Prominent L.A. Gay Bookstore ‘A Different Light’ to Close

Two weeks ago I posted about the closure of The Oscar Wilde Bookshop, the nation's oldest, in New York's Greenwich Village.

It seems the gay lit world will see another casualty. L.A.'s A Different Light bookstore, in the heart of West Hollywood's gay strip, will close its doors after 30 years, Instinct's The Watercooler reports:

"Bill Barker, ADL’s owner, spoke with me earlier this evening to discuss the nature of the book business, the state of the economy, the gay community at large and what led to the demise of a marquee business in West Hollywood. Barker pointed to two significant events that negatively affected sales and ultimately drove the store under. The first was a major construction project renovating a stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard that started in 2001 and lasted nearly 2 years.

“[The city] came in and ripped all the sidewalks out and foot traffic and parking disappeared from West Hollywood for a year or 18 months and it never came back,” he says.

While the end result was a much wider sidewalk in the popular parts of town, many small businesses suffered and shut their doors during the construction."

Barker tells the magazine the A Different Light in San Francisco will remain open, as will the online business at


  1. says

    I’m not at all surpised. “A Different Light” used to be an exhaustively thorough gay/lesbian bookstore, full of tiems you couldn’t find anywhere else. That came to an end about 15 years ago. It was only a matter of time before it put up a closing notice.

  2. Anthony in Nashville says

    I don’t live in LA or NYC but I’m saddened to see two of the preeminent gay bookstores closing. Bookstores used to be such strong institutions in the LGBT community, but I guess people are either more comfortable buying from Amazon or they don’t read at all.

  3. John S. Hall says

    Well this just sucks out loud, especially in light of Oscar Wilde’s impending closure.

    I know that even Borders is having troubles these days, but it’s painful when gay bookstores — which once served as the information hub of the gay community — shutter their doors.

    In the last 20 years, I can’t tell you how many bookstores have closed in the Boston area, but we’re down to one GLBT bookstore, Calamus Books, run by John Mitzel (who used to run Glad Day Bookshop in the Copley part of town).

    I try my darndest to support him whenever I’m in town, but it’s not easy in this economy. I know it sometimes costs more, but I’d rather see my money go to the “little guy” who’s been a fixture of the community for so long.

  4. MAJeff says

    The closing of these bookstores is, of course, part of the larger trends involving independent bookstores. It’s hard to compete with Borders and Barnes and Noble and Amazon, etc.

    It still makes me sad to see what were once community institutions going under, though. I really felt that way when A Brother’s Touch in Minneapolis closed several years ago when I was living in Minnesota.

  5. busytimmy says

    I try and support independent bookstores in LA, but in another way Isee this as a sign of progress. Now one can get gay related books, magazines etc. just about everywhere. Isn’t that great? Actually, there is not a need for a “gay” bookstore any longer. All bookstores are now gay. Sad for the owner and employees.

  6. gar says

    I did readings at DLB in SF and LA. I’m from LA and I remember the original DLB in Silver Lake, in a much smaller, funkier space. When my partner told me about this, it really shook me up. I almost cried.

  7. jimmyboyo says

    It isn’t just the gay lit world.

    Book stores across the nation are shutting down

    – current economic situation
    – used book stores spreading / opening at record pase (trade in old books for credit towards new books and used books at cheaper prices) = see above current economic crisis
    – on line book shopping
    – free books sites= like gutenberg etc popping up posting full content on line for free

  8. gaybookstoreclerk says

    How sad. I worked at ADL for 4 years from 1987-1991 when it was on Hudson street. It was the height of the AIDS epidemic and ADL was the bustling center of information on all things LGBT. It was one of the most exciting times in my life, it’s hard to believe it was so long ago and that it will now with this closing turn into nothing more then distant memory.

  9. gaybookstoreclerk says

    How sad. I worked at ADL for 4 years from 1987-1991 when it was on Hudson street. It was the height of the AIDS epidemic and ADL was the bustling center of information on all things LGBT. It was one of the most exciting times in my life, it’s hard to believe it was so long ago and that it will now with this closing turn into nothing more then distant memory.

  10. ADL addled says

    ADL is, like many bookstores and certainly many gay businesses, in part a victim of the times but also a victim of its own provincialism. With the right investors and the right management, the store could have thrived. WEHO has a huge “hanging out” crowd that is year round and spends money. Had they chosen a new larger location, opened a coffee shop and bistro with events and entertainment (a bookish version of the Abbey model) the profits from that would have sustained and subsidized the thinner bookstore profits. Instead the merchandise got stranger and more random (bins of porn dvd’s and other crap) and the service got more and more detached. How many times have I waited for 10 minutes while the one guy behind the counter chatted up someone on the phone? Too many to count. Kramer Books in DC is an example (with its popular cafe that’s open all hours) of how to do it.

