setting, i.e. class or university library?

    2. Historical Record. When does it become a matter of preserving an invaluable historical record? Zines have represented for so many women (and men), including myself, an incredible means of self expression, distribution of thought, community building and riotously joyful activism. It is a record that I know I want preserved for future generations. Where would be without the personal letters between Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady-Stanton? How do we balance the needs of the future with the indivdual needs of the now? How does one navigate this tension?

  7. I’m coming back to this (fantastic) posting while writing a paper on copyright in libraries, and I’m struck by the fact that complete non-digitization and posting to the Internet, to be seen and copied by all, are seen as the only options. I would argue that a middle path is available – why not provide digital copies to be used within the Duke Libraries only? I’m thinking of the digital copies as “access” copies, so the original items might be spared some wear and tear…

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