Smolin book #1 physics bestseller in UK (#23 in all books)

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  • #1
marcus
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I just looked at the UK amazon physics bestseller list and Smolin
"The Trouble with Physics...and What Comes Next"
was number one.

that is maybe not so surprising. It was the number one physics bestseller in the US for a couple of months or so in fall 2006 when it came out, and the UK edition just came out last month.

But here is something unexpected:

Smolin's book is currently the #23 UK amazon bestseller in ALL BOOKS.

Here's the UK physics list
http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/278409/ref=pd_ts_b_nav/026-8303087-5718006&tag=

Here's the page for the book, that currently says the salesrank is #23 (might be different an hour from now.)
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0713997990/?tag=pfamazon01-20

Here's the UK all books list
http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/ref=pd_ts_b_ldr/026-3303388-4063638&tag=

It is currently topped by Harry Potter books and some detective novels, obviously real tough competition for a physics book, but nevertheless Smolin is hanging in there at #23 place.

Get a look now, can't expect something like this to last! :smile:
 

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  • #2
marcus
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Several hours later, it is still #1.

"The Trouble with Physics...and What Comes Next" is currently #24 bestseller among all books that UK amazon sells.

Incredible
 
  • #3
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I am looking from some information regarding String Theory. Is this the correct place to look in the physics forum? Thanks!
 
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I am looking from some information regarding String Theory. Is this the correct place to look in the physics forum? Thanks!

It sure is, Satie!
You can consult the "sticky" threads about string that are always at the top of our menu. Or you can read old threads and use the search engine.
If you have specific questions that have not already been asked in earlier threads (this is where the search engine helps) you may get results by starting your own thread.
 
  • #5
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It has been three days. I just checked and TWP salesrank was #56

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0713997990/?tag=pfamazon01-20

Three days ago when I happened to look it was #23.

so it is still doing amazingly well. In the US I don't recall ever seeing TWP under #190---a serious physics book rarely gets down into two-digit territory.

So for sure Smolin's book is #1 on the physics bestseller list. The top book there usually has rank several hundred so there is no competition.
As it happens, just now the number two book in physics had salesrank #884.
so the gap was between 56 and 884. Not very likely anybody will be competing with TWP at the top of the UK physics list any time soon, I'd guess.

In case anyone wants to check, heres the physics bestsell list
http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/278409/ref=pd_ts_b_nav/026-8303087-5718006&tag=

Odd thing is UK amazon still does not have the book "in stock" the way they have nearly all the other books they sell----they estimate 1 -3 weeks to fill the order, they must be shipping them out as fast as they get them in.
 
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  • #6
Chronos
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Welcome to PF, Satie! Another inquiring mind is always a plus. String theory is not real popular in these woods. Most of us don't much like 'many worlds'. In fact, I might be the worst offender on that count. I like Einstein's orderly universe that includes a tiny cosmological constant. But your ideas and questions are most welcome. God forbid, I might even be wrong. But I love to talk about this stuff and share ideas. I doubt either of us will 'convert', but that is unimportant. I like to think we all are groping in the dark for the truth.
 
  • #7
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I just checked around 4:30 PM pacific this afternoon and it was #41.

Smolin was interviewed on BBC today. Interview went very well, as did the comment and discussion after.
It can be heard as "latest programme" here
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/leadingedge.shtml

And I suppose may be archived as the 8 March programme of
"Leading Edge", a weekly BBC science program

There was also a review of TWP in the Financial Times of London, this week.


