New XKCD Book Discounted 36% for Pre-Orders


New XKCD diagram book - Thing ExplainerXKCD’s web site is now touting its new upcoming book

Amazon’s discounting the newest book by XKCD cartoonist Randall Munroe by 36% — and it’s already become one of their best-selling books! What’s fascinating is the author’s previous book — published one year ago — is still Amazon’s #1 best-selling book in their “Physics” category, edging out Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. And now Randall’s new unpublished book is already Amazon’s #1 best-seller in their “Science & Math” subcategory for scientific instruments, and also #1 in Amazon’s Mechanics category.


For a shortcut to all of the author’s books, point your browser to
tinyURL.com/XKCDAuthor
 

The new book is called Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words, and it normally retails for $24.95. But Amazon’s offering a special pre-order discount, selling it for just $15.99. It’s a beautiful collection of “large format” blueprints — 9″ x 13″ — offering the cartoonist’s wry, “detailed diagrams of interesting objects, along with explanations of what all the parts are and how they work,” according to a post on Randall’s XKCD blog. “The titles, labels, and descriptions are all written using only the thousand most common English words.

“Since this book explains things, I’ve called it Thing Explainer.”

Everything from datacenters to tectonic plates, and even all the controls in an airplane cockpit, will all get humorously simple descriptions. And in the blog post, Randall explains that he was inspired by his experience in trying to describe NASA’s Saturn V rocket (which carried 24 astronauts to the moon between 1968 and 1972). “Fire comes out here,” reads the bottom of the diagram, and Randall described the rocket’s control module as a “people box”. Another part of the diagram is labelled “part that flies around the other world and comes back home with the people in it and falls into the water…”

But best of all, Randall’s even describing this book in the same simple style that he’s using for its diagrams. (“I had a good time drawing Up Goer Five, so I decided to draw more pictures like that and make a book of them…”) It’d be a great, geeky gift — a 64-page masterpiece, released on November 24th, so it’ll be just in time for the big pre-December shopping season.

And yes, Amazon is also selling a collection of his popular XKCD comic strip – newly available in paperback format!

For a shortcut to the discounted book’s page, point your browser to
tinyURL.com/XKCDAuthor

 
Randall Munroe XKCD book vs Stephen Hawking

New XKCD Book Discounted 50% for Pre-Orders

XKCD cartoonist publishes a What If book

Amazon’s discounting the newest book by XKCD cartoonist Randall Munroe by up to 50% — and it’s already become one of their best-selling books! It’s available as Kindle ebook for just $11.99 — a 50% discount from its cover price of $24 — if you pre-order before its official release this week. Even the hardcover edition has been discounted by 40% (to just $14.40)!

For a shortcut to the discounted book’s page, point your browser to
tinyURL.com/XKCDAuthor

And in other news, “I’m excited to announce that I’ll be going on a book tour!” the author posted recently on his blog. When the book is finally released Tuesday, he’ll be appearing in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the Harvard Book Store. Then on Friday it’s New York City, for the Barnes and Noble at Union Square. Within four days, he’ll be appearing in Seattle (at Town Hall), for a Tuesday night appearance which is already sold out. And by Thursday and Friday, it’s San Francisco and Berkeley, for two appearances which are both, also, already sold out…

XKCD book tour map

Amazingly, his book has already jumped onto Amazon’s best-seller list even though it hasn’t been released yet, grabbing different spots in the top 10 throughout this weekend. (Currently it’s ranked #9 on Amazon’s list of hardcover best-sellers– higher than To Kill a Mockingbird and The Fault in Our Stars…) “This title will be auto-delivered to your Kindle on September 2, 2014,” Amazon advises shoppers, promising them the best of both worlds. You can still claim the huge pre-order discount — and then receive the ebook on Tuesday!

What’s even more amazing is it became a best-seller at Amazon five months ago. When the XKCD creator first announced this title, it became Amazon’s #2 most popular hard-cover book. “It’s like a surreal story from one of the author’s own comic strips,” I wrote in March. “In our yet-to-happen future, his book decides to travel backwards through time, stopping off in March of 2014 to inform Amazon’s best-seller list that yes, in our coming timeline this book will be widely read.” And ironically, the book’s title is What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. (Like what would happen if you threw a baseball at 90% of the speed of light…? )

I thought it was nice of the author to include a “Google Hangout” on his book tour. On Friday September 12th, he’ll appear in the live online chat (though questions will be limited to four carefully-chosen fans…) Then there’s one more stop in Santa Monica, before he returns home to continue drawing his comic strip.

And yes, Amazon is also selling a collection of his popular comic strip –though that book is only available in hardcover…


Remember, for a shortcut to his book’s page — and the earlier collection of
the author’s comic strips — point your browser to
tinyURL.com/XKCDAuthor

How An Unpublished XKCD Book Became an Amazon Best-Seller

XKCD cartoonist publishes a What If book

It’ll be six months before it’s even released. Yet it’s already become Amazon’s
#2 best-selling book!
It’s by the cartoonist who draws the popular online comic strip XKCD. And ironically, this book is titled “What If?”


