Photocopy

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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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In the late 1970s, photocopy (or "xerography," often referred to as "xeroxing") became a method for printing fanworks. For many fans, this replaced other methods of production, such as offset and mimeo.

The increasing availability of photocopiers shifted the power dynamics regarding the availability, distribution, and creation of fanworks to the hands of many fans, rather than just a few. As with all changes in technology and platforms, this had both pros and cons. Many of these arguments are echoed later regarding print fanworks and the rise of the internet, specifically in regards to gatekeeping, power, control of distribution, and quality.

In 1994, a fan equated the impact of VCRs and the photocopy machines with "the net" in how technology affects fandom discourse and fanworks:
I would love to get a discussion going here about what impact the net is having on fandom. Is it responsible for the rather dramatic decline in the media fan letterzine, for example? Can we see fanfic being published on the net? Will it eventually replace apas? Will we all go to MUDS (multiple users dungeons, basically real-time role-playing game from multiple sites) rather than cons? Or, conversely, will the nets allow for a more rapid spread of knowledge in fandom? Will it allow smaller fandoms to survive and spread? Will it insure more consistent interactions among far-flung fans? Will it have the same impact on fandom as the vcr and the xerox copier? [1]

First, a Little History and Perspective

See much more at Zine Production.

In a 1984 essay, Randall Landers explained the glories of the new technology available to fans:
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. [2]
In 2008, Nancy Kippax wrote of the cost and difficulties in printing zines with color:
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. [3]
A fan in 1982 wrote: :
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...

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. [4]
1970s Ohio University student using a photocopier, Source: Ohio University Libraries

Pros

Fanworks, in many cases, could be created for less money.

Fans in different countries could more easily share fanworks without relying on expensive postage.

Lending libraries were created, allowing fans to borrow photocopies rather than originals.

Cons

Some fans complained that "now that anyone could created a zine," the quality of fanworks declined.

Zine editors complained of zine piracy, something that lowered the demand for their originals.

All Hail the Office Photocopier

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. This meant that for many print zine fans, the use of the office photocopier machine was paramount to their creation and procurement of fanworks.

The photocopier's use was sometimes with permission, but usually done on the sly.

The main reason the office photocopier was utilized was cost, but other fans liked the convenience.

From a fan in 2015: "...how exciting it was later when my hubby and I bought a small home photocopier - very unusual at the time, and [fairly] expensive for both the machine and the service contract: most of fandom were looking for jobs in the public service just so they could produce fanzines on the work copier." [5]

Not all fans found the cost of a home copy machine prohibitive. In 1984, the editor of Naked Times wrote that that issue was printed on a home photocopy machine, a 'Royal 2502 copier stationed in editor's living room'." [6]

Other Comments

[1979]: At my employer's suggestion, the zine was run off on our new office copier — slightly less expensive than a commercial printer, but much higher in quality. Then the machine broke down (break out the violins ...) [7]
[1979]: Unlike other zines where I had them printed by print shops, I printed this entire zine myself using the office copier and a great deal of help from Mary Fall Wardell. I wasn't doing something wrong - my employer and co-workers had actually encouraged me to do the zine on the copier. It was cheaper than going to a printer, but the zine took a long time to do, there were lots of errors and jams, and the zine was understandably late. [8]
[1981]: 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! [9]
[1982]: SPECIAL THANKS: To the office photocopier, without whose unfailing stamina this zine would never have been possible!
[1982]: Some fans have been known 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. [10]
[1983]: Add me to the list of people who bought Bloodstone after the mention in INTERSTAT. The plot, while not unique, is very well handled indeed. And visually it is a wonder, of a quality to make the near legendary Interphase look like it had been done on an office copier. [11]
[1984]: I shouldn't mention this perhaps, but at the office where I work at, going on my 24th year for the State, they brought in a copier for our room. Guess where it's standing. Right! In back of me! Joy! Oh happy bliss!!!! Of course you know I'm going to sneak copies now and then. They all know about it here at the office. Ruth's in her glory now. Who can resist when its so handy. Now I have two copiers to use. Woopie! [12]
[1985]: ....photocopying isn't cheap, unless you're one of the privileged few who have access to a copier at work, and can sneak in a few stories when they come. [13]
[1993]: There are some zines I have had photocopies of that I've found I love so I've bought the original (if its still in print). I have photocopies of some zines that I would give an awful lot to have originals of but no one will sell them, and there are some that I am quite happy with a photocopy of because I would not have bought it anyway, but you cannot play catch up without recourse to the office photocopy machine (at least I can't). I just don't earn enough to buy originals of everything I want. I have to pick and chose. [14]

