Microcosm Publishing is an independent publisher and distributor based in Portland, Oregon and Leavenworth, Kansas. They distribute ideas through zines, books, pamphlets, stickers, buttons, patches, t-shirts, posters, videos, and more. They publish zine and books by others in the hopes that it will add credibility to zine writers and their ethics. According to their mission statement, their titles attempt to teach self-empowerment to disenfranchised people and to nurture their creative side. Current staff includes Rio Safari, Joe Biel, Nate Beaty, Jessie Duquette, Adam Gnade, Nate Beaty, Danielle Duquette, and Matt Gauck.
Beginning in 1996 with only Joe Biel doing part time mail order out of a bedroom in Cleveland, Ohio, Microcosm moved to Portland, OR in 1999. Microcosm is heralded in the zine community as an entity that, for better or worse, has brought zines into a larger consciousness in the new millennium, after former mainstream interest has largely subsided. They are responsible for many of the recent zine/book hybrid aesthetics and zines that have fancier covers or design aesthetics such as multiple color screenprints, letterpress, or offset printing. There is a particular focus towards images and artwork celebrating bicycles and radical politics. Many of the items offered are not available easily elsewhere on the web or otherwise.
Incorporating the tactics of early punk record labels and a DIY approach, Microcosm uses guerrilla styled tactics for promoting their titles unlike most publishers of equal size. They rarely purchase advertising, and rely more heavily on the people who appreciate their craft independently passing out their catalogs in their respective towns.
In September 2008, Microcosm opened a new retail store in southeast Portland There was a noticeable shift in the type of reading material offered, since most stock is "hurts" and "remainders" sold at half retail price or less. In May 2010 the store grew for a third time and moved in with Printed Matter Screenprinting and Eberhardt Press in a new building in southeast Portland at 636 SE 11th Ave.
In July 2011, Microcosm closed its Bloomington, Indiana office and opened a new distro/mailorder location in Lansing, Kansas. One month later, Lansing staffer Jessie Duquette (aka "Jessie Duke"), an employee since 2006, became co-owner of Microcosm.
For nearly sixteen years, Microcosm has remained truly independent of any outside management or funding and has suffered the corresponding financial hardships. Management decisions are made internally in meetings where full time staff collective members have an equal vote.