Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Doomed.


Another gay bookstore bites the dust. West Hollywood's A Different Light has announced that it will be closing its doors by mid-April at the latest. This announcement comes only a few weeks after news that NYC's famed Oscar Wilde Bookstore was shutting its doors after 42 years in business. A Different Light will continue to operate its San Francisco branch, and on-line.

ADL's owner is blaming construction on Santa Monica Blvd and a devasting fire next door at a popular bar for the demise of the West Hollywood store, but I don't think he's being entirely honest. Queer bookstores are dying because queers don't NEED to go to a GLBT bookstore to buy queer themed books; the bigbox book stores now all have a GLBT aisle and Amazon.com means you don't even have to leave home to buy your latest erotic coffee table book or Armistead Maupin novel. And all queer bookstores relied heavily on sales of porn mags/books/media and gay tchotchkes and postcards to offset the low profit margins on books. But the problem there is, hard copy sales of porn items are declining across the board, regardless of sexuality, as people either buy these items online, go digital or make do with free imagery from the internet. And, no one sends postcards or greeting cards anymore, and the few people left who desire a rainbow flag, t-shirt, bumper sticker or necklace will either buy it online, or wait and buy it at the next Pride event they attend. Without porn and postcards, the GLBT bookstore is doomed to die.

And, it's too bad. In their day, these stores were an important community resource for news and information; a place to connect with the queer community. I think there is still a need for such places and if I had the money, I'd open one up in a heartbeat. But, I'm smart enough to realize that you just can't open a books only type of business and hope to succeed. I'd either combine books with some other kind of retail, or do a joint book/food/coffee/maybe booze type of establishment. It would be the only way to survive and thrive in our economic climate and in the way we've learned to do business.

1 comment:

Bill W. said...

There was a time, not to long ago, when the gay bookstore was the first place you went to when you visited a new city. You would pick up a copy of the latest gay newspaper or maybe sneak a peak at the latest Damron guide sitting on the shelf. Before the Internet brought everything to us so fast and efficiently, the gay bookstore represented the center of the gay community, whether you actually read books or not. The bookstore would provide plenty of eye candy in the way of “art” books and even created sort of a social activity since there were others around you doing the exact same thing.
I am sad to see them disappear but I guess you have to think it was inevitable. A lot is written about what things were like to be gay over 30 years ago but I hope someone is keeping track of what it was like in the late 80’s and 90’s.