Publishing gets Mobile with Microcosm’s Zine Trike

By Sara Ritchie


In a digital world, when print feels like it is going the way of the dinosaur, Microcosm Publishing decided to get crafty — and mobile! With an idea in mind that he had been contemplating for some time, Joe Biel, founder of Microcosm, asked around for tricycle frames on a whim. Inspired by the desire to reduce set up time at events, Biel purchased a tricycle frame from a friend and built a mobile display case to house Microcosm’s catalogue of zines. The invention of the Zine Trike cut set-up time by half — not to mention that the uniqueness of the display case is a conversation starter. “People forget that even shopping is a form of socializing and if we push all commerce onto the Internet, we’ll be leading some pretty isolated lives,” says Biel. The Zine Trike is one of Microcosm’s methods for fighting the isolation of net shopping. Based out of Portland, Oregon, on bad weather days the Trike is used as a display piece in the store. But on sunny days, Biel and his employees take the Trike to the streets. Avid bicycle enthusiasts, the team at Microcosm have used the Zine Trike to incorporate bikes into their daily business operations. They also make their local deliveries by bicycle and when they moved the location of their store last year, they transported most of their supplies across town by bicycle caravan. Biel started Microcosm as a zine distributor and record-label out of his bedroom in 1996. Since then the organization has grown and transformed to become a publisher and distributor of zines and related work based in Bloomington, Indiana and Portland. It is also one of the largest zine distributors in the world, reaching an international audience through their website and retail store. The Zine Trike is one of the ways that Microcosm has been able to really stick to the basics in delivering zines to the public, and is a big part of its efforts to keep print alive. As Biel points out, the function of Microcosm is still first and foremost simply to “sell zines and books.”