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I finished reading Mr. Villemez’s column on Amazon. And while Mr. Villemez is correct that Amazon.com does offer some useful features, I feel that his column has no sense of dedication to a) the Philadelphia region and b) gay readers. Instead, the column focuses on expediency and savings. Why shop at Amazon.com when readers of PGN have easy access to two local retailers of gay books — Giovanni’s Room and TLA? Both have Web sites: queerbooks.com and TLABooks.com, respectively.

The fact that Philadelphia is one of the few cities left that has a gay bookseller should shame anyone located in Center City to buy from Giovanni’s Room. While Amazon.com does feature “tags” and “reviews,” these can often be spurious. Anyone can enter a tag or review, including authors — and detractors — of the book. Isn’t it better to speak to a live person, ask for advice, discuss what you like to read, share in the experience of finding and enjoying a good book, than to scroll through endless poorly written reviews? I doubt there is anyone in the city better versed in queer literature than Ed Hermance, the proprietor of Giovanni’s Room. Can’t remember the title of a book you read ages ago? Ask Ed.

Why are so many readers opting to focus on saving a few dollars? If that’s your only interest, shop the discounted bookshelves at Giovanni’s Room. Or consider the value at shopping at TLABooks.com, because beyond current releases, they are always featuring sales and discounted titles (and they have the best selection of films for gay viewers).

Does Amazon give back to our community? Doubtful. I don’t see their name as a sponsor for the film festival or any Pride event. But Giovanni’s Room and TLA have always sponsored local queer events. When I volunteered at the front desk of Giovanni’s Room, I would often see organizations send a rep to ask Ed for a gift certificate to offer as a prize. Or to hang a poster. Did these people ever once look around the store and purchase a book, a magazine or a DVD? Never. But they are always willing to take money from the store.

Does Amazon support gay authors? No. There are no readings, no events at Amazon.

Does Amazon support gay presses? Well, only if we offer them books at a tremendous discount. If a customer buys our books from Giovanni’s Room or TLA, we earn more. And our authors make more royalties. By purchasing books from Amazon, gay readers are hurting gay presses, ensuring that there are fewer books released and that gay authors will earn less.

Yes, the economy is struggling. But shouldn’t gay people support retailers, whether online or brick-and-mortar, that care about their needs, their interests and their communities?

Steve Berman Publisher, Lethe Press Maple Shade, N.J.

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