Who and What We Are

Xerography Debt is a review zine for zine readers by zine writers (and readers). It is a hybrid of review zine and personal zine (the ancestor to many blogs). The paper version has been around since 1999. This blog thing is are attempt to bridge the gap between Web 2.0 and Paper 1.0. Print is not dead, but it is becoming more pixelated.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Support is a Lot More than Bras and Jock Straps [introduction to Xerography Debt #36]

I’d been pondering the intro for this issue for a few weeks and was getting a bit nervous when my usual, “something will come to me” approach wasn’t working. The deadline for this issue was Sept. 15, 2014. So there I was, at the Bomba Estereo show in Philadelphia at 11:30pm on Sept. 15, not a word of this  introduction written, and not really thinking about anything when I had what Japanese Buddhists refer to as satori1, but on a much smaller scale. I had a sudden, unexpected, fully formed idea surrounding one word: Support.

The concert ended about 60 seconds later and as we emerged into the night air I told Patrick he had the first shift driving home because I had to write the intro to XD. Thankfully, as a fellow writer and editor he didn’t see this as aberrant behavior on my part. My love of spiders is another story.

Within the pages of this zine we’ve discussed time and again the ideas of community and supporting zines. This zine’s very essence speaks to that. If we had a mission statement the word support would be used, probably more than once. But what does support really mean?

Oftentimes support is seen as strictly financial – buying zines or funding a Kickstarter campaign, but that isn’t always an option for everyone, nor the only option. In my eyes support is showing up at a reading or signing to support not only friends but any author or publisher you respect. It means writing a letter to say how much you enjoyed a new issue (or book). It means writing a review or telling other people about zines you admire.

I once went to a show where only a small handful (literally) of people showed up. The band played as if they had a full house. They earned twice my respect that night. Zines can be like that too. Often only a limited number of copies are published and if I am among that small audience I should be applauding loud enough for the writer to hear. We don’t do this in a vacuum, but sometimes it can feel like it.

In the last several months three writers I know have been dealing with some heartbreaking problems. I’ve attempted to offer support in the ways I can and see that other members of their respective communities are doing the same. Sometimes support comes in the form of just listening and other times it is wine and potato chips.

Support, like much of life, is about showing up. So show up and support in whatever way you can. It matters.


PS - Also, you should give Bomba Estereo a listen.

“sudden enlightenment and a state of consciousness attained by intuitive illumination
representing the spiritual goal of Zen Buddhism” — Merriam-Webster

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


review from Anne: FUSE #1

16 pages, (1/4 page) 4.25 inches x 5.5 inches, $2.75 US /$3.25 Can/ Mex / World. No trades.
Lorna Watt
1515 Claremont Ave
San Mateo, CA 94402

Basically, this zine's about yarnbombing -- described by the authors as " a yarnbombing zine celebrating public arts of self-expression through yarn."  Color cover, neat layout & design, and a really interesting editors' letter on the inside front cover. There are some cool pictures (including the Great Moments of Yarnbombing page about the very cool Daughters of Triton pieces) and some pretty cool ideas for yarnbombing (like wee chicken feet on mailboxes -- as well as a thaumatrope yarnbomb, so you're not actually tampering with mailboxes!) as well as a call to action to be part of a yarnbombing project. It's a neat little start for a first zine and I'm excited to see what they do next; both authors say that they're new to zines and while the zine has a little bit of a disjointed feel (word searches and such) it's overall well designed and has a really catchy layout. If you're into yarnbombing, it's worth checking out (and in hopes that the next issue will be twice as long as the editors get more into zinemaking!).

DUMP #2 (2014)

review from Anne: DUMP #2 (2014)

60 pages, 6 inches x 9 inches, $2 US/ $2.50 Can/ Mex / ? world/ trades maybe
David Robertson
15 Elie Avenue
Dundee, Scotland DD5 3SF, UK

For starters, I can't believe this one's only $2. It's 60 pages, with slick bright red covers, and it's pretty substantial. It's a collection of the different comics that the author's composed (the title of the book comes from one of these stories, in which the main character works in a town landfill/dump), plus some collaborations with different authors (these are mostly one-page pieces written by the author and illustrated by other comics artists) and a 24 hour comic as well.These comics are black and white and they're straightforward and clear in terms of both image and flow. Again, it's a pretty amazing deal for such a well-printed title. It's a pretty sturdy thing -- a fast read, but it's a net collection of a number of various smaller projects. (Also, whoa, 60 pages!)

