Joe Biel, Microcosm Publishing
Welcome to Late Night Conversation. This week we feature Joe Biel, founder of Microcosm Publishing—a small, charming, and radical publishing house in Portland, Oregon that has developed a reputation for teaching self-empowerment, showing hidden histories, and fostering creativity.
Managing editor Candace Opper interviewed Joe in a loft above Microcosm’s southeast Portland storefront, packed floor to ceiling with books and zines. They talk about the history and genesis of zine culture, zine-friendly communities around the globe, and why it’s way cooler to sell fifty things at one dollar than five things at ten dollars.
Within the first three or four years it was apparent that there was a lot of potential and that this was an under-utilized service. People are very good at making things. The biggest comparison I can think to is more of a contrast. There are a ton of people who curate experimental films and do distribution. There aren’t nearly as many people making those films, weirdly enough. Whereas with zines, it is exactly the opposite. Everybody and their brother and their mom and their dog makes a zine.
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About our guest:
Joe Biel is a writer, activist, journalist, filmmaker, teacher, and publisher. He founded Microcosm Publishing and the imprint Cantankerous Titles, which have published over 300 titles and sold over one million “classic format” paper books. He cofounded the Portland Zine Symposium and is the author of Beyond the Music, Make a Zine, and The CIA Makes Science Fiction Unexciting. He has been featured in Publisher’s Weekly, Time Magazine, Broken Pencil, Maximumrocknroll, the Oregonian, Portland Mercury, Punk Planet Magazine, Readymade Magazine, and the Utne Reader. He lives in Portland, Oregon and is about to release the documentary Aftermass: Bicycling in a Post-Critical Mass Portland.
Joe is currently on the Dinner and Bikes Tour—a month-long tour of the central and northeastern U.S. offering events that bring people together to eat delicious food and get inspired about bicycle transportation. For more information, check out the Dinner and Bikes blog.