Xerography

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Synonyms: xerox
See also: Zine Production, Zine Pirating
1948 ad for a xerox machine, source: Devlin Thompson
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Xerography or "xeroxing" is a method of printing fanzines by photocopying them.

While the first commercial photocopiers were sold in the 1950s, it was not until the late 1960s and 1970s that businesses and universities began using them. Since the cost of these copiers could run into the thousands, very few fans could afford one of their own and and instead relied on employers and universities for access.

A Contemporaneous Description

Xerox the new marvel:
"Lately, some very nice zines have been printed by means of xerography, and with recent advancements in copiers, this option may eventually compete with offset printing for short runs in both price and quality. Some fans have been knows to produce zines on their office copiers using their "100% employee discount". The chance of your printing 200 copies of a 200 page zine this way are minimal, regardless of how lenient your boss is, unless you own the company. There are many desk-top sized copiers now on the market which might be rented or purchased for home use, if you're serious about this method of reproduction. If you freelance or run any other kind of home business, a small copier might be a welcome addition. Even the best, most meticulously maintained xerox-type copier cannot compare with offset printing for quality, and we all know what a bad xerox copy can look like. Many offset printers (the storefront kind) also offer xerox copying, and often the xerox rates compare favorably with their offset rates, on certain runs. One of the best copiers available is the Xerox 8200, which. when properly maintained, makes dense black copies on clean white background. This copier can reproduce larger areas of black as black, something most copiers cannot do. It also has three reduction settings: 98%, 74%, and 65%. The 74% reduction is ideal for reducing copy and artwork that will later be pasted up for offset reproduction. Xerox paper is about the same weight as 20 lb. offset paper and quite suitable for a 200 page zine. For a professional look, the covers of a xeroxed zine would probably be offset print." [1]
Randall Landers explains the glories of the new 1980s technology:
"During the early years of fandom, electronic methods of printing were simply out of the question. The technology had not been sufficiently advanced to reduce the costs and convenience. Fifteen years after it all began, there were a number of processes and machines capable of producing a fanzine in minutes. The most noteworthy of these was the Xerox 9500, which at the time was available at many electronic printshops... This copier could take 100 originals and produce 100 double-sided copies of a fanzine, collated, in as little as two hours. The quality of the Xerox copies was excellent, and even fine line artwork could be reproduced. Its disadvantages were few: it was slightly more expensive per page than off-set, it would not reproduce photographs well, and all originals had to be fed through the automatic document feeders and had to be on 20 lbs. paper with no paste-ups. Paste-ups had to be placed by hand on the platen (where the copier takes a 'picture' of the original). This disadvantage is the very embodiment of off-set printing where all originals are placed by hand, so it cannot be truly said that it is a disadvantage. Nowadays, in the age of digital copiers, you can hand-place originals or scan them into your document for quick reproduction. And the cost of copies being what they are allows fanzine publishers, such as Orion Press, to print on demand. That means you simply print the number of zines you sell. You might put together a few extras for distribution at a convention, but you’re not out of the extraordinary cost of printing hundreds or even dozens of zines in the hope that you will sell them." [2]

Fandom Usage

1970s Ohio University student using a photocopier, Source: Ohio University Libraries
  • The editors of Code 7:
    One more thing--we had originally planned to print C7 offset, but the prices we were quoted here in Chicago are just impossible. So, we're xeroxing. Not, I hasten to add, the artwork; that will be done professionally. And a good quality xerox looks just about as good as offset, anyway. Just so there are no misunderstandings!”'"
Nancy Kippax remembers:
"Bear in mind that this was before the days of quality xeroxing or color xerox. Text print was reproduced by offset printing. Color artwork, most commonly 2 or 3 colors, had to be separated and printed one color at a time, thereby doubling or tripling the cost of that page. This was the preferred method typically used only for the front covers. Many used white card stock and selected one or two other colors for an attractive and eye-catching zine. On her first issue of Interphase, printed in 1975, Connie Faddis employed a method called silk-screening for her cover – a detailed, time-consuming project which only an accomplished artist like Connie would have the skill to pull off. But the rest of us settled for what we could learn and do more easily. Artistically, Interphase set the bar for all the zines that followed, in more ways than one."

Memories

I entered fandom in the mid-1990s and quickly fell in love with The Professionals circuit. "Free" fan fiction! However, the US Circuit Library limited how many stories you could borrow at any one time, so a local group of fans coordinated and pooled our lending requests. We'd then make photocopies for the group, thereby tripling our reading capacity. Of course none of us owned a photocopier and commercial copies were price prohibitive so we were forced to rely on our employers or universities. In my case, the copying was done on large machines that stood almost as tall as me and that were 8 feet long. Copying had to be done late in the evening or on the weekends - this was, after all, slash that we were copying. The worse part was when the machine would jam and we would have to open the copiers to yank and tug the pages free. The metal was always hot and we'd often burn our fingers and arms. But no one wanted to explain the next day who 'Bodie' was and why he was giving 'Doyle' a blow job in the back of the Capri. Burning our hands was a far easier hell to endure." [3]

Additional Reading

References

  1. in 1982, from a ssue 33/34 of the S&H letterzine, Barbara Green Deer described the various printing methods in her article: "Zine Publishing: Choice of Medium.
  2. Orion Press, accessed 2.17.2011
  3. Morgan Dawn, personal memoirs, May 11, 2011