Salesrank #41 is incredible for a physics book. You can get to be number one on the UK amazon physics bestseller list even if your salesrank is, like, #800. TWP has apparently gone into overdrive. Will be interesting to see if they have French and or German translations.
================

While i think of it I'll list some of the new string books, including paperback editions, that have entered the market since Smolin's book came out in September 2006. Loosely speaking, these could be thought of as competing for a market niche, and provide a possible benchmark comparison.
(some that were out before TWP, but are still relatively new:
susskind hardbound
randall hardbound
zwiebach)

some that appeared since the Smolin book
susskind paperback
randall paperback
dine
becker
bender
katz
bryanton
(of these bryanton's book is selling the best, salesrank #17,720 when I last checked)
 
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  • #8
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I went to the debate in Oxford on Wednesday between Lee Smolin, Philip Candelas and Simon Saunders on the ideas in The Trouble with Physics. I've written a report of the debate on my website
 
  • #9
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I went to the debate in Oxford on Wednesday between Lee Smolin, Philip Candelas and Simon Saunders on the ideas in The Trouble with Physics. I've written a report of the debate on my website

Reading your impressions at the end of the report, do you feel Smolins worries of funding, and academic interest in string theory are slightly overblown. With the W boson scattering test at LHC, perhaps these worries maybe jumping the gun. I'm a big fan of Smolin, but I'm in two minds about some of the views raised in the book, albeit I'm only a third of the way in, but I believe the following years should be a turning point for physics, and I'm thinking 'The Trouble with Physics' is perhaps a little premature.
 
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Reading your impressions at the end of the report, do you feel Smolins worries of funding, and academic interest in string theory are slightly overblown. With the W boson scattering test at LHC, perhaps these worries maybe jumping the gun. I'm a big fan of Smolin, but I'm in two minds about some of the views raised in the book, albeit I'm only a third of the way in, but I believe the following years should be a turning point for physics, and I'm thinking 'The Trouble with Physics' is perhaps a little premature.
I don't know. Certainly Candelas felt that some of the concerns with funding were justified. I'm not involved in such things, but clearly there's a danger that any arrangement can get fossilised over time, with the best work being done in spite of, rather than because of, the system. As for string theory, the feeling I got was that its dominance, and the need to battle against it, were part of the normal give-and-take of science, rather than being part of a deeper malady.
 
  • #11
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Lee55 and Chronon, appreciate your comments and time permitting will add my own response. However new stuff keeps coming in

The RSA (Royal Society for the Arts---or for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce) had a debate on TWP

http://www.rsa.org.uk/events/detail.asp?EventID=2172

with the highly regarded Chris Isham (London Imperial) moderating.

Here is audio (I get it on quicktime)

http://www.rsa.org.uk/audio/lecture050307.mp3

There will be a TRANSCRIPT on the RSA website in a few days
================

Just checked and TWP is #35 among all books at UK amazon.
at the start of the morning it was #36, so fairly steady.

Smolin book and Woit book were #1 and #2 on the UK amazon PHYSICS bestseller list
http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/278409/ref=pd_ts_b_nav/026-8303087-5718006&tag=
Amazon finally has TWP in stock, but now the Woit book is back-ordered, estimated 4-6 days to ship.

On 4 March the Sunday Times had a review of TWP. The reviewer said:

'The best book about contemporary science written for the layman
that I have ever read ... Read this book. Twice.
'

Roger Penrose had this to say:
'His [Smolin's] critical judgments are exceptionally penetrating ... Read
this fascinating book and form your own judgment.'

Pretty strong praise. Smolin acquitted himself well in the BBC interview with Geoff Watts, and at the Royal Society of the Arts debate moderated by Chris Isham. Putting the reviews together with the RSA debate and the BBC interview helps understand why the book has moved into the top 100 (all books) list.

Plus there was the Oxford debate, that chronon reported. Things have really come together in the UK, for TWP.
 
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  • #12
marcus
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well, i looked 20 minutes ago and TWP was no longer in the TOP HUNDRED (all books) at UK amazon. It was #104, just over the border.

So it was in the top hundred for a week, from 4 March to 12 March. Pretty good show.

Of course TWP is still #1 physics bestseller at UK amazon. Any salesrank under 500 will usually ensure that.
 
  • #13
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Just checked (Wednesday 14 March) and TWP was #88 among all books UK amazon sells---so still in or around the top hundred bestsellers.
Of course a steady #1 on the physics bestsell list.
 
