Zine boom in Singapore

At least seven home-grown self-published magazines or zines have emerged in the past two years

The family behind RUBBISH FAMzine: Pann and Claire Lim with their children, Aira, 10, and Renn, 13.
The family behind RUBBISH FAMzine: Pann and Claire Lim with their children, Aira, 10, and Renn, 13. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

An independent magazine boom has hit Singapore.

Over the past two years, at least seven new titles - including Staple, Sand and The Ideology - have emerged at local newsstands and online stores.

These home-grown "zines" - magazines that are typically self-published, with a small circulation and usually not-for-profit - cover topics ranging from global social issues to the creative industry here.

Their readers include design students, creative professionals and tourists interested in made-in- Singapore products.

The vast amount of information online, which tend to skim over topics, say the zine founders, has prompted readers to turn to print.


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Staple co-founder Emily Tay, 22, says the biannual zine that launched last Augustwas inspired by a conversation she and three friends had about the state of youth. They wondered, for instance, if the experience of youth is the same globally. The quartet pooled together about $10,000, with the help of a government grant, to self-publish 1,000 copies of their first issue ($28).

"We thought a socio-cultural magazine could serve as a platform to provide alternative perspectives," says Ms Tay. "Without the distraction of hyperlinks and advertisements, readers can grasp a more in-depth understanding of the issues discussed."

Print, says The Ideology founder Eve Yeo, still has its allure. The 27-year-old, who spent $1,000 to launch the annual zine in September 2015, says: "There's a formality in print. You can feel a page, the paper. Unlike the screen, print has multi-sensory elements that register a greater imprint on the brain."

The first issue of The Ideology, which focuses on topics such as collective thought and solidarity, had a print-run of 100. It was published in Britain as part of Ms Yeo's master's thesis.

The second issue ($19) in January this year had a print-run of 1,500.

Ms Yeo juggles managing the zine with her full-time job as a teaching assistant at the National University of Singapore.

The biannual Sand, which launched in December last year, was about filling a gap in the market. Founder Ms Racy Lim, 22, says: "There were very few magazines in Singapore that I knew of that extensively documented what life is like as a creative in Singapore."

Unable to find the content that she wanted in existing zines, the undergraduate started Sand with $4,000 to give readers an insight into the workings of the local creative community. Her 140-page zine costs $26 and is carried at various retailers here.

The three magazines will be showcased at Singapore Art Book Fair next weekend. Other new zines include Mynah, The Local Rebel, A Month In Seoul and XMAG, which will be launching in July.

Independent publishing in Singapore, says Ms Yeo, has room to grow. Compared to the launch of The Ideology in Britain, the reception to her zine was much more subdued here, she says. "In the UK, there were many small independent book fairs and there is this great creative atmosphere. However, in Singapore, there's still a lot of apprehension towards local names."

Events here such as the book fair, in its fourth year, provide local titles with a platform.

The annual event will have 44 exhibitors this year, up from 34 last year.

"The creative energy in Singapore is shifting and it gives independent zine makers more confidence to put their works out there," says Ms Renee Ting, 25, the book fair's festival director.

If one doubts that local titles can match up to global ones, they need look no further than home-grown RUBBISH FAMzine.

The biannual publication, by Singaporean couple Pann and Claire Lim, and their children, Renn, 13, and Aira, 10, is a constant sell-out ($50). It has also garnered critical acclaim and won several prestigious international design awards.

The zine, which is sold in BooksActually, touches on topics close to the family's heart, including their adventures in Japan and love for food.

Mr Lim says: "We have always believed that if we put out an issue that is strong in idea, authentic in content creation and as interesting as possible, the readers will be there."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2017, with the headline Zine boom in Singapore. Subscribe