Microcosm Publishing is an independent publisher and distributor based in Portland, Oregon, and Leavenworth, Kansas.
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 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 Duke, an employee since 2006, became co-owner of Microcosm.
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 more.
Microcosm Publishing continues to be based out of the same location in Portland, Oregon and 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.