Microcosm Publishing is an independent publisher and distributor based in Portland, Oregon.
They publish and distribute zines, books, pamphlets, stickers, buttons, patches, t-shirts, posters, videos, and more. According to their mission statement, their titles attempt to teach self-empowerment to disenfranchised people and to nurture their creative side. Current staff includes Jeff Hayes, Lauren Hage, Tim Wheeler, Erik Spellmeyer, Meggyn Pomerleau, and Joe Biel.
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 the trend of 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 January 2014 the store grew for a fourth time and moved into a new building in North Portland at 2752 N Williams Ave, a few blocks from its former location at Liberty Hall.
Starting in 2006, before the majority of warehousing was handled by Independent Publisher's Group, Microcosm set out on an ongoing quest to find affordable warehousing for the volume of publishing it was doing inside inner-Portland. Unable to do so, it opened a mailorder and warehouse location in Bloomington, IN in March of 2007. But due to complications of managing across state lines, this location was closed in July of 2011 and a new distro/mailorder location replaced it in Lansing, Kansas. One month later, Lansing staffer Jessie Duquette (aka "Jessie Duke"), an employee since 2006, became co-owner of Microcosm with plans of taking over all operations and ownership. Having cold feet about the financial risks, instead, in August 2012 the organization split into two separate businesses: one that focused primarily on zine distribution, run by Jessie Duke in rural Kansas and Microcosm Publishing, which focused on the book publishing operation, run by Joe Biel in Oregon.
On August 1st, 2012, led by Jessie Duke, Microcosm Distribution split from Microcosm Publishing and became a separate, autonomous distributor of books, zines, pins, patches, and much more, with no ties to Microcosm Publishing.
Today, Microcosm Publishing is focusing more intensively on the publishing aspects of the operation, specifically on titles around gender, punk music, self-empowerment, and DIY.
Now operating more like a traditional publisher than ever, Microcosm is distributed to the book trade by Independent Publisher's Group in Chicago and uses U.S.-based union printers and environmentally-friendly papers. Unlike the publishing mainstream which is comprised of around 25% of women authors, around 50% of Microcosm authors are women and receive the same contract and pay as male authors.