  • #14
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Thanks for your answer, Chronos. I wish I was an inquiring mind, really! Rather I am just an outsider in this world and became interested since I have read a recenssion on Smolin´s book and since my son bought his first string theory book (Swiebach), intending to follow that "string". I would be glad to understand something of this subject and that is the reason why I navigate this pages. Thanks again and hope to have a question soon!
Satie
 
  • #15
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The "trouble with..." book has had a lot of publicity recently -- I've seen it in UK papers and they had an article on BBC Radio 4 -- I wonder how many people who buy it actually read through it? :biggrin:
 
  • #16
josh1
Just checked (Wednesday 14 March) and TWP was #88 among all books UK amazon sells---so still in or around the top hundred bestsellers.
Of course a steady #1 on the physics bestsell list.

I would prefer if you kept us more up to date on the progress of twp, say on an hourly basis.
 
  • #17
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Reading your impressions at the end of the report, do you feel Smolins worries of funding, and academic interest in string theory are slightly overblown. With the W boson scattering test at LHC, perhaps these worries maybe jumping the gun. I'm a big fan of Smolin, but I'm in two minds about some of the views raised in the book, albeit I'm only a third of the way in, but I believe the following years should be a turning point for physics, and I'm thinking 'The Trouble with Physics' is perhaps a little premature.

Hi Lee55, I think you are in the UK so being in California I might have a different perspective.
For me the main evidence of US research directorate having a functional problem is that in the whole country there is only ONE non-string QG research group-----meaning with more than one facultymember.

That is Ashtekar's group at Penn State.

To find other non-string QG groups you have to go outside the country (Canada, UK has several, Utrecht, Marseille, Montpellier, UNAM-Morelia).

This whole situation would not have arisen if US research directors had wisely supported a variety of initiatives 10 years ago. If there were two or three other centers like Penn State operating at present.

Solo operations---a single faculty with one or two grad students---can be fine. But normally a single faculty doesnt get grant money for postdocs, so you cant build a group.

It should never have been allowed to reach that state (where with only one exception all the unification/theory groups were string)

So from a US perspective Smolin is not "jumping the gun" but instead looks even too patient. He should have lit a stick of dynamite under the research establishment butt alread some years ago.
=============

the results are already looking hopeful.

David Gross may be adding some Loop Quantum Cosmology to KITP.
If they can get a non-string QG group at KITP, then there would be two groups in the US and it would be real progress towards breaking the monopoly.

=======
links to the London RSA debate
(Smolin, Nancy Cartwright, Michael Duff, Isham moderating)
http://www.rsa.org.uk/events/textdetail.asp?ReadID=980 [Broken]

http://www.rsa.org.uk/audio/index.asp [Broken]

link to Smolin's BBC interview with Geoff Watts and Anjana Ahuja
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/leadingedge.shtml

link to Oxford debate about Smolin's book: trouble with physics
http://www.chronon.org/articles/trouble_physics_debate.html
 
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  • #18
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Sunday, 18 March
TWP salesrank still in the top 100 whenever I happened to check

It has been #1 physics bestseller in UK for over two weeks now
and for nearly all that time it's been in the top 100 bestsellers among all books.

the publisher, Allen Lane, has done a fine job----the debates at Oxford University and at the Royal Institution undoubtably helped sales a lot.
 
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Hi Everyone,

I am now studying the book and have some questions about the string theory explanations given by Smolin in it. Is this the appropriate forum for seeking the answers to those questions?
 
  • #20
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Hi Everyone,

I am now studying the book and have some questions about the string theory explanations given by Smolin in it. Is this the appropriate forum for seeking the answers to those questions?

definitely AN appropriate forum for seeking answers to questions about string theory whether arising from Smolin's TWP explanation or from other sources!
As general advice, keep your options open. If you don't like the answers you get here there are other venues in which to raise the same questions.

for example, see the list of string theorist blogs that Peter Woit has
http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/
check out his list of links to "string theory blogs"

You could start a thread called "TWP discussion of string theory" and post whatever questions you have. Be sure to give page reference if you are talking about something in the Smolin book, so that we can easily turn to the passage that you are asking about.
 
  • #21
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Wonderful.

