The most famous gay bookshop in Britain will have to close unless it can raise £20,000 to pay the rent.

Gay’s The Word, in London’s Bloomsbury district, first opened its doors in 1979. A host of gay and lesbian authors have spoken about the unique place the bookseller has in the capital’s gay fabric.

The shop is renowned for its back catalogue of titles, some of which are very difficult to obtain.

Managers admit that the rise of internet book buying has affected business. Rising rents may mark the end of an era.

Sarah Waters, who won the Stonewall Award last year for her best-selling novel The Night Watch, told The Guardian,

“For me it’s more than a bookshop. It was one of those places you went to when you first arrived in London; it had its noticeboard and it was a meeting place.”

Gay’s The Word is well-known in academic circles for its wide range of stock and knowledgable staff and was voted one of the top ten independent bookshops in London last year.

The shop also hosts discussion groups and acts as a community space for many gay and lesbian Londoners.

The challenge now is to transfer that reputation online while maintaining the physical presence in Bloomsbury.

In an attempt to raise funds, the shop is offering people the chance to sponsor a shelf for £100.

“It’s a case of use us or lose us. We are on the verge of closing. It’s tough trading for all independents,” manager Jim MacSweeney told The Times.

“People came to us when we were the only shop selling gay literature. But times have changed.”

To sponsor a shelf, send a cheque (payable to GTW), e-mail your card details or call 0207 278 7654. Your name / organisation will be listed in-store as an official Friend of Gay’s The Word and sponsor. For more info e-mail ‘Cash for Honours’ to sales@gaystheword.co.uk