When I was 21 years old I worked fulltime for a national chain bookstore in downtown New Orleans where the business district meets the French Quarter. And after working for almost a year I had some vacation time accumulated, and decided to take a trip and check out San Francisco. Having heard an adage about reading fiction about the place one is traveling to, I bought a copy of Armistead Maupin’s very first Tales Of The City novel. I read it on the plane to San Francisco. I very thoroughly enjoyed The City. Among many other things, particularly hanging out in the gay parts of town and just marveling at the feelings of acceptance and belonging.
Needless to say, I finished with the first book in the saga of Mark Anne Singleton’s spur of the moment migration and visited A Different Light bookstore in the Castro and purchased More Tales Of The City, and continued reading about Mary Anne and Michael as I explored the city they called home.
It is with great sadness that I note that A Different Light bookstore is going out of business. Most of us who care about books are well aware of the increasingly challenging environment that small independent bookstores have been facing for more than a decade now. The news this year that e-books are increasingly making headway for both mainstream and indie book sellers (authors like @JAKonrath who have abandoned mainstream publishers to exclusively self-publish in e-book format report vastly increased earnings and career satisfaction) along with the growing ubiquity of Kindles and Nooks, as well as consumers now buying both new and used books online at prices local independents simply can not match. Back when I was bookseller, we constantly had dozens of customers each day come in to ask us to order a book for them. That just doesn’t happen any more. Although I love bookstores and try to support them, the fact is I think there will be very few small independent bookstores in the future. Sadly, they just are no longer economically viable.
And so today, I mourn not only A Different Light but all small, independent bookstores. Like (author–codex) I believe that bound and printed books will continue to be published and used for most of my lifetime. But the days of being able to physically browse a large selection of eclectically chosen books are numbered. And I, for one, will miss them.
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Iconic Castro Bookstore Going Out Of Business