Sunday, September 14, 2014



16 pages, 1/8 page (2.5 x 4  inches), $2.50 US, $? CAN/MAX, $? world, trades yes March 2014

This zine is adorable. It's about a mustache that plays roller derby, who started out not knowing at all how to skate. Davida got a copy and immediately got in touch to tell me that I needed to read it -- I'm a derby ref heading into my 7th season! -- and it's so much fun to read! From the author: "This is a true story on how I became a junior roller derby girl. Everything is true except the fact about where I am a mustache. The little mustache had a long journey." I confess: I melted. The zine is super-cute even if you're not into derby; the author is a skater for a junior derby team (note: most junior derby has skater ranging in age from 6 or 7 until about 17) and the story is about a little mustache learning to skate and play roller derby, despite tricky things like tripping over it's curls while skating! Different copies are colored in (blue copy, red copy, etc.) and it's pretty cute. The author is 10 (I got a letter with my copy of the zine as well), and it's an awesome little zine by someone who's just starting out with zines. Recommended. (It's adorable!)

BROOKLYN #84 and #83

review from Anne: BROOKLYN #84 and #83

24 pages, 5.5 x 8.5 $10 for a 4 issue subscription
(PAYMENT IN CASH! Fred adds: US currency please!)
Fred Argoff
Penthouse L
1170 Ocean Parkway
Brooklyn NY 11230

More Brooklyn reviews! Say it with me, people: “The name of this zine is BROOKLYN and that's also what the zine is about, Fred's beloved borough of Brooklyn."

You should all know by now that I'm a long-term BROOKLYN fan at this point. I love that these always appear in my mailbox and I'm always curious as to what Fred will use for stamps -- usually Brooklyn-related zazzle.com stamps. Here's the thing: Brooklyn is always a combination of history, photography, and other Brooklyn related things, and it's a long-standing awesome series that's a fun read even if you're not a NY resident.

#84 contains pictures of a block party (okay, more than a few), the ever-popular Brooklyn Lexicon & Pronunciation Guide (#68, in fact), gargoyles in Brooklyn (yes, really!), a book review (about a book about Brooklyn!) and a Brooklyn version of  classic fable. (Plus some other surprises!)

#85 has a neat caveat: it's a whole issue of two-page spreads, which leads to fun, quick reading. Photos of subways, of architecture, Brooklyn nursery rhymes, another Brooklyn Lexicon & Pronunciation Guide, street art, random boulders (yup, you read that right), and some pictures of the Brooklyn Superhero Supply (well, it's the front for the amazing 826NYC, which is worth your time to Google and support.)

Always, always a fun read worth your time. So, whaddya waitin' for? Read some Brooklyn already!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Follow-Up to “What’s He Building in There” (the introduction to XD #35)

Over the last several weeks I’ve followed the continuing war between Hachette and Amazon, watching more and more of the publishing industry weigh in as the pundits make this national news. In the process, I realized I had a bit more to say about one of Amazon’s biggest falsehoods. I also want to talk a bit more about self-publishing/independent publishing/micro publishing/[insert your own nomenclature] and Amazon.

I am and have been an independent publisher since 1995. I’m involved in zine and book publishing. I’m wholly supportive of other publishers and authors. As a consumer, I do not support Amazon. I feel I need to make these points clear.

As a book distributor (my day job for the last 10+ years), I’ve learned that the idea of availability often trumps logic. I remember when publishers and authors felt like their books were only successful if they were on a store shelf – even if that store never sold a copy because the audience was wrong, and the copies would just come back as damaged returns. Now, authors fixate on Amazon showing their book as readily available, whether or not Amazon actually has copies in stock.

The idea of “in stock” and “ships in 24 hours” is a huge falsehood. The appearance of availability is a marketing tool, and it is one of Amazon’s best weapons. What people don’t realize is that most online vendors hold very few books in stock. What they do have is a lot of data and sophisticated supply chains. In its war with Hachette, Amazon has destroyed the myth of availability. Amazon took away one-click ordering, super-fast delivery, and pre-orders.