I would like to start here, in this forum. The technical level of the questions are on the level of the book, so I hope that we can stay there, if at all possible.

First, Smolin explains, on pages 106 and 107, that closed strings are formed from open strings, when the two ends join. Then he writes,

The ends of an open string can be seen as charged particles. For example, one end could be a negatively charged particle, such as an electron, the other would then be its antiparticle, the positron, which is positively charged. The massless vibration of the string between them describes the photon that carries the electrical force between the particle and antiparticle.

My question is this: If the closed string forms the graviton boson, which mediates the force between masses, how do the electron/positron ends of an open string gravitate (have mass)?

Also, when the ends join, annihilating, shouldn't they constitute a photon boson, like the observed "pair annihilation" does? Yet, unless the photon (massless vibration), carrying the charge between them, exists before they are joined, they obviously can have no existence. As Smolin describes it, the photon boson is converted into a graviton boson upon annihilation. This doesn't seem to jive with the observed pair production/annihilation, where charges are converted into radiation, or vice versa.

Finally, are we to understand that the massless vibration between the charges is always there, no matter how far apart the ends are? For every electron in the universe is there a massless vibration connecting it to a positron somewhere? Do these stretched strings get all balled up as the electrons flow through intermingled circuits of every type and description, but the positrons do not, or is there a positron accompaning each electron through the circuit, like a dog on a short leash?
 
  • #22
marcus
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Hi dbundy,
I realize that I may have misunderstood your question because we could mean different things by the word "forum".

You asked if you should ask questions about string theory "in this forum" and I said yes, but I didn't advise doing so in this thread. In this thread, your questions are not very visible so they are not apt to get much attention from string buffs. I don't MIND having your questions. I wish some string expert would answer them, is all.

I call a series of posts like this one about UK sales of Smolin's book a "thread". the thread is IN the forum called "Beyond Standard Model".
Since you have questions about string, you are likely to get the attention of more people if you START YOUR OWN THREAD with a descriptive title like
"string theory questions".

If you are not used to the discussion-board format and would like help, let me know and I will start a thread for you and copy your questions to it.

Then your thread will show up on the menu of the "Beyond" forum, along with this thread and scores of others. (And string experts, scanning the menu, are more apt to see it and reply.)
 
  • #23
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Thanks Marcus,

I was being careless with the terminology. I'll take your suggestion. I would like to discuss both ST and LQG, from the perspective of Smolin's book, and thinking that there was likely more empathy here for Smolin, I was hoping to it would be a good fit.

I'll start a new thread.

Thanks.
 
  • #24
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...I was hoping to it would be a good fit.
.

I understand perfectly, and, if you could get the attention of one of the string-buffs in this context then you would be more than welcome to go at it right here! I would be glad if we did include some discussion here of Lee Smolin's treatment of string theory, perhaps clarifying some points in his non-mathematical presentation for lay reader. My guess is that it is one of the better non-technical explanations available but it'll be interesting to see what the others say.:biggrin:
 
  • #25
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#1 physics bestseller better part of a month

TWP has been the UK amazon #1 physics bestseller for three weeks now. I first noticed it at #1 spot on 4 March and just checked 24 March.
Still there, and also it's #107 among all books

which means it has essentially no competition for #1 in physics. the other physics books rarely have salesrank less than 500 or 600.
I'll get some links to make it easier to check

Here's the UK physics list
http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/278409/ref=pd_ts_b_nav/026-8303087-5718006&tag=

Here's the page for the TWP, which gives its sales rank among all books
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0713997990/?tag=pfamazon01-20

