Zines vs. Magazines: What’s the Difference?

By IssuuAugust 11, 2017Editorial

Digital Zines

On Issuu, people publish a lot of different types of content. Publishers range anywhere from college publications, to larger-scale independent magazines, to creative zines. But what exactly is a ‘zine’, and how is it different from a magazine?

What are Magazines?

Let’s start off by defining magazines. Magazines are a print or digital periodical publication featuring a collection of content. Typically, magazines tend to have one specific focus across all of their issues –– fashion magazines focus centrally on fashion, food magazines on food, etc. Magazines have been around since the 1600s and have taken many forms: free or paid; weekly, monthly or quarterly; digital or print.

What are Zines?

So if “zine” is short for “magazine,” are they in fact just shorter magazines? Upon first glance, one would likely say yes. But there is much more — and much less — that defines a zine.

History of Zines

Historically, zines have been self-published as pamphlets or leaflets as early as the 1700s. They were circulated independently by socially-marginalized groups to give voice to their opinions and beliefs. Over time this developed into an array of other topics, with the first “boom” of zines starting in the 1930s. Known as “fanzines” and “perzines,” these were started by fans of science fiction magazines who self-published zines about both science fiction and the connected fandoms behind them.


Uprising of Zines

Zines boomed again in the 1970s during the rise of punk subculture, and by the 1980s the concept of zines as an art form emerged. This was heightened by “Factsheet Five,” a publication that reviewed any zine sent to it, which created a network of “zinesters.” In the 1990s came “girl zines,” originating from the riot grrrl movement. These have carried over prominently into present day zine culture.

Publishing Zines

While magazines are typically produced by a publishing company or group, zines are often self-published or published by a small collective. Print zines are known to come in limited editions and often target a more specific audience than mainstream magazines. Rather than putting a large focus on profit, the goal of zines is often expression and creation. They are curated to reflect the creative eye or opinion of the editor.

Format of Zines

While formal magazines tend to stick to their typical layout format every issue, zines are created with more of a DIY-inspired look. Some have consistent aesthetics, while others change from issue to issue –– even from page to page. There is no set of guidelines for what zines should or shouldn’t do, leaving design and physical format completely open ended. They’ve been produced from photocopies, hand-sewn books, sketchbooks and a myriad of other ways, which has helped create an aesthetic that is wholly owned by zine makers worldwide.

Going Digital Zines

While zines used to be produced in print, there has been a shift to digital publishing in recent years. That’s not to say that there aren’t print zines, but a digital format has made it easier for zine creators to circulate their work to a larger audience. Publishing zines in a digital format and circulating on issuu has allowed for zines and magazines to exist on the same plane for the first time; zines have a louder voice than ever before. Although a digital zine loses the limited edition aspect, the ability to reach a much broader range of people while keeping their creative integrity in tact is a great trade off.

Do More with Zines

With the Issuu Story Cloud now Zines can be taken to a whole new level. The Issuu Story Cloud streamlines content creation and distribution by transforming content into formats for all major devices and platforms. Create once, share your Zines everywhere with Visual Stories. To create Visual Stories, simply download the Issuu App for iOS or Android or download the Issuu x Adobe Indesign Plugin. Now, Zines can be transformed to highlight engaging quotes, sleek imagery, and more in a social-friendly format.

Looking for More Digital Zines?

Browse our featured digital zines segment here to see some of our current favorites.