Last month brought the depressing news that San Francisco's long-established gay bookstore, A DIFFERENT LIGHT, located right in the heart of the Castro district, was closing its doors. A DIFFERENT LIGHT is just the latest in a long list of closings that include the OSCAR WILDE BOOKSTORE in New York's West Village and many others.
I said it before, and I'll keep saying it: the loss of these bookstores represents major damage to the Gay community. They are important, and they deserve our support.
An item that has just appeared on the Yaoi News website demonstrates exactly why gay bookstores are important and why we make a huge mistake by allowing them to fade. What is "Yaoi?" Simply, it's a Japanese term for "beautiful boys," and "Yaoi stories" are especially popular in manga form. Now, I'm not specifically interested in manga, but as literature, it has a huge audience.
But as of this past week, Amazon.com has removed scores of Yaoi titles from its Kindle platform and will no longer make them eligible. Here's part of the story from the Yaoi News website.
"It appears the Amazon KINDLE has changed its Terms and Conditions to ban explicit images from being published on the KINDLE (See EDIT below for exact terminology). This issue started last month when Yaoi Press had a few of their titles, both manga and prose, pulled from the KINDLE with no explanation other than they were in direct violation of their Terms and Conditions. Yaoi Press's founder Yamila Abraham has stated they will now have to change their explicit images on their prose titles to more 'romantic' images that will be acceptable to KINDLE.
"Today Digital Manga has announced they too have had some of their 801 Media titles pulled, including Weekend Lovers and King of Debt. However, it appears this will also affect June Manga as KINDLE has rejected The Selfish Demon King and has banned The Color of Love. Unfortunately since these are manga and not prose like Yaoi Press's titles, there is no way to alter the images to meet KINDLE's Terms and Conditions.
"I took a peek at Libre's direct from Japan KINDLE releases but have not noticed any titles that are missing as of yet. That being said, I expect with some of the explicit Ayano Yamane and Youka Nitta titles they have that it is only a matter of time. My recommendation is to grab what you can get now before it is gone. The good thing with the KINDLE is that once you own it, it's yours to keep. You also do not need to own a KINDLE to read their titles. You can use any number of their software apps to read them including KINDLE Desktop for both the PC and Mac.
"I guess now we will just need to wait and see if Borders' KOBO or Barnes & Noble's NOOK will follow suit."
This is not the first time Amazon.com has removed gay titles from its inventory. Last year, in what Amazon later called a "glitch," hundreds of gay books were removed from its list. A loud outcry resulted, and most of the titles were eventually restored. But now, Amazon.com is once again attempting to control what books the gay community can access. We're not talking about graphic pornography here. Manga has long ago moved into mainstream acceptability.
Too many times I've heard people claim that gay bookstores are no longer necessary, that we can walk into any Barnes & Noble or Borders and find gay books. That is only true in a very limited fashion. Yes, you can usually find a "gay section" in some back corner of one of the big box stores, but it seldom contains more than a handful of individual titles, and most of those from the larger, best-known publishers. At the Oscar Wilde Bookstore or at A Different Light a buyer could browse thoussands of different titles from major presses and from smaller publishers side by side, often along with magazines, pamplets, chapbooks, and much else. I have never seen an issue of THE JAMES WHITE REVIEW, one of the Gay community's most important publications, in a Barnes & Noble or Borders.
Maybe you'll save a dollar or two at Big Bookstores that can sometimes offer discounts on major titles. But what do you give up for that dollar? You risk losing important parts Gay culture. You risk losing potentially important gay writers. Literature frames and preserves our experiences, documents who we are and who we hope to be. You risk losing those publishers and presses that find, nurture, and showcase important gay artists and writers. If we surrender our culture into the hands of others, we risk losing our culture and our identity.
We see that at work as Amazon.com once again censors these "Beautiful Boy" titles.
Our gay bookstores are vanishing. Our gay literature will suffer for that. And we will be poorer.