======
links to the London RSA debate
(Smolin, Nancy Cartwright, Michael Duff, Isham moderating)
http://www.rsa.org.uk/events/textdetail.asp?ReadID=980

http://www.rsa.org.uk/audio/index.asp

link to Smolin's BBC interview with Geoff Watts and Anjana Ahuja
http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/leadingedge.shtml
on the right side there's a list of past programs---click on the program for 8 March and skip the first 8 minutes or so
which are about the effect of smells on learning and memory

link to Oxford debate about Smolin's book: trouble with physics
http://www.chronon.org/articles/trouble_physics_debate.html
==================
UPDATE: Just checked again Sunday 25 March and TWP was #83 among all books

something remarkable happening. physics books don't ordinarily ever get into the top hundred
and TWP is persistently and repeatedly getting there
staying pretty much all the time (whenever I look) in the top 200 and spending significant time in the top 100
either TWP is a really important book, or Allen Lane is doing an extremely able job of promotion, or both

and of course TWP continues steadily to be the #1 bestseller among physics books (always at the top of that more selective list)
what amazes me is how it is performing in competition with the really popular mass genre
 
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  • #26
marcus
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The Trouble with Physics...and What Comes Next has been the #1 bestselling physics book in Britain for over a month now.

That is, #1 on the UK amazon physics bestsell list. I first noticed it there on 4 March and it could have been there several days earlier since I wasn't checking regularly at the time.

When I looked today, 6 April, the Smolin book's salesrank among all those that Amazon sells was 319, which means that it has little competition in the physics section. On the physics physics list, the runner-up book is nowhere close.

So sales have been substantial in the UK. Here's hoping the book will have a wholesome impact on theory research in Britain, as well as stimulating public interest.

Since we have several posters here at PF "Beyond" forum who are in physics theory research (at Cambridge and other good places) it would be interesting to hear if they have any reactions.
 
  • #27
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The Trouble with Physics...and What Comes Next has been the #1 bestselling physics book in Britain for over a month now.

That is, #1 on the UK amazon physics bestsell list. I first noticed it there on 4 March ...

this is incredible! I just happened to check UK Amazon and the smolin book was not only #1 physics bestseller (as usual) but was
#90
among ALL BOOKS AMAZON SELLS.

check it out:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/278409/ref=pd_ts_b_nav/026-8303087-5718006&tag=
to get the salesrank, click on the book. that brings up a page of information about that particular book
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0713997990/?tag=pfamazon01-20
that page gives the salesrank.

So TWP has gone back to being among the top 100 titles in UK, which it was earlier, for about three weeks when it first came out.
 
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  • #28
marcus
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today 10 April Smolin's book slipped from first place on the UK physics bestseller list, for the first time since 4 March.

this is AFAIK, based on occasional checking.

So it had a pretty good run at the top. Over a month.

this is comparable to how it performed for the first couple of months when it came out in the US market, last Autumn.
 
  • #29
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The Smolin book has now been out in the UK market for two months. (It appeared on 22 February 2007)

I just checked as of midnight Central time to see how it was doing and found that it was at the top of the UK physics bestseller list----it was the #1 physics bestseller in UK, with overall salesrank 768 among all books.

to have a benchmark for comparison, here are the string Top Five---the five most popular string books in the UK. I will use the average salesrank of the stringy Top Five as a standard against which to measure TWP salesrank.

Randall warped
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0141012978/?tag=pfamazon01-20

Greene elegant
http://www.amazon.com/dp/009928992X/?tag=pfamazon01-20

Kaku parallel
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0141014636/?tag=pfamazon01-20

Kaku hyperspace
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0192861891/?tag=pfamazon01-20

Greene fabric
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0141011114/?tag=pfamazon01-20

I checked the salesranks for these at the same time and they averaged out to be 20,422.6 (the sum of the salesranks, divided by five).

This is about 26 times bigger than the salesrank of TWP, which was 768 when I checked.

Smolin TWP
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0713997990/?tag=pfamazon01-20

So judging by salesranks, at the time i checked the Smolin book was about 26 times more popular than the average topfiver string book. In other words it is still doing well saleswise in the UK two months after entry in the market.
==============

Edit: that high number last night was just a fluke. I just checked as of 11 AM Central and the ratio was 15.7.
That is, going by salesranks, the Smolin book was about 15 times more popular than the average string TopFiver.
My sense is that 10-15 would be more typical of present booksales pattern in UK market.
 
