This week we learned about the apparent closing of A Different Light bookstore in SF. ” According to The Bay Citizen “Neighborhood chatter is that doors will close for good this spring.”

The comments section of the piece includes reactions from Lammy Award winner, Michael Thomas Ford, who notes the closing was inevitable “given the impact online retailers have had on all brick-and-mortar booksellers and especially specialty bookstores.”

The fairly recent closing of Washington DC’s Lambda Rising early last year and the shuttering of Oscar Wilde Books in the West Village and A Different Light’s WeHo outlet 2009, prompted Joe of the blog JoeMyGod to ask, “What’s left?”

We asked our friends how they felt about the store’s closing including the store’s co-founder Richard Labonté.

Ed Hermance of Giovanni’s Room (which will now take the place as the oldest LGBT bookstore in America) released a statement about the importance of maintaining a physical presence.

“While I am saddened to see this final ADL store close, it has seemed inevitable for some time given the impact online retailers have had on all brick-and-mortar booksellers and especially specialty bookstores. The “gay and lesbian story” is the human story, and as long as there are gay and lesbian people we will have stories to tell and people who want to read them.”

— Michael Thomas Ford

“It’s a disappointment when an institution you helped create withers away, but I haven’t been involved with a different light since 2000, so I don’t really know what state it’s been in the past few years. It was a hopping place from 1987, when i became manager, through the late ’90s, a hub for ACT-UP activism, weekly readings, art shows, a reading series, a commitment to carrying ‘zines and cards and buttons from locals and an attempt to stock — in the pre-amazon days — everything in print by, for, and about queers. Memories…”
— Richard Labonté

“The closing of San Francisco’s A Different Light Bookstore is the most
recent casualty of the changing economic landscape but the loss for the LGBT community goes well beyond buying books. A Different Light has been a meeting place, a safe haven, and a resource. We will miss it.”
— Judith Markowitz

“When the first of the stores opened in LA it was a momentous event in the history of our literature.”
— Katherine V. Forrest

“The closing of A Different Light in San Francisco raises the question about the future of Giovanni’s Room. Giovanni’s Room, now the oldest LGBT bookstore in the country, continues because it provides an unparalleled selection of goods and services in the store and has expanded to provide the finest access to LGBT books and Google eBooks on the Internet.” …

… “There is no substitute for a physical store.”

… “There is a great danger that the written word in this country will be controlled by Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble.  Is it smart to put publishers, authors, and readers utterly at the mercy of these would-be monopolies?”
— Ed Hermance of Giovanni’s Room



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  • Ron Fritsch

6 Responses to “Reactions to A Different Light Closing”

  1. Steve Berman 9 April 2011 at 9:36 AM #

    If you ask several authors and publishers about the fate of A Different Light, you will probably get a head-shake. Not so much out of dismay but distress at how poorly run the store was. I know they treated Lethe Press and our authors as third-class citizens. “What, you want to hold a signing here? No. What, you want us to sell your books? Why should we when we can sell the latest trash biography?”

    Lethe offers generous terms to brick-and-mortar stores who purchase direct from us. But ADL never even bothered to respond to our emails. Our authors who were turned away found a better home at Books, Inc. in the Castro.

    So, I see no loss in ADL closing. The turned their back on many in the community. Good riddance to bad rubbish.


  2. […] Read more at Lambda Literary […]


  3. Oscar Raymundo 11 April 2011 at 5:39 PM #

    It goes without saying that ADL was facing terrible competitive disadvantages, and we were not able to have in stock the hundreds of books available to us from publishers (especially if they were not selling).

    As for scheduling author events: we gave preference to local authors and in recent years, I implemented a strategy to link author events to our book club. Also I were weary of scheduling an event with an author who had already made plans to appear at Books Inc. around the corner.

    Right off the top of my head, I remember we had BOY CAN’T HELP IT, HOT OFF THE PRESSES, LOVING SOMEONE GAY, MURDER ON CAMAC, MARIPOSA CLUB, TWIST OF GRIMM, as well as all the R. Jackson and Mark Abramson works – all from Lethe Press.

    Bottom line, ADL was not able to accommodate and compete at the same time.


  4. Steve Berman 15 April 2011 at 7:47 AM #

    Oscar, while it’s nice to know that you stocked some Lethe titles, why would you not want to purchase them direct and earn 10% more on the books? And considering that Mark Abramson first went to you ADL and not Books, Inc. to pitch his Beach Reading series (which was a Chronicle’s best-seller) and was turned away, you can understand my sympathies lie elsewhere.


  5. Daniel Curzon 15 April 2011 at 2:58 PM #

    Even though I am one of the pioneers of Gay Literature that helped gay bookstores exist, I could not get A Different Light to carry my books for that last decade or so, despite numerous requests. It seemed tone deaf to its responsibilities.


  6. Lee Patton 19 April 2011 at 3:17 PM #

    I wanted to thank ADL for treating me well. I understand the frustrations of the writers above, because I’ve had the same experience with other independent bookstores across the continent when I was trying to help my now-defunct publisher, Alyson Books, market my second novel. Yet ADL in San Francisco was one of the few that invited me to a panel and book signing in October, 2009. Oscar and the staff extended a hand to an unknown novelist, while most other indies could not even bother to answer my requests.

    Defunct publishers…defunct bookstores…sigh.



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