Skip Amazon — support your local bookstore

Skip Amazon — support your local bookstore

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In the Dec. 5 issue of PGN is your article praising Amazon’s services to the gay community [OUTonline, “Amazon’s gay gift tags”]. I think you must not live in Philadelphia. Perhaps you have never been in a gay bookstore or maybe you were disappointed when you were in one. If it’s practical, I hope you will come to Giovanni’s Room (12th and Pine streets) so we can talk a little.

If this store has no appeal to people of your generation and younger, then we don’t have a future. If you will give us a chance, though, I think I can make a good case for you supporting us.

To start: You are pleased by the reader-generated tags on Amazon, which allow you to access 4,000-plus gay items. First, the tags are created by people you know nothing about. You don’t know anything about their preferences, experience in the area or anything else. The situation is similar to self-published books, into which no one but the author has invested any reputation.

In this store, the staff has over 100 years’ experience with books and movies in our specialties, so that if you let us know what you have liked, we can give an educated guess as to what other items might interest you. If you are interested in gay and lesbian young-adult fiction and nonfiction, we have at our fingertips just about everything that’s in print in those areas — and you can access that information on our Web site, www.queerbooks.com.

I’m sorry that the Web site is not so sophisticated that you can tag books or leave comments about them, but the information is the most up-to-date and the most complete available anywhere, online or off — as far as I know.

Concerning the 4,000-plus tagged items. We have an active inventory of 12,000 titles. “Active” means that we either have it on hand or have sold it this year. We have an additional 30,000 titles that we have had, but not in the past year. Our Web site, by the way, is based on the database of 2.4 million titles kept by Ingram Book Company, the largest book wholesaler in the country. That’s the database you search when you put a title in the “search” box on our Web site. You can get anything from us.

Aren’t you a little annoyed that Amazon is selling the Dieux du Stade 2009 calendar at $15 above the suggested retail price?

Do you know that Amazon and other online-only companies profit from tax breaks that the rest of us are making up for? This store pays for the schools, the fire department and so on. Amazon does not. This store hires local people and pays their health insurance. This store is a tourist attraction. Do you want to live in a community without bookstores? Where no one pays attention to what the people in the area are interested in and will bring their attention to new books they’ll be interested in?

A few years ago, Amazon announced the opening of their gay bookstore. Of course, they got lots of free publicity in the gay media. Their first list was headed “Take Pride in Your History.” (Maybe I’m a little touchy for noticing they didn’t say “Our History.”) Below were two lists, one of history books purportedly of interest to gay men, the other to lesbian women. Both lists were disgraceful: lesbian books on the gay list and vice versa; a book by Gay Talese because the poor man’s first name is Gay; two homophobic, religious-right rants, which Amazon said its readers regarded highly; [and] an out-of-print book. There were no books on the lists that should have been. I wrote up an exposé, which was distributed by a media blog. A couple of months later, I looked on the Internet to see what they were up to. Nothing was there. When I called Amazon, the person said she could find no trace of Amazon ever having had a gay bookstore. Amazon is happy if you will spend your time and expertise making their gay image, but they don’t care about the gay community or gay books or anything else that you and I love.

There’s so much more! I hope you can come in to talk.

Ed Hermance Owner, Giovanni’s Room


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