Thursday, January 03, 2019

Book Update

During the holidays I got several notes from people who tried to order my book but were told it’s out of print or not in stock. Amazon likewise had only used copies on sale, starting at $50 and up. Today I have good news: My publisher informed me that the book has been reprinted and should become available again in the next days.

The German translation meanwhile is in the third edition (the running head has been fixed!). The Spanish translation will appear in June with a publisher by name Ariel. Other translations that will come are Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Italian, French, Korean, Polish, and Romanian. Amazon now also offers an English audio version.

Many thanks to all readers!

Oh, and I still don’t have a publisher in the UK.


  1. bee:

    CONGRATULATIONS on all of the translations!.

    To what (other than your superb writing, of course) do you attribute the widespread interest in your thesis - is the public that interested in the subject of foundational physics (or do you think that your book will join Hawking's book on coffee tables as unread and used as evidence of the owner's intellectualness) of is it that the public enjoys your expose` on the con job they have subjected to by the theoretical physics community for many decades?

    naive theorist

  2. How widespread is the interest? In the old days, a publisher needed to sell 10,000 copies to break even. These days, it's fewer, and some technical monographs sell only a couple of thousand copies and still make a (small) profit.

  3. naive theorist,

    If you can find me some million people to buy my book and put it on their coffee table that would be great because I really really need a new car but the finances aren't quite there if you see what I mean ;)

    More seriously, I may have exceeded my publisher's expectations, but there's like 4 orders of magnitude difference between my sales rates and that of the likes of Hawking and Greene. What it comes down to, I believe, is that people prefer illusions over disillusions.

    Having said this, there is an increasing amount of people who are becoming very skeptical of all the popular science books that have promised fantastic things that never appeared, and my book caters to those. So, maybe a small market, but a market nevertheless.

    It's interesting I think (hope?) because I am writing about problems that do not only affect physics, but affect science in general. It is also timely, as with the LHC not finding anything besides the Higgs and the continued null-results from the dark matter searches.

  4. Phillip,

    That's a good question. Funnily enough, neither of my publishers actually gave me any numbers. But since I have an author page on I know how much books amazon & affils sold in the US/Canada. So I can extrapolate from there to the total number. (Amazon tells you helpfully that their numbers account for roughly 85%). Going by the amazon numbers, we reached the 5k mark a few weeks ago, from which I guess that that was the number they originally printed.

    I don't know of course what the publishers expenses where, but I can tell you that if you just multiply the number of books sold by the listing price, the result much exceeds what my contract paid. So at least I can tell you that they spent less money on me than the sales brought in.

    I have no idea how many books the German publisher printed. I asked my editor, but he said he didn't know either.

    In any case, the book is selling well compared to the average book in the genre, but as I pointed out above, there's no way a book like this will compete with any of the big hits.

    Which is why I find it silly that people constantly complain to me I wrote this book to make money. Anyone who knows anything about popular science books will tell you that positive messages sell better than negative ones. "Befuddle-me with your magic science" books will always sell better than critical takes. I wrote this book for a reason, but getting rich wasn't one of them.

    Still, I'm happy I reached the 5k, which was my personal goal.

  5. It's not any consolation for you but there are plenty of other authors in the same boat. See this NYT story:

    As for you making lots of money, the production costs are going to be only a few dollars so there is a big pot to be distributed if a paper book is sold at list price. However, there are a lot of fingers in that pot and the author is pretty much at the bottom of the pecking order.

  6. bee:

    of course, you're right. but don't trust what the publishers tell you in terms of book sales. my publisher lied to me about the sales of my books, avoided for as long as possible paying me royalties i was due, etc.. as you said, ultimately, the bottom line on writing a book is $ (aside from the personal enjoyment of writing and communicating).

    as Cardi B. sings

    note: if you don't get too offended by Cardi B.'s lyrics, then you might appreciate her other $ related question:

    naive theorist

  7. "if you just multiply the number of books sold by the listing price, the result much exceeds what my contract paid"

    I think that a standard rate is about 10 per cent of what the publisher sells the book for (not what the retailer sells the book for, the difference being the retailer's income (part of which is profit). So if the book costs 20 in the store, the store probably pays 15, and the author would get 1.5. Of course, famous authors can demand higher rates, advances, and so on (30 years ago, Arthur C. Clarke got advances of several hundred thousand---not that he needed the advance in order to write the book).

