Bikenomics At Work in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

April 04, 2014 — by Will Andresen

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As a result of the mining legacy of the Gogebic Range (Northern Wisconsin and the western end of Michigan's upper peninsula, two great railroad lines were built to haul out iron ore out of the region. And since the surrounding towns were built before cars took over the landscape, our downtowns, neighborhoods and schools are all located within an easy walk from the railroads. Now, these abandoned rail lines run right through the center of five cities on the Gogebic Range. And having two rail lines eliminates any argument about whether they will be converted for use by bicycles and pedestrians or motorized vehicles. Even so, despite these near-perfect conditions, many efforts to build a bike trail along this corridor were unsuccessful. Objections centered on the question, “why spend money on bike trails with all those pot-holes that need filling?”

In the beginning, the rationale for the trail system was generally recreational or related to tourism. Then we learned that more and more young people were looking for a place to live where they can have a high quality of life, rather than finding the best job. So we focused on the need to attract and retain young workers. And then the major employers in town got excited. Similar to what happened in Houston, TX, they understood that in order to attract young people who wanted to live nearby and work for them, they needed to create an attractive environment. They focused on building a stronger community and developing a network of regional bike trails. With their support, credibility, name recognition and connections, we jumped the hurdle and started to build traction for this long-held dream. Every single municipality, chamber of commerce and school district along the proposed sixteen mile trail passed resolutions of support for the trail's vision. Now we have $1.2 million in place to build trailheads and the first phase of the trail, including the retrofit of a historic train trestle over the river separating Wisconsin and Michigan. And another million dollars of grant funding for phase II is going out the door as we speak.

Bikenomics is right, by demonstrating the economic justification for bike trails, it is much easier for the community to support, and even demand action on the project. For us the justification was attracting and retaining young people to build a workforce for our local employers, for others it may be some other economic angle.

If you're interested, here is some more information on the Gogebic Range Next Generation Initiative to attract and retain young people.

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Paralleling the Dinosaurs or How To Be The Biggest Small Publisher You’ve Never Heard Of

March 18, 2014 — by Joe Biel

How To Be The Biggest Small Publisher You’ve Never Heard Of As Microcosm enters our 19th year, we hear nothing but doom and gloom about the publishing industry, but 2013 was our best year since 2006. Through business savvy and hard work, we paid off our old debts, re-instituted raises and a year-end bonus for our staff, published twenty new titles, and moved into a new, larger office that we are working towards owning. And we did all of this without a single book selling over 5,000 copies.

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Financial Report for 2013

January 04, 2014 — by Joe Biel

In the name of fiscal transparency, like a 501(c)3 nonprofit, we publish our financial reports each year. You can also read them from 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009! We've worked very hard this year, one of our hardest ever, and we have a lot to show for it. We were able to re-institute a year end bonus for all employees. We've paid off all of our old debts. We feel that we have reached a place of stability with a certain future through the recession and the evolving publishing industry. We moved into a newer, larger building last month that we own. Thanks for all of your support and for sticking with us through our 18th year. If you want to help, the best thing you can do for us is to sign up for a BFF subscription or purchase anything from the site!

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2013 - Top Things Made of Words

December 31, 2013 — by Tim W.

I'm generally not one for year end lists. Usually I'm late to the party. Often times I'm not invited to the party. Sometimes I get lost on my way to the party and end up at a different party, but still have a really good time. With that in mind, this is my list of 2013's "Top Things Made of Words." These days format is less relevant than ever, so for this list, everything qualifies. Whether it's an old book I didn't read until last month, a blog, a zine, or the post-it that was stuck to my shoe, it all has a chance. If you're here, you probably already know the things

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Our New Office Digs

December 12, 2013 — by Joe Biel

December was a busy month for us! Between trips to Chicago, Oklahoma City, Houston, and Fort Worth, we've also been moving into our new location—2752 N Williams Ave. Portland, OR 97227!


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Microcosm Publishing, Microcosm Distribution, and Pioneers Press...

November 07, 2013 — by Tim W.

