May 5, 2009

Book Update

Well, it's good to see that Amazon dot com has changed the ordering buttons on Reasonable and Holy from "Pre-Order" to "Add to Shopping Cart" — but now they also indicate that they are "Temporarily Out of Stock." Which I suppose is a good sign, in that they sold all the ones that they ordered from Church Publishing to fulfill pre-orders.

Also happy to hear that real live copies are available at the bookstore at the Olde Homestead at 815 Second Avenue.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

20 comments:

EleanorBraun said...

And I see my order left the seller facility an hour and a half ago, and is due her on Thursday. Looking forward to weekend reading.

Eleanor

Brian R said...

Although I ordered on April 5, I just received a message that it was still unavailable and I needed to reconfirm my order ???

Lynn said...

Tobias, I also received notice that my order has shipped. I suspect they didn't order enough copies - or perhaps we will see the book listed on the NY Times bestseller list?

I'm looking forward to reading the book.

IT said...

I ordered from Amazon a few weeks ago and this last week was asked to confirm I still wanted it. Looking forward to it.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks for the updates "from the field." I've been caught in the Amazon loop with other items I've ordered in the past: it seems to be a combination of their offering items long before off press (I think they had R&H listed while I was still reviewing the ms.); not keeping up with the current orders and so receiving fewer copies than they've sold (overbooking anyone?); and an automated system that runs by its own strange rules without human input. It all seems to have combined in an imperfect storm in this case: more orders than they expected, and the ticking automat jumping up just at the exact moment the books actually become available.

I would appreciate knowing from folks when they actually receive their copies. And I do hope you find it worth the wait.

Grandmère Mimi said...

I'm still at the same stage as Brian R. I reconfirmed my order, and I haven't heard more. I suppose Amazon's copies sold out before they got around to Brian and me.

Anonymous said...

"and an automated system that runs by its own strange rules without human input."

I think you might be right about this point of view. This is, actually, something I do for a living: predictive analytics.

I'm only speculating here, but I suspect that what happened is something like this (in very basic layman's terms)....

Normally, when a book is coming out, a number of people "preorder" it. However, Amazon's experience has been that not all the people who "preorder" a particular book actually accept the order when the book becomes available. If Amazon orders copies for all the people who "preorder" books, they end up with a surplus which they have to pay for (and then pay again for storage).

To avoid this expensive situation they have developed an algorithm that predicts how many of the "preorders" actually need to be filled.

The core here is that the algorithm "learns" as it goes and updates itself largely without human intervention. It "watches" the variables that have been made available to it and "looks" for those that become better predictors than those it has using or for whom it sees changes or variations. In other words, it is capable, in a limited way, of learning from it's mistakes. Sometimes it does take human intervention to point out to the system that it has made a mistake (I think the current to-do on the web about it's automated rankings of gay and lesbian topics is an example of such a correction that has recently been made).

I would imagine that some of the variables of previous experience in the algorithm include such things as the type of book (religion, gay controversy, episcopal church, theology, scripture etc), the time it's been on the "preorder" status (seems like forever to us, but we've all been anxiously looking forward to reading it), publisher history, and some of the preorder history of the specific folks who have placed the preorder (how many of these preorders were actually purchased via Amazon and how many bought it at church house as soon as they spotted it without waiting for Amazon to actually get it in-house from the publisher).

In this case, it looks to me as though they did OK. We (you as an author and we as your devoted readers) are a little less patient than the average bear because of our involvement. However, a few days this way or that is actually a pretty good prediction.

Amazon, believe it or not, is actually one of the companies with a pretty good reputation for the accuracy of these kinds of predictions. In this case, we see them as a little off target. But in the woof of things they are usually pretty closely aligned with what actually happens.

Calculus, of course, is one of the most beautiful of human aesthetic achievements. To me it's one of those stunning human accomplishments that exceeds even such accomplishments as the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, or the pyramids in Egypt, or the development of perspective in painting, or the discovery of evolution by Darwin, or the invention of the microscope. More particularly, it one of those human accomplishments that helps us see the incredible jaw dropping beauty of the divine that is reflected all around us every day.

