When news broke in late April that Giovanni’s Room in Philadelphia, said to be the oldest LGBT bookstore in the country, will close its doors, many in the gay community took it as a death knell for gay bookstores and, worse still, a sign of gay literature’s fading relevance. Though the store’s closing fits in with a larger trend in the publishing industry — over 1,000 bookstores closed between 2000 and 2007 — it’s understandable that the loss of the landmark has alarmed many concerned with the survival of the gay literary tradition.
Steve Berman, the founder of the gay publishing company Lethe Press and a former employee of Giovanni’s Room, wrote in Salon: “The absence [of the store] will cause a ripple effect in LGBT publishing.” Already, he said, “LGBT books are forced to the edges. Gay authors have to do more and more marketing to find readers. Gay publishers have to struggle with shrinking venues to showcase their titles.”