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And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

  1. Sep 17, 2006 #1


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    Trouble with Physics has broken into the 100s territory in overall amazon booksales. Looks like it has a shot at REAL sales, not just being #1 in the restricted general physics category.

    the amazon general physics bestseller list (with overall booksales rank in parens) as of 9:35 AM pacific Sunday 16 Sept goes like:

    1. TwP (#147)
    2. NEW (#547)
    3. Elegant (#639)
    4. Physics for Dummies (#1486)
    5. Road to Reality (#1923)
    6. God's Universe (#1931)
    8. Briefer (#2373)
    25. Brief (#5750)


    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

    I think TwP is a different kind of general audience physics writing. It is not string-pop, or speculative fantasy, or visions of the hidden dimensions of the universe, or gee-whiz, or self-aggrandizing science personality cult----it is sort of earthy and honest.

    It is a lesson in the bookmarket to watch the amazon gen-phys list.

    God-and-Science books seem to be popular---like the Owen Gingerich which is #6 (plus both Hawking and Susskind books have been promoted to take advantage of that little boom: Susskind flirting the "Illusion of Intelligent Design" in his title and getting a flock of rave reviews from religious folk who found his book inspirational)

    whoops, it is 10:15 AM now and they've reposted. In the past hour, Trouble with Physics has moved ahead another notch, from #147 to #139 storewide
    edit: to see what books the abbreviations are for, go here

    DaveC sorry for the abbr. I will explain in a couple of posts as soon as I have time
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2006
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  3. Sep 17, 2006 #2


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    If I were to list the words, phrases and acronyms in the above post that I don't understand, it would exceed the message buffer. To me, it reads like an internal tech document. But maybe I'm alone.
  4. Sep 17, 2006 #3


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    I sympathise DaveC, and i will try to remedy that
  5. Sep 17, 2006 #4


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    DaveC, I am trying to understand a little better the general audience market for physics books. I am tracking Smolin The Trouble with Physics and comparing it with other more traditional kinds of physics popularization and some utility books. I will do an update.

    Just now at around 12:40 PM pacific, I noticed that TwP is now #104 storewide

    earlier today it was #147.

    Ooops my wife needs the computer. I cant do an update.

    anyway the abbreviations are NEW is woits book Not Even Wrong
    there is also Road to Reality by Penrose
    A brief history of time
    A briefer history of time etc.

    Elegant Universe by Greene
    and so on

    just look at this amazon list, you will see them all
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/14560/ref=pd_ts_b_nav/102-4540543-7840144 [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 22, 2017 at 12:52 PM
  6. Sep 17, 2006 #5


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    I have some time to explain, now.

    for example as of 2:02 PM Sunday the 17th the line-up is this

    1. TwP (#111)
    2. NEW (#395)
    3. Elegant Universe (#996)
    4. God's Universe (#1251)
    5. Road to Reality (#1517)
    6. Physics for Dummies (#1688)
    11. A Briefer History of Time (#3081)

    I was using TwP to stand for Smolin's new book The Trouble with Physics...and What Comes Next
    and NEW to stand for Peter Woit's Not Even Wrong

    actually the "What Comes Next" is a major part of the book, but that aspect gets omitted from the short title.

    Lessons about the market.

    Books with UNIVERSE in the title are doing well these days. Seth Lloyd book has recently risen to #14 and it manages to use BOTH "universe" and "cosmos" in the same title:
    "Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes On the Cosmos"

    Books that are nominally science but cast a glance in the direction of Intelligent Design have been doing well.
    It is noticeable that the #6 book in amazon general physics is Owen Gingerich "God's Universe".

    this is well-titled for the market because it has both the word God and the word Universe. Almost certain to get a lot of people to buy the book.

    People also have been attracted by the idea of HIDDEN DIMENSIONS. A number of the books in the top 100 amazon general physics list have that appeal.

    What really amazes me is that IN THIS MARKET two very atypical books like TwP and NEW have risen to the top.

    Smolin's has been #1 whenever I looked (which has been fairly often) since Wednesday 30 August. So it is going on 3 weeks.
    And that is against a field that contains Brian Greene, Stephen Hawking, Lisa Randall, Leonard Susskind, Owen Gingerich (of God's Universe), Roger Penrose, and the dreaded Michio Kaku!


    I forgot to mention, Susskind's is another one of the "Universe" books on the market because it's title
    has the word cosmic which doubtless must appeal to buyers in the same way. Currently, as of 4:30 PM Sunday, its standing is:

    79. The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design (#16,677)
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2006
  7. Sep 17, 2006 #6


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    I think titles help sell books, or the wrong note struck in a title can hurt the book's popularity. Maybe this is wrong. really just learning about the generalaudience physicsbook market

    I just noticed something. Looking at the top 60 titles of the amazon gen. phys. bestseller list ONLY TWO BOOKS SAY STRING THEORY IN THE TITLE

    a third, Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, simply says "superstrings"---which is less noticeable:
    "The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory"

    In Greene's book the word sort of slips by. You might think you know the title, the book is a classic that's been around since 1997, and yet you might not even remember it has the word superstrings anywhere in the title.
    To my ear, what resonates in the title is stuff like "Universe" and "Dimensions" and "Ultimate"

    Aside from Greene's classic, none of the books even say superstrings. the only two of these popular books (the first 60) that actually say STRING THEORY in the title are the two books by Smolin and Woit, which are #1 and #2 on the list. At least currently.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2006
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