However, these books are just as available now as they were before – they just aren’t showing as available on Amazon. When you order from Amazon, very often that order is actually being fulfilled by a wholesaler. If you walk into your local bookstore and they don’t have what you want in stock, chances are they will order it for you, just like Amazon would have – just like Amazon does.


As a zine publisher, my print runs range from 100-500 copies. That is more than a lot of books published by major academic presses. Books published by academic presses are fully available to wholesalers, bookstores, and online retailers. The data is out there to make the books widely available within a variety of sales channels. The majority of zines, on the other hand, are not. But they often sell about the same numbers. Zine publishers tend to know their audience and have direct connection with readers. That is at the crux of so much of the strife – readers vs. consumers. How are you viewed by the literary businesses you support – as a reader or a consumer? Think about that for a minute.


I’m not looking to make a living off of any of my personal publishing endeavors. And that is where it gets tough for small publishers who are indeed trying to live off their writing. Amazon has built a system where that is possible. I don’t want to see that progress disappear. However, I remain steadfast that Amazon is detrimental to publishing and far too powerful. I hope that additional options are developed and utilized that help weaken Amazon’s death-grip on the publishing industry. I think that publishers of all sizes would benefit from that. I believe that can happen if people think about the options and look at the myths they are being sold. I also hope that publishers and authors look at the division Amazon has caused and repair those bridges.

Hopefully, once people stop thinking of Amazon as a primary source for books, publishers and readers will find each other again – ideally in local bookstores. Publishers, once you know who your readers are, the less likely you will need a monolithic company standing between you and them. Readers, local bookstores need you far more than Amazon needs you. Let’s fix this mess.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What’s He Building in There? [introduction to Xerography Debt #35]

By Davida Gypsy Breier

Where Are We? How Did We Get Here?
The following is my opinion, based on known facts and personal experience. It is born out of frustration and sorrow. I need to get this off my chest.
I’ve been involved in zines since 1994, with professional bookselling and publishing experience happening concurrently. My book publishing experience has been diverse, but my focus has primarily been distribution, marketing, and sales. I currently work for a large university press.
I watched as chain bookstores took over and killed off half of the independents. I saw Amazon emerge and begin eroding the chains’ power, seemingly as savior for publishers. I was there when Kindle began and I helped feed that gaping maw content. I was a bystander as once-maligned “vanity publishing” was re-branded and sold to the same people as vibrant “self-publishing.” I was witness to disruptive change from the inside.
Now, I sit here surveying the current landscape of publishing and can see the damage that has been done to books, to publishing, and even culture, and accept that I was (and perhaps still am) complicit in the destruction.
Before I continue, I feel I should declare my support of authors and publishers who would not have books or a readership if not for Amazon. I do not in any way begrudge them. Amazon did eliminate publishing’s gatekeepers and promoted an agenda of literary democracy. On the surface it sounded great. In hindsight, there is a dark side. The purpose of this essay is to provoke thought and discussion. To at least consider the future we are all building.

