The most apparent benefit of online publishing is that it eliminates printing and distribution costs. It also makes your zine accessible to millions of people without killing a single tree. There are thousands of e-zines being published, and every month, more publishers such as Herbert Gambill, editor of Joyce Wankable, make the leap. Here's what he told me about his experience:
just posted my premiere issue, I can hardly speak with much authority,
but I perhaps I can encourage others by explaining how a numskull
like me could learn how to do an online zine in a few days and
then have the first issue up within a month. A year ago I didn't
even own a computer, and I'm still a not very comfortable with
reading things on the screen. Maybe if I had a laptop it would
be different, but I prefer to read lying in bed and using my
fingers as a bookmark rather than a cursor.
Many people get acquainted with the Internet through commercial services such as America Online. After a few months, the typical zine editor makes the leap to a local access provider. If you're new to the Net, America Online is an easy place for a newbie to get acquainted with the online world. Sign up and spend a few weeks to acquaint yourself with services such as FTP (file transfer protocol, the method you'll use to upload pages to your Web site), the World Wide Web (you're soaking in it), and electronic mail (which is how many zinesters distribute their work).
Publishing is Like Sex
you're familiar with the Net, whether by fiddling with an online
service or by digesting a book on the subject, you're ready to
begin organizing your e-zine. After a year of publishing in various
formats, I've concluded that online publishing is a lot like
sex. When you're about to have your first sexual encounter, your
mind races through the many kinky positions, oddball fetishes
and other options that you can't wait to try. As you become more
sexually experienced, you return to simpler pleasures. You realize,
for example, that it can be very erotic to stroke your lover's
In the print world, zines take a lot of their characteristics from what they look like. They have a human touch, they express themselves well, and they're full of typos, badly photocopied and have upside-down photos. When's the last time you got to read Time magazine upside down? Print zines also instill a real feeling of culture that big-time, four-color deals couldn't get if they tried. The e-zine world, sad as it may be, is pretty sterile. There's no human touch, everything is straight text and dry as a bone. It takes an experienced ASCII manipulator to make plain text e-zines look good.
zine editors do an ASCII version and leave it at that. Others
move on to more complicated, graphically intensive stuff. Some
do two or three versions of each issue, including a print version.
Whatever you choose, online publishing will be easier in some
aspects than a print version and more complicated in others.
In many cases, you'll spend more time on the online version,
since you can fiddle with it until the end of time. As Chris
Romano of Dreamboy! points out, "Sometimes producing an
e-zine can be a real drag."
Try to keep the first attempt simple. Just like with a paper zine, it's sometimes easy to think of all the great things you'd like to publish, all those great designs, fancy graphics, but the zine never gets finished. Keep it simple to start, then build on it.
Many places that store zines, such as the etext.org site, prefer the publications to be in ASCII because the files are relatively small and everyone on the Net can read them without assistance. Without graphics and photos to keep the reader transfixed, your writing becomes much more important. Alex Swain:
Understand that e-zines, because of their lack of material presence, need an extra boost in the literary department. Being descriptive is the only way around not having pictures or drawings. After you write something, go back and pretend that you're an innocent reader of the text. Can you see it? Is it concise? Does it flow?
his online newsletter, the Network Observer, Phil Agre emphasizes
the importance of saying something new with your e-zine. "Most
everything on the Net consists of people saying things they've
heard elsewhere. People appreciate it if you say something original."
The currency of the Net is information, and the good, wild, fascinating,
compelling information stands out.
Moving Beyond Vanilla
are two methods for distributing your e-zine so that it can include
color, photos, icons, graphics and sound. The most popular is
the World Wide Web, although a few e-zine editors also use commercial
Creating Acrobat documents is easy. You prepare your document in the application of your choice (a text processor or a layout in a drawing programI use ClarisWorksthen you "print" it, but instead of printing it on paper, the software converts it into a PDF file. Then you can open the file(s) in Adobe, crop pages, insert pages, replace pages, add links, add notes, create bookmarks, and so forth, until you are ready to save it as the final document.
Besides the cost, there are other disadvantages to authoring programs. There's always the temptation to make your zine resemble a circus poster. As a result, the file (even when compressed) can be so large that it discourages people from downloading it. Herbert Gambill again:
The PDF version of Joyce Wankable is large (about one megabyte) and compressing it saves little space since the images are already compressed by the Acrobat software. Still, there's a lot of copy. I hate when I download some huge PDF file and find six pages of silly Wired-influenced graphics. I find a lot of little graphics are better than one huge one. I put a large photo on the cover, though, to make it look like the print magazine I could never afford to publish.
more on Acrobat, see The Killer
App of Online Publishing by Mike Lee. Adobe also has a site,
PDF, that allows you to convert as many as 10 Web pages or
Microsoft Office documents to Adobe format at no charge, to see
how it works.