I am sad about gay bookstores closing, though it is inevitable given the access we all have to resources online as well as larger LGBT sections in the chain bookstores. These LGBT stores have to diversify and offer more than books. (Calamus does well with a healthy selection of porn, for example.) I wandered into the Oscar Wilde Bookshop a couple of years ago and if I remember correctly, I struggled to find something to buy. In addition, I do recall two problems: 1) an employee made a point to come out from behind the register and check out the other room in the store only after an African American customer wandered back there, which may have been a coincidence or may have been profiling, and 2) the photo Christopher included aside, the place had a surprisingly limited selection of titles. I don't know if this store could have survived but I do know some places are surviving even with online bookstores and our current recession.
On a lighter note, this profile by Justin Richards of Revolution Books/Libros Revolucion in NYC was a nice somewhat insider look at a store that is unapologetic of its "proud and unambiguous agenda: the replacement of the political and economic system that currently dominates the world—i.e., America’s—with transnational communism." I'm not falling in line with their politics necessarily, but I do find it interesting to see this profile on the same day as news of the closing of this other store. Would LGBT institutions do better to follow a cooperative model rather than demanding a profit from places - stores, bars, etc - that they sell as vital for "the community"? They sell their companies with such earnestness, almost to the point of acting like a non-profit, but then can't make it work in the marketplace. The formula is flawed.
So will bookstores across the board disappear, cooperatives or not, in an age of digitization? Noam Cohen's recent NY Times article usefully navigates the ever ongoing debates about Google Book Search, something increasingly used by scholars young and old as well as us more casual readers. It is not clear when we will see money charged, who will be charged, and how much.
Eben Moglen, a law professor at Columbia and a free-culture advocate, puts it this way: if the fight over digitization of books is like horse-and-buggy makers against car manufacturers, Google wants to be the road.
I do appreciate how the article ends, and think this conclusion has been borne out:
Google is “creating a new reason to go to public libraries, which I think is fantastic,” he said. “Public libraries have a communal function, a symbolic function that can only happen if people are there.”
Once again, there could be a way forward that preserves the hardcopy books while moving forward with digital versions - or at least I like to think. If I thought too much about it, though, I may recall the eerily empty rows of books during my recent visit at the Boston Public Library, the silence particulary notable in contrast to the bustling computer rooms...
Oh, and well done to George at BookNinja for providing a context for this news about Obama campaign manager David Plouffe's seven-figure book deal with Viking. Says George:
Dear longtime, unsuccessful-to-mildly-recognized writers,
Considering suicide after reading the above article? Well, please send your final thoughts and screeds to Bookninja.com so we can post them on the web for all to see! How better to shuffle off this mortal coil with a clear conscience than by telling the celebrity authors and opportunistic publishers of the world what you really think of their entitled, artless, piss-midget ramblings. Empty your mind before you put a bullet it.