The Photocopier, Unauthorized Copies, and Zine Piracy

See much more at Zine Piracy.

Some early pleas, this one from a fan in 1977:
In short, friends, when your fellow Trekfan starts drooling over your latest zine purchase, try gently imploring them to buy their own copy, instead of running to Daddy's office [15]. Xerox doesn't need the business, but we do. [16]
From a zined in 1982:
A year or so ago I hauled out my soapbox (via the S&H Letterzine) and proclaimed I would not (and have not done so) authorize the xeroxing of the various issues of Zebra Three. What I meant to say was that as long as I had the stencils to enable a reprint of these issues; I would not authorize their xeroxing. Nevertheless, many fans have been busily visiting their friendly neighborhood (or more likely their employer's) copiers and making copies of all the issues since Volume 1 first came out in 1977. This has greatly contributed to the decrease in the size of the zine-buying population and, hence, no reprints. This is kinda sad for the reader who does not have a well-meaning friend with access to a copier. [17]

From a zined in 1986:

The photocopier and the SLR camera are the fan producer's worse enemies. We at Entropy are trying to market a range of high quality zines and telepix, and it's recently been brought to our notice that the main reason why our sales have been so poor is that our potential customers in the USA are obtaining copies of both our zines and our photos from ... somewhere. It must be understood that any zine's 'next issue' depends on the financial returns of its past and current issues. When the editor has boxes of unsold copies but the customers have all got pirated copies — there isn't going to be_ a next issue. This the state of affairs with SYNDICATED IMAGES. It gets rave review, but we literally can't give it away. We're not even asking who it is who's responsible for sticking our zines on the copier for friends [and] releasing the stories onto the circuit . . . but we'd like to say this to them: Congratulations. SI just closed up shop at #8. [18]

More Fan Comments

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." [19]

Additional Reading

References

  1. from Strange Bedfellows (APA)/Issue 004
  2. from Zine Production in the Digital Age, an article by Randall Landers originally printed in Sensor Readings #1, April 1984
  3. from Reminisce With Me/ARS GRATIA ARTIS: The Lost Art of Illoing
  4. in 1982, from issue 33/34 of the S&H letterzine, Barbara Green Deer described the various printing methods in her article: "Zine Publishing: Choice of Medium.
  5. 221b-hound.tumblr
  6. from the editorial of Naked Times #5
  7. from Command Center (May/June 1979)
  8. Main Moonbeam Page, Archived version
  9. from the editors of Code 7
  10. in 1982, from a ssue 33/34 of the letterzine, Barbara Green Deer described the various printing methods in her article: "Zine Publishing: Choice of Medium.
  11. from Interstat #73
  12. from Dr. McCoy's Medical Log #10
  13. from The Hatstand Express #7
  14. from a fan in Strange Bedfellows (APA)/Issue 003
  15. Winston Howlett uses "running to Daddy's office" to infantilize fic readers, something that Fegan Black does later with her use of the phrase "Suzy Cue trotting down to Kinko's" in May 1993's open letter Open Letter to Fandom by Alexis Fegan Black Regarding Zine Pirating.
  16. from Probe #11
  17. from S and H (Starsky and Hutch letterzine)/Issues 26-30 #30
  18. from a statement by Jane of Australia in Universal Translator #32
  19. Morgan Dawn, personal memoirs, May 11, 2011