So yes, the book is available at City Lights (just got the shipment a couple of days ago). I'm pretty excited about it and feel like it equals the first one. I'm enjoying the hell out of it, at any rate. David Calonne did a real bang up job!
So about the shipping price, here's the deal. Understand that we're not trying to bilk anyone and are doing things as cheaply as possible. This discount on the book itself is designed to mitigate the pain of the postage. The thing is, we'll never be able to compete with Amazon shipping. Never. Amazon is one of the biggest corporations in America, City Lights is an independent press that has never accepted funding from outside sources. Amazon can afford to take a loss on shipping; City Lights can't. Amazon can take a loss on books; we can't. Amazon owns its own warehouses; we have to pay a great deal of money to rent space in a warehouse. It's really an issue of economy of scale. And to be honest, Amazon is basically trying to run real bookstores out of business and is largely succeeding. I'm sure the heavy discounts will dry up once they achieve the goal.
Anyway, there's a lot of factors involved. We could probably get cheaper warehousing, but we do it with warehouses that pay their employees a living wage. (Buk worked in a book warehouse and it doesn't sound like he got one.) We could print books in India or China, which is a hell of a lot cheaper, but they're not environmentally friendly and pay slave wages. So we print them in Michigan, where most of the best large-scale printing is done in America and it costs more.
The main thing is to consider the role of an independent press versus a huge corporation. Buk could have cut and run from Black Sparrow for one of the NY corporate presses; he had plenty of offers and would have made way more money than if he stayed with Black Sparrow. But he didn't, largely out of loyalty to John Martin, but also, one suspects, because he wasn't a corporate type of guy. Ginsberg could have republished Howl with Viking Press in 1958, but he stuck with City Lights out of loyalty and non-corporateness until 1980 or so, when he went to Harper"”we couldn't have published his collected anyway because it's too big a book for us to handle, and he made sure that City Lights retained the rights to publish any of the older books we published, even if we no longer control the rights to Ginsberg's poems. If he hadn't stayed with us, we might not be here.
I understand the difficulties of paying for things; I'm a poor man myself. And I'm not even here to urge you to buy it from City Lights; if there's an independent bookstore anywhere in your area, you should go there instead of Amazon. Anything to keep the trade alive is better than buying off Amazon and really, who wants to end up reading Buk on a Kindle; he was the kind of dude who liked the smell of books, the type itself. (It was the non-corporate alternative publications that made Buk's rep to begin with.) But if Amazon has its way, books may very well disappear for e-texts, because there's so little overhead compared to books and corporate America is about squeezing the most cash out of consumers for the least expense.
Anyway, that's my song and dance on shipping. Even if you buy it from Amazon, you're still doing us good and your purchase is much appreciated. It warms my heart to see all the enthusiasm here; we live in a country where only half the population even reads a book anymore, and most of that stuff is self-help nonsense, Harry Potter, and Tom Clancy-type stuff. The passion for Bukowski among you is by far the exception, not the rule, in today's literary culture, and I love it.
City Lights Books