|doro_chan (rood) wrote,|
@ 2009-05-28 23:30:00
|Current music:||Franz Ferdinand - Jacqueline|
|Entry tags:||fandom, language: english, media: zines, meta, meta: fandom for profit|
Fandom, Zines & Profit
Yesterday, someone posted a rant on fanficrants. The ranter's point was that a) the fandom doesn't need fanzines anymore and that b) the prices on them are very unreasonable, especially considering that you can post/read fanfic online for free. This post is the tl;dr version of my not very organized thoughts on the post and the discussion:
I am rather new school when it comes to fandom, but that doesn't mean I don't understand the appeal of zines (even though I don't own a single one). In fact, I wish I had the money to buy them, because zines have some advantages. Fanfic on the internet disappears very fast, compared to non-net standards. Give it five years and many URLs will be invalid, the authors decided the fics were crap, or the fandom suffered from a wave of cease and desist letters. When you buy a zine, you get to choose how long you want to keep it, not the person hosting and/or publishing the stuff.
Reading something in print, with a nice layout, a cover and maybe illustrations feels very different to reading on a screen too. I prefer books. I have a number of PDFs on my computer, among others the first book of Naomi Novik's Temeraire series. I really want to read them, but it's hard for me to start simply because they're not in dead tree format. I know people who print out their favourite fics. One of my professors, the most internet-savvy of them even, won't read long texts on a screen, because it's just too difficult for her. My mother likes to read my original stories and poems, but she doesn't like doing so on a screen. I think this might be related to the digital natives vs. digital immigrants issue, because I don't have problems reading long and complicated texts on a screen. I still prefer books, though, because they smell nicer, and I can curl up in bed with them. And with them, I can be quite sure that I'll still have them in 20 or 30 years time, unless there's a fire or I decide to throw them away.
Another (possible) advantage of zines is the editorial content which I suppose some of them have: articles, interviews etc. I'm a journalism student, and while I really don't like reading most newspapers, I like interesting and well designed magazines. I'll even read them if the topic is generally not my thing. The Brand eins, for example, is a great magazine with interesting articles and a great design. It's about economic topics, but that doesn't keep them from publishing articles arguing that the panda bear should not be saved (they had really good arguments, too!) or the effect of online culture on modern life. Unfortunately, the magazine is expensive too.
Zines are also generally edited and betaed, because the readers expect that to happen. This has advantages (quality control) and disadvantages (some zine publishers edit so much that the authors don't recognize their stories afterwards). They are also published with a specific theme in mind, which means the reader will probably not be surprised by stumbling upon a Kirk/McCoy story in a Kirk/Spock zine.
So I think that there's still a niche for zines. Not to mention that it would be entirely possible to adapt the format to internet times (I'm not sure to what degree this has already happened). Issues could be provided online and in PDF format as well as in dead tree format or on CD, and it would be possible to include modern media (vids, podcasts) as well. I don't know of any project of the sort, but I don't think it impossible and I would be interested if it was geared towards one of my fannish interests.
Of course, what people in the thread mentioned above criticized the most were the high prices of zines, and the possibility that zine publishers might profit from them. I'm opposed to fans profiting from their fan activities, but I also acknowledge that some fanac might need the money of a third party. Publishing a zine takes a lot of money. I don't think many have that much money to give away. The same goes for publishing dōjinshi. Printing costs money, quality paper costs money, binding costs money. Likewise, imagine someone knitting Gryffindor scarfs and sending them to people who would like to own one but can't knit themselves. Wool costs money, as does the shipping. I don't think people would demand that the fans in question should give away their work for free.
Demanding money for activities like this doesn't mean that the publisher/creator of the fanwork makes money from the fanwork. Of course there are black sheep, but I think many fans are more tolerant towards fanartists demanding money for commissions than they are towards fanfic creators asking for money if they want to distribute their stories in anything other than online format.
The people who really make money in all this are others: The printer, the paper company, etc. And to be honest, online publishing isn't for free either. Maybe it seems that way, with archives demanding no money from either the writers or the readers. But they do have to pay the server costs and maintenance somehow (and the hosting companies make money). There are different models for this, of course: The OTW works with member donations. Animexx uses membership dues and advertisement. ff.net and ff.de use advertisement. On LJ, the users pay for certain priviledges. And there's advertisement.
Publishing and reading fanfic is never for free. The closest to that ideal is the OTW with their voluntary donations. The services are free for everyone else. It remains to be seen how well the system will work in the future, since the OTW services aren't yet out of beta. DW works without advertisement as well. On many other big sites that I know, the readers do pay. Not money, but the maintainers sell their pageviews to the advertisers.