First, what is a zine? The term "zine," is a precise contraction of "magazine." Though zines have been around for centuries as a communication for the disenfranchised—see political activism in the early 20th century, sci-fi and horror fans in the '60s—the concurrence of punk rock and the rise of inexpensive photocopying technology in the late 1970s revived the medium as a way to propagate unique subcultures beneath the surface of the mainstream. And LA is full of those. Because of their low-cost and ease-to-make nature, zines have been seized upon by local artists, musicians, bookstore owners (the list goes on) as one of the purest ways to express a personal or collective aesthetic, be it through photography, poetry, drawings, comics, prose or otherwise. Though zines are more prevalent in towns where the subculture is truly suppressed, Los Angeles—a city where subculture is closer to the surface—still has a powerful zine-making scene, as evidenced by these 10 great places to purchase 'em.
Where to buy zines in LA
A key player on the rapidly developing Chinatown scene, Ooga Booga is one of the purest small press/zine shops in the city. Nestled on the second floor of cramped little building on the edges of the Far East Plaza, Ooga Booga’s relatively small floorspace allows for a zeroed-in focus on high-end, beautifully crafted art zines and small-press books. The other offerings available—including T-shirts and art prints featuring the work of the artists represented in the pages stacked around the shop—are really just ancillary products; supporting players to the stars of the show, which are the zines.
Providing printed matter to York Boulevard—the booming, unofficial main street of one of LA’s hippest emerging neighborhoods—is Highland Park’s the Pop-Hop, an ongoing pop-up shop. A cacophonous collection of the new and old, the exquisite and the decrepit, the rough and the pristine, the Pop-Hop sells local and international material from truly amazing makers. This is the kind of store where a casual browse can easily spin out of control into a frenzied shopping spree, so it's best to come with time on your side.
Tucked away on a sleepy block in Boyle Heights, inside of what is, by all-appearances, an unassuming storefront next to a bus station, is Siete, one of the most thrilling zine, comic and bookshops in the Los Angeles area. Behind shelves of perfumes and coffee makers, a tiny corner store opens up into an expansive collection of smart science fiction (Herbert, Dick, Butler, etc.) hard-to-find art comics and zines from local artists and writers mixed among zines from all across the country. Seite is the kind of shop that every zine maker wishes they had on their block growing up.
On a dusty, quiet stretch of Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park, Eightfold pulls double duty as one of the neighborhood’s premier coffee shops and as the storefront for & Pens Press, a Los Angeles-based small press publisher of great books and zines. The sparse, white and wood-filled interior of Eightfold contains the requisite center island occupied by baristas pulling shots and brewing java, but against the walls and nestled between the chairs and tables are two racks filled with some really stellar reading material. Coffee customers are encouraged to buy a zine to read while sipping, and zine buyers would have a hard time finding a better coffee.
Self-published zines and mini-comics are kissing cousins, so it’s only natural that Secret Headquarters, one of LA's premier comic book shops, would be a killer zine destination as well. Featuring an impeccably curated collection of art, cooking and comic zines, the micro-press and self-published sections of SHQ are one of the very best places to discover the next great writer or cartoonist.
On what is becoming LA’s epicenter of streetwear culture, Family is slotted in-between the sneaker shops, cutting edge-restaurants and old-school kosher eateries. A newish and already impactful art book shop, Family features their selection of oddball zines right in the front of the shop. Family’s focus on the out-there and the odd in the world of art books would be incomplete if it didn’t include zines, but their zine selection goes above and beyond what is expected, with a stellar mix of cheap, photocopied and stapled zines alongside higher-end, design-minded zines.
With a reputation as one of the great art book stores in Los Angeles, Skylight has a zine collection that does not disappoint. A storefront down from Skylight Books in Los Feliz is Skylight’s art book annex, completely dedicated to books featuring a bit more than mere prose. It features zines from local zine-makers alongside small-press, medium-press and big-press art books and comics. One of the city’s heavy hitters when it comes to smaller publications that don’t weigh very much.
Meltdown is another of LA’s world-class comic book stores, and part of the reason it’s so good is because of their engagement with the fringe side of publishing embodied by zines. Though they have a famously wide selection of toys, graphic novels, statues and figurines, and a renowned comedy theater on the premises, the owners and employees of Meltdown are still willing to speak with a zine maker who walks in off the street and stock that work on their shelves. Meltdown even hosts a semi-regular zine and mini-comic convention in their parking lot.
Still one of the city's most intriguing book shops, the Last Bookstore is an expansive two-story, multi-room bookstore in the heart of Downtown. If anybody appreciates the publication as a totemic object, it is here. (Don’t believe us? Wander through their labyrinthian book shelf maze sometime….) As a shop seemingly obsessed by anything with pages and a spine, it’s no surprise that the Last Bookstore has killer zines, both old and new, on its shelves. And it feels especially neat to buy something so small and ephemeral as a zine in such a humongous space.
Like other spots on this list, very few, if any, stores can have a focus on zines while still turning a profit. Gnar Burger is a small record and tape store run as a joint effort by, as the name might imply, GnarTapes and Burger Records. In addition to new albums by label bands, Gnar Burger sells older records, collectibles, shirts and zines. The smallish rack on the floor near the front of the shop has modern incarnations of the classic music zines, art zines, mini-comics and other seemingly basement-made print manifestations of the store’s garage-rock ethos.