small businesses

Will Indie and LGBT Bookstores Survive?

I often post about how things used to be for the lgbt community. Just yesterday, in the post below this, I talked about how I personally craved reading m/m romance when I was younger and wished there was more of a selection. But I’ve never discussed my own thoughts on indie bookstores and lgbt bookstores, or the way things have changed in the last ten years or so.

I’m lucky to have grown up in an area where I had access to both New York City and Philadelphia. As soon as I was old enough, I headed directly to small indie bookstores in both cities to fill my need for both entertainment and knowledge. And though I rarely ever found novels that satisfied my taste for m/m romance, at least I had exposure to lgbt books in a general sense.

After college, I worked for Conde Nast for a few years as an associate editor. But I wanted to write fiction and knew I never would if I spent most of my days editing the work of other writers. So I moved to touristy New Hope, PA, where I still reside, and opened an art gallery, which gave me the freedom to write fiction part time. At the time, which wasn’t that long ago, there were at least three different small indie bookstores in town that catered to the lgbt community. Now there is one, and it’s not even lgbt oriented. (There were also three gay bars/restaurants in town; now there is one, barely hanging on.)The shop next to my gallery was a lesbian bookstore, owned by a wonderful woman who passed away about seven years ago. But even back in the l990’s indie bookstores were having problems surviving. The owner of the lesbian bookstore next door to me was always complaining about how bad business was. The large chain stores had started popping up by then and the small stores simply couldn’t compete with them.

After the large chain stores started giving indie lgbt bookstores huge competition, the Internet came along and created even more havoc. And now, with e-books becoming more popular every day, I’ve heard about all indie bookstores (and not just lgbt stores) closing up left and right. In Philadelphia, the gay bookstore, Giovanni’s Room, just announced it will be selling e-books, which I think it a very smart move.

These days, thankfully, as a gay man I don’t feel the need to be separate from the mainstream anymore. It’s nice to have lgbt oriented businesses, and I always support them, but I don’t think the same way I did ten or fifteen years ago. When it comes to my own reading list, I don’t have time to drive to New York or Philadelphia anymore just to go book shopping. I read only e-books now, on an e-reader, and I buy them at places like amazon, allromanceebooks, and fictionwise. And I love oneromanceebooks. This doesn’t just pretain to books; it spills over into other areas of my life as well. Due to lack to time, and some serious deadlines this holiday season, I did a great deal of Christmas shopping on amazon. And I was happy with the results. Everything arrived on time, I didn’t have to drive around and waste precious energy with gasoline, and I didn’t have to stress out with Christmas shopping crowds. Though I’ve learned not to pay attention to amazon product reviews (I’ll post about this soon; most product reviews are just plain dumb), I’ve been happy with amazon in general.

So if there’s a plausible way for indie and lgbt bookstores to survive, I hope they find it. If selling e-books in retail bookstores does the trick, I couldn’t be happier. I’ll be in Philadelphia next month and, as usual, I’ll make a point of stopping by Giovanni’s Room to buy something. I still love small bookstores and I truly hope they stick around.