Another Gay Bookstore Bites the Dust

Should we be worried?

Courtesy of Giovanni's Room

Atlanta may have one kicking Gay Pride every summer, but it wasn’t enough to sustain Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeeshop. The independent LGBT bookstore closed its doors this week after more than 15 years in business. The owner told The GA Voice that even though the bookstore became a kind of “unofficial LGBT community center” with regular events and author readings, high rent in the city’s Midtown district forced the shop to call it quits.

And it’s not alone.

Over the past few years, several notable gay bookshops have also shut down, including Lambda Rising in D.C., Oscar Wilde in New York City and A Different Light in both West Hollywood and San Francisco. Philly’s Giovanni’s Room is one of the last remaining shops on this ever-changing frontier. Just recently, the outpost received a historical marker from the state – one of only two LGBT markers in the commonwealth (the other honors pre-Stonewall protests for gay rights near Independence Hall).

But with history being so central to the LGBT community – both in terms of how far it’s come and where it’s headed – should the loss of so many of these bookstores have us worried? Or is it simply par for the course of progress?

In many ways, independent gay bookstores have been struggling in the same way mainstream brick-and-mortars have since more customers have decided to log in rather than drop by. The advent of eBooks has also changed this landscape, making it harder for brick-and-mortars to make enough money to pay sometimes high rents in urban enclaves where they’re traditionally found.

There’s also the way the LGBT community is evolving, too, integrating into mainstream culture and perhaps looking less to gay-exclusive destinations to satisfy curiosity and shopping needs alike.

But what happens when the local gay bookshop closes? What kind of impact does it have on the community? More people may be using apps to meet other LGBT folks, but can that really replace real-life – and is the bar scene enough to serve this need alone?

And the biggest question that could mean the difference between whether a shop like Giovanni’s stays open or is forced to close: When was the last time you bought a book or magazine – or attended a reading – at your local gay bookshop?