It Could Have Been Lamps
Amazon helped to destroy the traditional gatekeepers to publishing (something zines have done for decades). Amazon offers multiple publishing tools and visibility for publishers and authors. They are one of the reasons self-publishing is now considered mainstream. Authors are now discovered by algorithms and sales, not just editors and agents. My concerns lie with Amazon’s motivations. Zines seek readers, Amazon seeks customers (and their precious, monetized data). I’m not saying that the old gatekeepers were right – many excellent books and authors were ignored and deterred from publishing – but I am concerned that our literary culture is being commoditized into sloppily written, downloadable “content” that is produced with sales goals. Of course the same accusations could be made of paper zines, except for the sales goals bit. I’ve never met one person who expected to make a living off of his or her zines; zine publishers tend to write for the sake of writing and to connect with readers. Amazon’s goals have always been market domination and profit. Always.
Why did Amazon focus on books instead of lamps or hammers if that was the goal? Because books are relatively simple to mail and not breakable. Because the goal was the customer, not the product. Publishing has been completely disrupted because books were easy to ship.
Amazon arrived when publishing was in trouble and it did seem like a savior to many. I remember when they were a quiet account who bought non-returnable, paid on time, and made small publishers’ books visible on their virtual store shelves. Brick-and-mortar stores have limited shelf space, but Amazon was able to showcase all books – new and old – and touted itself as “the everything store.” Small publishers finally had a chance to compete against the major publishers. Older books became discoverable. Chains, on the other hand, were demanding higher and higher discounts, increased co-op (publishers have to buy those prime spots near the front of the store), mainly carried new books, and often returned 30% or more of what they bought (usually damaged). Compared to the chains, Amazon did seem like an ally. The first hit was free.
Now, it is clear Amazon was mining data, refining business models, and gathering strength. They intended to go after both competitors and suppliers, with a propaganda-like mantra of servicing the almighty customer. Publishers were openly referred to as gazelles (to Amazon’s unnamed predator). They have been known to publicly remove buy buttons to force publishers to capitulate. What we never know is the amount of influence going on to manipulate books to the top of searches…or to the bottom. They have fought and worked around tax laws – remember, local stores contribute to the community. Amazon also touts the jobs they offer. The reality is that they are anti-union, and warehouse jobs are under constant criticism for the hours, stress, and conditions. Office jobs at Amazon sound even worse, and they grind though young workers who either join the cult or move on in a matter of months. I know many people who righteously boycott Wal-Mart, but happily shop at Amazon. Explain the difference.
For the publishers I currently represent Amazon accounts for 26% of net sales (FY2013). Amazon has grown so large that publishers are now dependent, and Amazon has the power to dictate terms and break backs. And books only account for 7% of Amazon’s annual revenues. They figured out how to sell lamps and hammers, too.

Literature in Danger
So where does Amazon’s power end? I don’t know, and that’s what scares me. The company controls the majority of digital books sales and is now moving into additional media – movies, TV, and music. Amazon’s megalomaniacal weirdo founder, Jeff Bezos, recently bought The Washington Post. Federal lawsuits involving Amazon’s monopoly have come down in favor of the giant, under the guise of consumer protection. Actually, monopoly isn’t the correct word, monopsony is. It means that Amazon can dictate terms to its suppliers, and in doing so, Amazon is now in a position to dictate popular culture. Publishers have lost control of their content and many authors are now going it alone intentionally. Books aren’t being published that should be published. This passage from George Packer’s article on Amazon for The New Yorker rings true:

Several editors, agents, and authors told me that the money for serious fiction and nonfiction has eroded dramatically in recent years; advances on mid-list titles—books that are expected to sell modestly but whose quality gives them a strong chance of enduring—have declined by a quarter. These are the kinds of book that particularly benefit from the attention of editors and marketers, and that attract gifted people to publishing, despite the pitiful salaries. Without sufficient advances, many writers will not be able to undertake long, difficult, risky projects. Those who do so anyway will have to expend a lot of effort mastering the art of blowing their own horn. “Writing is being outsourced, because the only people who can afford to write books make money elsewhere—academics, rich people, celebrities,” Colin Robinson, a veteran publisher, said. “The real talent, the people who are writers because they happen to be really good at writing—they aren’t going to be able to afford to do it.”

Ironically, Amazon is taking self-publishing backward to a culture of vanity publishing!

Making Choices
Consumers now assume they have to buy from Amazon. Authors watch their sales and rankings obsessively. People think if the book isn’t available on Amazon it isn’t available. There are other choices, but the drug of one-click shopping and free shipping has intoxicated shoppers. Publishers have long since come down from their high of thinking that Amazon is an ally.
For me personally, I stopped buying books from Amazon a couple years ago and completely stopped all purchases a year ago. I haven’t touched my GoodReads account since Amazon bought it. I avoid funding projects using Amazon’s eCommerce system. I have found other options. I choose not to support the bully. These are small, probably pointless, economic protests on my part. What is more important is that I still publish and promote zines. This zine you are holding does not commodify ideas and words. Instead, it promotes community and tries to keep publishing’s furnace of creativity and passion alight.
I hope that publishers and authors who feel they need Amazon understand that Amazon does not need them. Once Amazon has the content and the customer data, authors and publishers are disposable. Much like sex-work is about the John, Amazon loves you, just leave the cash on the dresser and get out.
I acknowledge that I am jousting at windmills that I helped build. Ultimately, I mourn for publishing and where it feels like it is headed. It isn’t the industry I joined 20 years ago. It makes me doubly glad that I never left zines and that we have warded off many of the detrimental changes.