  11. MrRoboto says

    I work with ADL in my professional life all the time, and visit them at least once a week to shop, pick up a few magazines or books, etc. We frequent customers had a feeling this was coming, but it’s heartbreaking to see it finally come to pass.

  12. Eric says

    I only buy books from ADL in San Francisco to support the bookstore and the community.

    I would hate if the SF store were to close. They have books that I wouldn’t be able to find at any other bookstore.

    Borders and B&N have tiny GLBT sections that just don’t cut it. Shopping for books online just isn’t the same because you can’t browse the same way.

    What a shame that more people aren’t supporting gay businesses.

  13. jimmyboyo says

    ADL Addled

    Here here!!!

    porn bins? everybody can get free porn on line

    Focus on books and do the cafe hang out with (gay poetry nights, comedy nights, book reading clubs, gay local musicans, etc)

    Add in 1/2 the shop a gay USED books section! used book stores are poppin up right and left in the straight world. I know I have tons of gay books I don’t want to toss in the trash but I also don’t want nor need anymore and would to trade them in for credit towards other gay books that I wouldn’t mind if are used 1 or even 3 times = a little dog eared.

  14. styleboy says

    To Busytimmy: No, all boookstores are not gay. I can’t imagine my local Barnes and Noble at the Grove sponsoring any kind of gay writer reading his work there.

  15. says

    Here in NYC gay bookstores are disappearing too fast! Oscar Wilde’s closing is just the latest in a string of them. There was a lovely bookstore/cafe on Avenue A in the East Village called the Rapture which closed last year. It was a place where on any given night you might meet a LGBT author, enjoy a reading or spoken word performance on the stage, buy a new gay book, or just have a bull session with the staff and patrons about any old thing. I was sad to see it (and now ADL and OWB) go.

    It’s a disturbing trend. I hope we don’t see any more of thyese bookstores closing. They are a vital, important part of our community, and we need to support them!

  16. says

    Let’s be honest, ADL was boring. There was no place to sit and peruse books, no coffee stand, the magazines leaned towards esoteric Euro Twink and other porn. It was clauctrophobic and the help always seemed to embody all that was wrong with Weho.

    In addition, that construction project basically killed that stretch of street for the businesses that were paying decent rents. After they folded the landlords were able to raise the rents for the new businesses which is why you now have pizza places and that gawd awful american apparel store (is it still there?).

    There might just not be a need for gay bookstores anymore, especially if they don’t provide the amenities that a Baorders or B&N do. It’s just a sign of the times. After desegregation many black owned businesses closed because people could finally shop outside of the ghetto. Same thing here.

  17. HD says

    I just walked by A Different Light last night and saw the signs in the window. I’ve loved this bookstore ever since I moved to LA. I am actually going to a book reading there this Saturday. What has happened to our neighborhood? Is there going to be a Starbucks and Pinkberry at every corner where there use to be diversity and culture?? ADL is a landmark- It will be missed. It reminds me of when Virgin records was forced out of the Sunset/Crescent location so ANOTHER Starbucks could move in. What the hell is going on?

  18. David B. says

    And let’s admit it — West Hollywood did not help.

    I cannot tell you how often there is just no parking available at all there. Here in LA not getting to go to a location you would like to visit because of no parking is getting ridiculous!!! in even bad neighborhoods when you are like only going to a Quiznos.

    It is bad here peeps!

  19. A Dissatisfied Customer says

    On two separate occasions I purchased gay travel books from A Different Light. I was shocked at how outdated and inaccurate the books proved to be. I informed A Different Light of the problems with these books in writing. When I saw that they continued to stock them, I stopped patronizing their establishment.

  20. Good Riddance! says

    The author/vendor problems with this bookstore have been well documented. Contact any author who has had a signing in the last two years and they’ll tell you that invoices for sold books were slowly paid even by bookstore standards.

    If Bill Barker wanted to keep the bookstore alive he would have hired a manager that actually knew about the book business rather than (1) an ex-BF who was ridiculously under qualified to run anything much less a bookstore or (2) a ex-Virgin Mega Store employee who ran his own store into the ground and then wanted to turn ADL into a DVD depot.

    Horrible, ignorant customer service. “Billy” was always on his MySpace acct or on his i-phone putting out the multitude of dramas in his life rather than helping customers and most of the other staff got fed up and left.

    Now all the queers can head across the street to Chi Chi Larues and get all there porn needs met without buying overpriced garbage from ADL. Wake up! It is not 1979 anymore…I can buy the same full priced book at your store for 40% off on Amazon.

    Good Riddance! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

  21. Coop says

    WOW! That’s sad news. Things change so quickly! I used to live up the street on Larrabee. and walked down when I wanted abook I couldn’t find anywhere else. At least the online market will remain open as well as The San Francisco store. I hope the small gay business owner isn’t disappearing all together! C.

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