Microcosm Publishing is an independent publisher and distributor based in Portland, Oregon. Microcosm describes itself as having “a reputation for teaching self-empowerment, showing hidden histories, and fostering creativity through challenging conventional publishing wisdom, influencing other publishers large and small with books and bookettes about DIY skills, food, zines, and art.
Portland’s most colorful, authentic, and empowering publishing house and distributor, Microcosm Publishing is a vertically integrated publishing house that equips readers to make positive changes in their lives and in the world around them. Microcosm emphasizes skill-building, showing hidden histories, and fostering creativity through challenging conventional publishing wisdom with books and zines about DIY skills, food, bicycling, gender, self-care, and social justice. Microcosm was started by Joe Biel in his bedroom as a distro and record label in 1996 and is now among the oldest independent book publishing houses in Portland, OR. Microcosm focuses on relating the experiences of what it’s like to be a marginalized person and strives to be recognized for spirit, creativity, and value. All books are printed in the U.S. on post-consumer papers, and the company doubles the industry average in number of women authors. Microcosm constantly poses the question “How can we remove barriers to success for marginalized people in our industry?”
Microcosm has lived in milk crates, in closets, in a mud room, in a windowless basement, in a church, and under a desk at a major credit card company. We’ve brought our brightly colored books to infoshops, zine fests, media summits, bicycle conferences, parks, street corners, house shows, dirty bars, allnight coffeeshops, art museums, and every corner of the mainstream where we can clear away a little space to set up shop. We set out to save ourselves from not caring, but out there in the margins we’ve found communities worth always doing it better for. Now we have contracts instead of handshakes, a warehouse instead of a fanny pack full of zines. We have a staff, we have relationships in the industry that send our books to places we wouldn’t have dreamed we could walk into ourselves. We’re not as drunk or dirty as we used to be. But still, at heart, we’ve got this milk crate strapped to the back of a bike and we’re riding wildly across town to hand you the book that might just be the one that saves your life. We refuse to die. Get over it.