Outwrite woes part of national trend for LGBT bookstores


Outwrite Bookstore and Coffeehouse closing at 10th and Piedmont

Outwrite retrospective: A look back at some of the biggest authors, events to grace Atlanta LGBT bookstore

Rafshoon said the store would hold a 25 percent off sale on all inventory beginning today, a poster auction at an unspecified date, and an anniversary party on Dec. 3. But he did not say when the store would relocate, leaving the future for the Atlanta institution — and its employees and customers —uncertain.

Outwrite went public with its financial problems earlier this year. In May, Rafshoon sent out a letter to the community asking for help to keep the store’s doors open. At the time, he told GA Voice there was no worry the store would close anytime soon.

“We are not in danger of closing our doors tomorrow or next week or not month, but we really need to get people aware that we have great offerings here and you need to use it or lose it,” he said in late May.

In August, the store held a fundraiser at Escorpion Tequila Bar & Cantina. Twenty percent of Aug. 18 proceeds were donated to the store’s “Renovations and Improvements Campaign.”

National trend

Nationally, independent bookstores like Outwrite have struggled to compete first with mega-stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders (which declared bankruptcy earlier this year), then with online discount sellers like Amazon.com, then with the general economic downturn and the increasing migration of readers to digital formats like Kindles and iPads. While many have adapted to sell eBooks, it hasn’t translated into the traffic needed to keep stores open.

Earlier this year, USA Today cited the most recent federal statistics that show more than 1,000 bookstores closed from 2000 to 2007.

Gay bookstores have been equally hard hit. A Different Light Bookstore, the famed LGBT shop on Castro Street in San Francisco, announced its closure in April.

Outwrite’s Rafshoon expressed his dismay over that closure in an interview with Publisher’s Weekly.

“It’s been hard to watch the bookstores close, but that one in particular is tough to swallow,” he said. “When I opened in 1993, they let me come out, work in the store, and learn the book business. And even though [those guys] don’t own that store anymore, it’s still tough to see it go—it makes it that much tougher to tell the story of LGBT stores.”

Lambda Rising, the LGBT bookstore in Washington, D.C., closed last year.

New York City’s Oscar Wilde Bookshop, which was thought to be the oldest gay bookstore in the U.S., closed in 2009.

Charis Books & More, Atlanta’s lesbian-owned feminist bookstore, is one of the few remaining independent feminist bookstores in the country — the store notes that it is one of only 13 left, down from more than 120 in the U.S. and Canada in 1994. It also has a non-profit arm, Charis Circle, which conducts programming including author appearances, educational discussions and writers’ groups.