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  • #30
marcus
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Two days later, 25 April, I checked at 8AM Central
TWP was #1 on UK amazon physics bestseller list and salesrank among all books was 541.
The string benchmark (average salesrank of five most popular titles) was 31,478.4.
the ratio is 58. so judging by saleranks TWP selling 58 times better than benchmark. TWP appears to be doing well in the UK market.
 
  • #31
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I hadn't checked for a while and just now looked at the UK amazon physics bestseller list. TWP was #1
with storewide salesrank 362, still doing well.

As a benchmark for comparison the four most popular string books (today, at the time I looked) were
Greene fabric (salesrank 700)
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0141011114/?tag=pfamazon01-20

Kaku parallel (salesrank 8489)
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0141014636/?tag=pfamazon01-20

Greene elegant (salesrank 9451)
http://www.amazon.com/dp/009928992X/?tag=pfamazon01-20

Susskind cosmic (salesrank 15,780)
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0316155799/?tag=pfamazon01-20

(too much trouble to find the fifth, not even on the top 100 physics books list)

when I checked the next day at around the same time the four string front-runners were the same except with Susskind replaced by Randall
Randall warped
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0141012978/?tag=pfamazon01-20
========

Smolin book, UK edition, appeared on 22 February 2007
remarkable performance

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0713997990/?tag=pfamazon01-20

========
EDIT as of 10 Central today 3 May, the salesrank ratio was 12.8
i.e. judging by UK amazon salesrank, Smolin's book was doing 12-or-so time better than the average of the four currently most popular string
 
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  • #32
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Hi Marcus,

I think you would have to compare how those books performed as a function of their own release dates. I mean, how did they perform in their first week, first month, etc. I don't know whether you will find this information at the amazon site though.
 
  • #33
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Hi Marcus,

I think you would have to compare how those books performed as a function of their own release dates. I mean, how did they perform in their first week, first month, etc. I don't know whether you will find this information at the amazon site though.

Hi Christine, nice to hear from you!
If I wanted to compare TWP performance WITH A PARTICULAR OTHER BOOK then I would have to compare the sales TRAJECTORIES. I would need data for each month starting when the book was released in the UK market.

But what I am using as a benchmark is not a particular book or any fixed set of books. I am using the four or five most popular books of a certain kind whatever they happen to be that day

What I have found is that this kind of index is fairly stable, with string in the US market----particular books come and go, new ones enter the market and may be a hit or may be ignored, but the average salesrank of the top five, whatever the top five books happen to be, serves as a pretty good standard of comparison.

In any case this has worked so far. There are roughly some 12-20 string books, some are old, some just came on the market recently. New ones appear all the time. The popularity of these books goes all over the place and the makeup of the front-runners can be expected to change. But if on a given day you take the five lowest salesranks and average them you get a reasonably stable index, not tied to the trajectory of any one particular book, which maybe tracks the public interest in that general topic.

Does that make sense to you?

Of course one could expect that the Smolin book sales will saturate and eventually DECLINE relative to this index-----because the index is not tied to a particular book but only to a general level of interest, while the Smolin, as an individual book, will have an ARC. Decline is something I want to be able to identify as well as rise.

So far I havent been paying much attention to the UK market, just looking in occasionally. Maybe I won't do any systematic watching. but it is tempting because the TWP performance in UK is completely surprising to me.

In salesrank terms (not in absolute number of copies sold, I guess, because the UK is a smaller market) TWP is doing even better in the UK in its first three months than it did in its first three months in the US.
 
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  • #34
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790
as of 10 Central today 3 May, the salesrank ratio was 12.8
i.e. judging by UK amazon salesrank, Smolin's book was doing 12-or-so time better than the average of the four currently most popular string

as of 10 central 5 May, ratio was 17.3
(the four most popular string books, that time, were fabric, zwiebach, warped and elegant)

as of 10 central 6 May, ratio was 10.7
(the four currently most popular string books were fabric, warped, elegant, and parallel)
 
Last edited:
  • #35
josh1
amazon canada ranks smolin`s book 9,047 of all books and it doesn't even make it to the top 100 of all physics books.
 

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