Signed Book Timeline

When I put my book up for sale, I thought it would be neat to offer the option of a signed copy to people who ordered in the first 24 hours. It was a popular option (more popular than we expected), and some people are wondering why they took so long to get there (most should have arrived last week, the last few American copies should have arrived by now, and overseas orders will be shipping outas soon as I finish signing them).  I had put a note on the order page warning that the signed copies would take longer to ship; if anyone’s interested in why they took as long as they did, here’s the story:

The regular copies were shipped immediately, and continue to ship on time.  The people who ship the books get them out fast — orders are generally shipped within 36 hours of when we get them.  The signed books started shipping out within a few days of the initial sale, and generally arrived promptly.  The books were being printed right up to the publication date, so I didn’t actually have a large stock of them beforehand.  Since I had no idea how popular the signed copies would be, I put up a note saying that the signed books might take longer to ship, since I’d be signing them after they were ordered.  This meant they had to be shipped to me first, before going to the shipping people.  It turned out (to my delight and horror) that they were extremely popular, and we had to raise the price just to make sure there wouldn’t be more orders than I had time to sign.

Since I was going on the book tour soon after the book went up for sale, we had the bulk of the books sent out to the reddit offices in San Francisco.  For the week after my book tour, I sat up late at one of their desks signing books (and working my way through the entire run of The West Wing).  I got all those signed by the end of the week (leaving an impressive callous on my right middle finger) and left the reddit office full of boxes for FedEx.  They picked them up Monday the 28th and took them to the shipping place in Virginia.  Because of the weight, they had to go ground, so they took all of that week to go there.  Those books shipped out within 36 hours of arriving, so they should have arrived late last week.

I got back to Boston, and later that week the next set of books arrived there.  I signed a large set of those, which finished off the US orders, and they went to the distribution office for shipping out sometime last week.  For the last week, I’ve been signing boxes of mainly European orders (followed by Australia and other overseas, which take longer to ship), and I should be finishing those up in the next handful of days.  Then there’s a four-or-five day delay as they’re sent to the shipping people (too heavy to send by anything but FedEx Ground), and they’ll go out then.  I apologize to anyone whose signed books took longer than they expected to arrive.  If you have any questions or problems regarding your order, email

Thank you so much to everyone who ordered a book.  If you’re interested, there are some pictures of the xkcd school site in Laos over on the BreadPig blog.


Just a note: thank you to everyone who made it to the events. We raised enough money to build a school!  It’ll be in the Salavan Province, on Road No. 13 South.  We’re not going to torment the kids’ ability to learn phonetics by calling it The XKCD School, but we will be writing a dedication which will go on a plaque.  You guys made this happen — does anyone have any suggestions for what it should say?

Also, I’m currently happily hiding out for a while working on drawing and other projects, but I’ll hopefully be doing some less fundraise-y free signing events around Boston in the next month or two.  I’ll let you know once we have any places or dates!

Physics for Entertainment

Update: I’m finally home after a month or so of nonstop events, including several xkcd book fund-raisers/signings.  I met tons of cool people, we raised a lot of money for the EFF and Room to Read, and at one point I signed a book for a robot.  Thank you to everyone who ordered a copy, by the way!  I hope you like it.  They’re shipping out nicely, and we’re about ready to order a second printing.

The events and travel were a huge amount of fun, and I loved getting to talk to (or at) so many of you cool people.  But I’m an introvert at heart, and after doing that much socializing I feel a powerful urge to hide in my room for about a month.  At some point in my travels I seem to have picked up a cold that’s been keeping me down for a couple days, so it’s just as well that I don’t have any more events on the immediate calendar.  There’s no fever, so it’s not swine flu, but it’s keeping me awake at night and I’m going through a lot of tissues and cough medicine.  But it should blow over in a couple days, and then I’ll get to spend a while quietly working on new projects!

While I’m doing that, here’s a bit about a neat book I found recently:

Physics for Entertainment:

Physics for Entertainment was written by Yakov Perelman in the 1920’s (in Russian) and updated periodically through the 1930’s.  There are actually two parts to it, but Volume 1 is long out-of-print (though findable online — more on that later).  The book I have is a 1975 translation of Volume 2. The book is a series of a few hundred examples, no more than one or two pages each, asking a question that illustrates some idea in basic physics.

It’s neat to see what has and hasn’t changed in the last century or so.  Many of the examples he uses seem to be straight out of a modern high school physics textbook, while others were totally new to me.  And some of the answers to the questions he poses seem obvious, but others made me stop and think.  The diagram to the right shows a design for a fountain with no pump — it took me a while to get why it works.  (For an easier-to-build variant, click here.)  Later in the book, he explains the physics of that drinking bird toy.

It’s written in a fun, engaging, conversational style, as if he’s in the room chatting with you about these neat ideas.

There are a lot of diagrams:

And it’s hard not to like the guy:

“If you’ll bear with me for a moment, let’s analyze this fairy tale from a physics standpoint …”  That’s a man after my own heart.

He also spends a lot of time discussing why various perpetual-motion machines won’t work.  it’s interesting to see that there was as thriving a community of free energy people a century ago as there is now, many of their designs based on the same misapplications of physics.

Lastly, when he talks about space travel — from a pre-space-age perspective — he turns starry-eyed and poetic:

I alternate wildly between thinking that it’s totally crazy that we clawed our way up out of the atmosphere and walked on the moon, and thinking that it’s a shame that it turned out to be so boring.  But I really desperately want to see more missions to places like the Jovian moons. If it turns out one of them is teeming with life, we’re gonna feel awfully silly about how long we spent shuffling around in the Martian dust.  Also, Kepler is really exciting, putting us in a much better place to speculate about life in the galaxy.

You can get the printed Volume 2 on Amazon, while Volume 1 was supposedly unavailable for translation or reprint.  However, I mentioned this book at one of the events recently, and reader Matthias Kübel emailed me to let me know Volume 1 is available free online!  I’m looking forward to reading through it.