Zinester Immunity
One thing I feel is important to mention – many small publishers I have met are really authors who couldn’t find a publisher to publish his or her book. Amazon gave them the ability to self-publish and sell their books. They often cease being publishers as soon as they have a book contract – they are authors at heart, not publishers. Zinesters, on the other hand, seem to believe in the process – all of it. They are authors, artists, publishers, and marketers, not just because of the intrinsic DIY spirit, but because it is part of being a zine-maker. I think it is this difference that sets zinesters apart and often makes us more immune to the push and pull of consumerism. It is a process, not a product.
In the aforementioned New Yorker article, Andrew Wylie, an agent, said, “What gave publishers the idea that this was some big goddamn business? It’s not—it’s a tiny little business, selling to a bunch of odd people who read.” I think that idea summarizes what I always loved about publishing and continue to love about zines.
As zine-makers and zine-readers, Amazon will never be able to compete with a LOC (letter of comment) as payment or understand that giving a zine away for another zine makes perfect economic sense. That $3.00 in the pocket of a zinester is lunch and a couple of stamps. That as zinesters, publishing is still up to us and that we continue to invest in our own future and community. As consumers, does supporting Amazon, especially at the exclusion of other options and merchants, align with our ethics? What do you think?

Recommended reading:
·               Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century, By John Thompson, 2012 (available in paperback and hardback)
·               “Cheap Words, Amazon is good for customers. But is it good for books?” By George Packer, February 17, 2014, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/02/17/140217fa_fact_packer?currentPage=all
·               The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, By Brad Stone, 2013 (available in paperback and hardback)
·               “‘Cheap Words’: The New Yorker on Amazon and Books” February 11, 2014, http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ar/theshelf/2014-02-11/_cheap_words_:_the_new_yorker_on_amazon_and_books.html
·               “The Book Industry Is So Scared of Amazon, No One Will Talk on the Record Except these people” By Laura Bennett, February 20, 2014, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116677/book-industry-so-scared-amazon-no-one-talks-record

·               “Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers” By Simon Head, February 23, 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/02/23/worse_than_wal_mart_amazons_sick_brutality_and_secret_history_of_ruthlessly_intimidating_workers/

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Taking The Lane super pack!

Taking The Lane super pack!
Ellie Blue
http://takingthelane.com/shop/    --- each issue is 6 inches v 4 inches
I ended up with a whole mess of Taking The Lane back issues:
Vol. 7 BikeSexuality (40 pages, silver print cover, $4, July 2012)
Vol. 8 Childhood (40 pages, color cover, $4, October 2012)
Vol. 9 Disaster $5* (40 pages, two-color cover, $4, January 2013)
Vol. 10 Bikes in Space : A Feminist Science Fiction Anthology (56 pages, color cover, $6, May 2013)

plus the copy of
Vol. 12 Religion $5 (40 pages, three-color cover, $5, December 2013), which I received from backing Ellie Blue's publishing Kickstarter project a while ago.

Here's the thing at which I marveled for quite some time: these are all rad anthologies with cool themes (always about bikes) in fantastic book forms. Each issue of Taking The Lane is this wee work of art, whether it's a "feminist-leaning & bicycle focused" fiction collection about bikes in space (yes, really; it's awesome), bicycling and disaster, biking as a child, biking and religion (I was curious and skeptical of this one, I confess, but it's actually quite good), and so on. The titles are clear, the layout and design impeccable, and I can't recommend them enough. I confess, I yelped with glee when I found them in my review pack, because I just dig 'em that much. Highly recommended -- even if (and maybe especially if) you're not someone who's all that into biking. The writing's captivating, and it's really tough to put one down once you've started reading.