Of course, like the Amazon system, it too is a human creation and not entirely without room for improvement. But, like other institutions (such as the church, perhaps), one hopes that it is learning from it's mistakes.

(more than you wanted to know, I'm sure)

Bookguybaltmd

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

I think Brian and GM are caught in that node of the wave that just misses the first round and is too early for the second. Patience...

Bookguy, thanks for the explanation, which makes sense. I think Amazon is not entirely to blame, in that one of their input variables was the publication date originally conceived by CPI -- March 2009. The actual pub date was about a month later, and that surely had an effect on the output of the formula.

I never made it to calculus. Though I excelled at geometry, I fell victim to a classic 60s experiment in programmed learning in first year algebra, and so never had a good footing, flailing about without a tutor. I was prior to that never much good at arithmetic -- and remain dyscalculic to this day, requiring many repetitions to commit a telephone number to memory, while I can still recite poetry or speeches from forty years ago without a hitch. But we do thank Newton (and Leibniz!) for the calculus. (Did you read Stephenson's Baroque Cycle?)

Thanks to all, and hope the orders are fulfilled post haste.

David |Dah • veed| said...

My friend in Dallas reports that my copy arrived from Church Publishing. I have encouraged him to open it and read, should he wish.

I look forward to it being in my hands soon.

Allen said...

You get really good service, free shipping, environmentally friendly packaging, and you support literacy at betterworldbooks.com. They show over 40 copies in stock today.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thanks, Allen. I'm not familiar with them but will check them out...

PseudoPiskie said...

Mine was shipped from Amazon yesterday. Will let you know when I get it.

Anonymous said...

I have not read Stephenson's Baroque Cycle and, after a look on Amazon, I'll put it on my list. At 900+ pages each of four books, it ought to occupy my reading attention for a week or so.

I was never especially good at "math" in HS (etc) either. I am betraying my age when I admit that I was in HS before the invention (or at least before the wide distribution) of calculators (let alone computer). We had to do all of our calculations by hand. I tell kids today that I used to do regressions by hand and they stare at me uncomprehendingly: they simply don't have a reference point.

Now-a-days, of course, we use computers; we load the data, enter the variables, and "puuush de but-ton and out de numba come...." to paraphrase the song from the old musical.

To me, though based in math, calculus is much more than math - it's almost a philosophy, a tool for looking at the world.

After I wrote yesterday, I remembered the day in HS when I "got" calculus: "the heavens opened, and the sun showed down upon me and all was clartity and light." My reaction then was simple open-mouthed dumb astonishment; a reaction that wasn't repeated until first entering the upper chapel of La Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

Bookguybaltmd

PseudoPiskie said...

Got mine via UPS no less. Yea!

EleanorBraun said...

Mine arrived today - two day shipping, which is what I normally use. I'm already perusing.

Brian R said...

Have just received notice that my copy has shipped. It says to expect in mid June but they always says this while usually taking about 2 weeks. I am unwilling to pay exorbitant costs of faster shipping over the Pacific. Looking forward to its arrival.

Mary Clara said...

I received mine today from Amazon! Hoorah!

WSJM said...

I picked up mine from Amazon in my post office box today (Monday, May 11), but I was out of town last week and I'm not sure when it actually arrived at the post office. Had to mow an overgrown lawn today, so I haven't started to read it yet!

Jane R said...

When the same thing happened to me with Amazon re: the new edition of _When in Doubt, Sing_ I found out from my publisher that Amazon is keeping very few books in stock. Sign of the economic times, I think. It was different ten years ago.

Congratulations again, Tobias. I have to wait till I get a theological tome of my own out of the way before I read your book, so that will be during the summer, but I am very much looking forward to it.

Brian R said...

Just letting you know, my copy from Amazon has safely crossed the Pacific.