Hey Folks, Although some of you may not know, Microcosm Publishing was effectively split into two separate companies on August 1, 2012. This was done for a number of personal, financial, and geographic reasons, and led to the formation of Microcosm Distribution (which has since become Pioneers Press). Unfortunately, splitting a company in two

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Behind a Wall of Books

October 24, 2013 — by Erik Spellmeyer

Anybody ever watch that old movie Night Train to Munich? For some reason every time I get on a tr Alt textain I expect spies and espionage. The night train from Portland to San Francisco, lovingly called, “The Coast Starlight” has a time schedule based on approximations at best, and aside from the uncouth and suggestive remarks from the café car over the loudspeaker, little to no excitement is what you can expect. But for anyone tenured to the ways of rail transit, I’m sure you could amalgamate a fine story, riddled with excitement from all your Amtrak adventures.

Last week I journeyed by way of the “Starlight” to the Bay area for the great Alternative Press Expo (APE). I was to be joined by Corbett Redford of the nefarious satirical duo, Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNugget’s, for a two day tabeling event behind a wall of Microcosm! The event took place at the Concourse; this place was, to my guess about the size of two football fields, that’s approximately 116,000 square feet of comics, books, fans, and various collected art from all facets and corners of the imagination.


I arrived a few days early to pound the sidewalks and disseminate the volumes of Microcosm’s gamut to the eager public. Most of this I accomplished on foot, however my friend DJ Freshstep occasioned to scoot me about the city on the back of his Vespa. This was the one, quasi euro transit attack I managed.


Corbett, harnessing his impressive clout, succeeded in shepherding me, during one of my afternoons, though the  backdoors of some of the great legendary record and comic shops of the city. The two Amoeba’s,  Rasputin, and 1-2-3-4  Go, gave us the royal welcome and what seemed like every comic shop in the city was well enthused to shake the hand of an affiliate of Henry & Glenn. 

  Last gasp

A who’s who mixer at the opulent office of Last Gasp prefaced the two days of the APE. If you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to walk around in a Robert Crumb drawing, while glancing through old photographs of William Burroughs gripping his iconic pistol, Last Gasp wont disappoint. It was like a museum but more along the lines of the home of your parent’s awesome hippy friends. Think of the Barthes collection, but superimpose all the bizarreness of the 1960’s drug culture.

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The two days of the APE, Corbett and I huddled, side-by-side behind the great wall of Microcosm titles I created for our display. Corbett was mostly occupied preaching the good word from his newly debuted Microcosm release(s), The Bobby Joe Ebola Song Book, and Meal Deal With the Devil; Signatures were given and reluctantly received! No time to sit and a near 19 hours of collected alternative press left us dizzy and hyper-conscious of the mistake of building a wall, behind which there can be no sitting, less you leave the books to speak for themselves. 


APE, see you next year!

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Analog Media Party

September 19, 2013 — by Joe Biel

Alt textWe had a really stellar first meeting for the Analog Media Party this month after Wordstock!

It's a publisher's meetup group with the goals of forming both a regional publisher's association and organizing an annual bookselling event!

We identified some things we are interested in last time: networking, brainstorming, cover review, helping each other grow, developing the business end, meeting each other, venting/kveching (a new word for me), creating a supported industry, sharing resources, and eventually developing some clout.

We envision a one day bookselling event partnered with a one day trade show with programming for publishers in Dec 2014

We'll be having our second meeting at the Lucky Lab on 9th/Hawthorne on Nov 3 at 4 PM.



While other local festivals are extreme micro or focus on author services and promising big dreams with big publishers, the Analog Media Party is Portland's newest mid-sized publishing festival focused on programming and networking for publishers with a bookfair for the public to sell your books!

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Why Not? Minot Festival

August 19, 2013 — by Joe Biel

There aren't many events that we go to every single year for Microcosm, so when we make repeated appearances it's either a matter of three different things: Getting to catch up with very special friends who live there, consistently awesome support for what we are doing, or a truly amazing and inspiring event. Somehow Why Not? Minot Fest offers all three. You wouldn't exactly think of Minot as a cultural epicenter or even associate it with art, necessarily. Which is why it surprised me so much when I made my first trip back in 2006, after seven years away, to discover a vibrant music scene at The Red Carpet, a DIY venue on the outskirts of the city.

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Dinner & Bikes Tour Reflections

July 25, 2013 — by Joe Biel

It's been over a month since we returned home from the now-annual Dinner & Bikes Tour but it remains the kind of activism that I think about most frequently. For those unfamiliar, it involves Elly Blue, Joshua Ploeg, and I renting a car for a month, hitting up a different region of the U.S., and depositing our food and bike love in our wake.

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