* This particular issue is actually available on a self-selected honor system, sliding scale, which is pretty much one of the smartest things I've seen in a while. From the website: "The sliding scale pricing is on the honor system and totally up to you — no need to explain or ask permission for your choice of price! The options available, in all their incomplete imperfection, are based on the average U.S. wage gap.."  (check out the listing for more details and links)

Friday, March 14, 2014


review from Anne: KING-CAT COMIX and STORIES #74

28 pages, 1/2 page (5.5 x8.5 inches), $4 US, $? CAN/MAX, $? world, trades ? Nov 2013
John Porcellino
Spit & a Half
PO Box 142
So. Beloit, IL 61080

I gotta confess: I let out a little yelp of glee when I found a King-Cat in my review stack. Some years ago, someone gifted me a subscription to King-Cat, which I found out when the first (and, sadly, only) issue arrived, and I kinda love the crisp lines and the stark drawings; there's a certain charm there. There's a bat story in this issue that's totally charming, and apparently Porcellino's got a whole slate of amazing stuff happening in 2014 (which is the 25th anniversary of King-Cat, natch) with new titles, new issues, and a King-Cat movie. Porcellino's work is solid; it's straightforward and evocative, and though the drawing seems simple and uncluttered, there's beauty in it and the storytelling pace is pretty much perfect. It seems dreamlike in some ways (the Tennessee driving story) and almost mundane in others (the series of drawings of the local bridges is pretty great).

I would be astonished to find someone who hasn't heard of King-Cat, but if that's you, don't wait to get your hands on this issue. It's well worth tracking down.

EDIT, June 2017: Here's how awesome John Porcellino is. He read this review & got in touch to offer make-up issues for my gift subscription that somehow went out into the ether! (If that doesn't convince you to get going and order some King-Cat, I'm not sure what will. But you should.)

Review by Anne -- MAGIC FOREST #1

MAGIC FOREST #1 (Zombre #2.5) October 2013
16 full-color pages, 5 inches x 6 inches, $4 US, $5 CAN/MAX, $6 world, trades no
Ansis Purins

"State Park is actually a magic forest run by a wizard" says the description, which helps out a little -- it's a full-color romp with mermaids, a baffled park ranger, some goofy elves (I think they're elves, anyway), a bear eating among the bees, some terrifying looking spiders (in a story involving a different park ranger called the Magic Forest Guardian), and a devil on the back cover. I'll be damned if I can tell you what these different things have to do with one another (same magic forest, no doubt) but the art's solid and the layout is well done, plus it has been a mighty long time since I've seen a comic come through in full color. If you like weird, this one's for you for sure. I can't wait to see the next issue to see how some of these things link!)

review from Anne: BROOKLYN #82 and #83

review from Anne: BROOKLYN #82 and #83

24 pages, 5.5 x 8.5 $10 for a 4 issue subscription
(PAYMENT IN CASH! & Fred adds: US currency please!)
Fred Argoff
Penthouse L
1170 Ocean Parkway
Brooklyn NY 11230

More Brooklyn reviews! Say it with me, people: “The name of this zine is BROOKLYN and that's also what the zine is about, Fred's beloved borough of Brooklyn."

I love that these appear in my mailbox and I'm always curious as to what Fred will use for stamps (they're always frm zazzle.com and are --no surprise here -- Brooklyn related. (Make sure you don't miss them!) Brooklyn is always a combination of history, photography, and other Brooklyn related things (can we just marvel that there are eighty-three issues!); #82 contains a visit to Coney Island (as part of the neighborhood exploration series), mention of the Brooklyn World Tour (surely you didn't think it was only in New York), the "BROOKLYN LEXICON & PRONOUNCIATION GUIDE #66" (one of my favorite features, I admit), plus a feature on Brooklyn crowds, and a hilarious telling of the fable of the First Thanksgiving in Brooklyn and some other gems.

#83 includes It Happened In Brooklyn, pictures of various Brooklyn locales (including the Under the Tracks Playground in Gowanus) and residents (a raccoon, for one, and some Monk's parrots), and a neighborhood tour of Victorian Flatbush, plus Duck Island (you'll have to order the issue for that one!)

Always, always a fun read worth your time. So, whaddya waitin' for? Read some Brooklyn already!