For a shortcut to his book’s page — and an earlier collection of
the author’s comic strips — point your browser to
tinyURL.com/XKCDAuthor

It’s like a surreal story from one of the author’s own comic strips. In our yet-to-happen future, his book decides to travel backwards through time, stopping off in March of 2014 to inform Amazon’s best-seller list that yes, in our coming timeline this book will be widely read. Ironically, the book’s complete title is “What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions.” (Like what would happen if you threw a baseball at 90% the speed of light? )

“…the air molecules in front of this ball don’t have time to be jostled out of the way. The ball smacks into them so hard that the atoms in the air molecules actually fuse with the atoms in the ball’s surface. Each collision releases a burst of gamma rays and scattered particles… They start to tear apart the molecules in the air, ripping the electrons from the nuclei and turning the air in the stadium into an expanding bubble of incandescent plasma…

“A careful reading of official Major League Baseball Rule 6.08(b) suggests that in this situation, the batter would be considered ‘hit by pitch’, and would be eligible to advance to first base.”

For years the cartoonist — Randall Munroe — has been fielding these wild questions on a special “sub domain” of his comic strip’s web page ( at whatIf.xkcd.com ) The answers are illustrated with some of his endearing stick figures and simple diagrams – but there’s always been real science in the paragraphs of text that accompany them. What’s really amazing is he only announced his plans to publish this book yesterday — in a blog post entitled “What if I wrote a book?” His fan base was so thrilled, a huge number apparently rushed over to Amazon to pre-order their copies!

To encourage them to buy, the author even created a special cartoon just to answer one more question.

XCKD author publishes What If

They may also have been intrigued by the fact that this book will contain new material in addition to some of the author’s favorite questions from his web site. “As I’ve sifted through the letters submitted to What If every week, I’ve occasionally set aside particularly neat questions that I wanted to spend a little more time on,” Munroe wrote in his blog post. “This book features my answers to those questions, along with revised and updated versions of some of my favorite articles from the site….)

But there’s one more fascinating data point. Right now, the unpublished book doesn’t even appear on Amazon’s list of the top 100 best-selling Kindle ebooks. It’s got me wondering if most of Amazon’s customers are just buying Kindle ebooks now. So it’s much easier to get to the top of Amazon’s list of print best-sellers — because Amazon’s selling so few printed books!

A Cartoonist’s Secret Kindle Joke

XKCD cartoonist talks about his comic strip on Amazon's Kindle

I’m a fan of the comic strip XKCD. So I was delighted when the cartoonist did a special edition that was all about the Kindle.

“Even if I spend months broke and drunk in a strange city, I’ll still be able to use Wikipedia and Wikitravel to learn about anything I need…”

Ironically, it’s very hard to read that comic on your Kindle (though its dialogue is almost legible if you surf straight to the image.) But, to give away the punchline, the female character decides there’s something suspiciously familiar about the idea of being able to learn anything anywhere. And when she examines the Kindle more closely, she makes a startling discovery: it’s actually The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

For those of you who haven’t read the book, it describes a near-magical, all-knowing guidebook that would be crucial if, say, your home planet Earth was destroyed, and you had to navigate through all the other strange alien civilizations. It’s the perfect metaphor for the Kindle’s unlimited (and free) internet access, though I first read that cartoon before I’d even purchased my Kindle. But I still remember it every time I switch to Wikipedia to look up crucial context for the classic books I’m reading. (“Was this book popular in its time? How old was its author…?”)

I even added this capability to yesterday’s list of my favorite Kindle tips and tricks. (It’s possible to instantly search Wikipedia for any topic just by typing @wiki after hitting the Search button.) But the cartoonist’s joke has a special resonance for me, because I’d interviewed Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, just a few weeks before his death in 2001. He’d lived long enough to see a wonderful sight — his six-year-old daughter, pushing her doll’s baby stroller while mimicking the voice of the GPS system in her daddy’s car. And I sometimes wonder what he would’ve thought of the Kindle. “Anything that’s invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things,” Adams had joked, while introducing, of course, a contradicting corollary. “Anything that’s in the world when you’re born is considered ordinary and normal.”

I’ve always assumed that Adams would eventually come around to the idea of using a digital reader. But regardless of Adams’ opinion, the magic of the internet at least lets us peek into the thoughts of the cartoonist who draws XKCD. If you hold your mouse over his cartoons, you’ll discover that the cartoonist leaves behind an extra personal statement for every cartoon. (For example, “Now that the Apple Store is getting rid of DRM, Cory Doctorow will get rid of his Steve Jobs voodoo doll…”) So what was his message for his Kindle cartoon?

“I’m happy with my Kindle 2 so far, but if they cut off the free Wikipedia browsing, I plan to show up drunk on Jeff Bezos’s lawn and refuse to leave!”

Visit Amazon’s Page of Douglas Adams Kindle books.

Or check out the Kindle version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.