Remember Zines? Portland does.

Reading+Frenzy6One of the million reasons I think Portland, Oregon is one of the greatest cities on the planet is that it has a store dedicated to zines.  Remember zines? Surprised they still exist in 2015? Me too. Not only do they exist, but Reading Frenzy is a fantastic little shop just across the Willamette River from downtown Portland that specializes in them. Back in their heyday I wasn’t exactly a reader/consumer of zines, but there is something so charming about the fact that they are still out there. As a blogger, podcaster, Tweeter, Facebooker, and GoodReadser, I love how the Internet brings together bookish people and provides an almost limitless resource for all things bookish in a way that someone who grew up in the rather isolating 1970s and 1980s could never have imagined. But, as regular readers know, I am a bit of an old fashioned guy with a bit of a nostalgia kick for rotary phones, typewriters, card catalogs, and all things paper.

I was delighted when John and I stumbled across Reading Frenzy after an amazing breakfast at Sweedeedee. I was even more delighted when I spotted something called Shelf Life: adventures in used book hunting. Holy God, have I died and gone to heaven? As someone who all but gave up buying new books–or at least gave up the sport of buying new books–in favor of much more interesting used book quarry years ago, I couldn’t have asked for a more. There were two issues available and I scooped up one of each without any hesitation.

I didn’t get around to reading Shelf Life until we got back to DC. I picked it up one night when I couldn’t quite settle on what to read before I went to bed. I thought I would just take a quick look before falling asleep. But within seconds of dipping in I was hooked. Written by 20-something (?) couple Annie and Tim, Shelf Life is just what the subtitle indicates, a chronicle of their adventures in used book hunting. What could easily turn into a bunch of Yelp reviews is instead a charming chronicle of Annie’s and Tim’s proclivities, foibles, peeves, and thoughts on used books and book stores. Sigh.

The one thought I had as I tried to ration the two issues was “WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO PUBLISH MORE?” Almost concurrently I wondered why they don’t do this online in digital format. But, for reasons alluded to earlier, I am glad they don’t. I feel like I am stepping back in time even if some of their review-essays bemoan the very modern use of book scanners at used book sales and other nods to the fact that it is 2015.

There was also part of me that wanted to offer my services as a correspondent, and part of me that wanted to get encyclopedic on Hogglestock about my own adventures in used book hunting. But in the end, I am glad it is what it is and nothing more.

If you want to get your own copies of Shelf Life you can find them here at their Etsy shop. If you want to relive some of my tales of used book shopping look no further than these:

16 used bookshops in 14 Days
Barns full of books and fields full of flowers

Finding needles in haystacks
The giant Tompkins County, New York book sale
A local bookstore hunt
The greatest book about used books ever written (84, Charing Cross Road)
Getting obsessive about old paperbacks in San Francisco and DC
Book hunting in Kaua’i
When Frances wrote about our trip to the book ‘store’ where everything is free 
Then we did a special podcast segment about our trip to the free book store
And who could forget Chris’s tale of book barn outside of New Haven, CT

9 thoughts on “Remember Zines? Portland does.

  1. james b chester August 30, 2015 / 9:30 pm

    These do look great. I don’t know, at this point, I think leaving the internet in favor or zines for a while might be a good idea. But, since the only way I would ever find about about zines these is through a twitter post… see me dilemma.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kaggsysbookishramblings August 31, 2015 / 6:37 am

    Love zines and glad they still exist – I always prefer the physical to the digital! :)


  3. Laura Caldwell August 31, 2015 / 12:09 pm

    Have you read “Trafficking in Old Books” and “Fossicking for Old Books” by Anthony Marshall yet? If not, you’d love them.


    • Thomas September 1, 2015 / 11:08 am

      Laura, that is so funny you mention Trafficking in Old Books. I almost mentioned that myself in this post. I bought that book back in 2007 when I was visiting Melbourne. I loved every page of it. I didn’t know he had a second one.


  4. nerdybookgirl September 1, 2015 / 9:39 am

    I love zines. I remember cutting up my forbidden Sassy magazines to make my own zine in middle school. I find zine librarianship and archives fascinating as well (and, yes, that is a thing!)


    • Thomas September 1, 2015 / 11:09 am

      So much interesting about that comment. Forbidden? I’d love to know what kind of subversiveness you created with sass.


      • nerdybookgirl September 1, 2015 / 11:42 am

        It was a subversive party of one. Made the zine and couldn’t find anyone interested in reading it. 13 year-old homeschooled, rural Georgia living riot grrrls were not really around.


  5. Susan in TX September 2, 2015 / 9:24 pm

    Fascinating. I actually don’t remember zines, but these definitely look worth checking out. (Can’t decide if I feel like I’ve been living under a rock, or if this is one of those things that if I saw one IRL I’d slap myself and say, “Oh, yeeee-aaaah!” :) )


    • Thomas September 3, 2015 / 12:54 am

      I first remembered seeing them in relation to punk rock which my high school friends flirted with. And then probably some related to the gay community. But I never really paid too much attention to them.


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