    Isaac Asimov famously retired from his professorship of biochemistry after he started making more from writing than from his salary. That was about 1960. Considering that he had written just a few books and was not very famous, this was quite good, meaning that he became rather rich later on. But, of course, he was an exception.

    So, to actually make a living by writing, one has to write many and/or very successful books.

    Some authors, of course, supplement their income by speaking/reading. Like with musicians, this might bring in more than selling the "recordings". Asimov was getting $5000 for a one-hour talk back in the 1960s.

    I know someone who used to organize public speakers at Stanford, so he knew their fees. I remember $20,000 in connection with Carl Sagan.

    Allegedly the Clintons and Obamas get $200,000 per talk. :-|

  8. "Funnily enough, neither of my publishers actually gave me any numbers."

    Seems strange. With some publishers, one can log in and see one's current status, i.e. paid royalties, royalties accrued but not yet paid, number sold, and so on.

    Of course, if you were paid a flat fee rather than royalties, the publisher could claim that the number sold is none of your business. :-|

  9. bee:

    a suggestion for your next book: a memoir of your experiences in the' marketing' of your book. you could discuss your traveling, being interviewed, lecturing, interacting with the public. most of us in academia live very cloistered professional lives, communicating only with our colleagues, research group, and students. i would be very interested in what t's like on a 'book tour'.

    note: amongst my favorite books of the 'scientific memoir' genre are "The Double Helix" (of course) and "How the Universe Got Its Spots: Diary of a Finite Time in a Finite Space". (Feynman's adventure books are enjoyable but tend to be self-serving).

    naive theorist

  10. Will there be Kindle version?

  11. Neil,

    The Kindle version has been out since June.

  12. Mike,

    Thanks for the link to the article. My publisher mentioned as much as that the problem didn't only affect me, but I had not fully realized it was that widespread!

  13. Sabine said:

    "What it comes down to, I believe, is that people prefer illusions over disillusions."

    As the old saying goes:

    'Do you want to be successful, or do you want to be relevant?'

    And then there are those (a tiny tiny tiny minority) who achieve both.

  14. The Emperor is naked! Pictures at 11:00. Brian Greene and church choirs pandering their Lord leave the mortgage unpaid unless pockets are picked.

    DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.121.251301, arXiv:1803.08928 The stable dark matter particle masses 4.8×10^8 GeV, 515.3 million amu, 12.6 tobacco mosaic viruses. It cannot be detected. Talk is insufficient. Required is an inexpensive, rapid, executable experiment that detectably deeply violates physics. It cannot arise from within physics: unpublishable proposal, unfundable experiment, ferociously undesired observation.

    To criticize is to volunteer. Ding QM by observation, one day. Ding GR, SUSY, and dark matter by observation, one day. Published experiments, different substrate, no contradiction of prior observations. Look.

  15. 5000+ copies in a little over 6 months is fantastic! Ok, not Hawking territory but Hawking was already famous before he wrote popular books. Relative to how well the world knows you, your sales numbers for time since publication are superb! Now is the time to begin writing the next book

  16. Looks like (at first glance) "Lost in Math" explores a concept which I've recently branded "mathematical masturbation", e.g., some have "solved" the problem of time travel, yet none are actually doing it.

    Certainly sounds interesting & is going on the acquisition list!


  17. Koenraad wrote: As the old saying goes:'Do you want to be successful, or do you want to be relevant?'

    The saying I remember - which isn't so old - is "If you want to be successful, you need to be relevant." I'm curious where your saying comes from.

    I'm an older man, so I still have a habit of asking people rather than doing an internet search. :-)

  18. Sabine wrote: there is an increasing amount of people who are becoming very skeptical of all the popular science books that have promised fantastic things

    Can you think of a popular science book that offers fantastic things? I read a lot of science books and I'm curious.

    Sabine wrote: 4 orders of magnitude difference between my sales rates and that of the likes of Hawking

    I read Hawking's books. I liked your book more than any of his, but that's partly because of where I'm at right now. I'm at a stage of life where I'm looking for solutions to earthly problems.

    Congrats on the continued success of your book.

    If the narrator of the English audio version of your book doesn't have your inimitable German accent, it will sound funny to my ears. As a bonus, it should include one of your songs between each chapter. :-)

  19. Phillip wrote: Allegedly the Clintons and Obamas get $200,000 per talk.

    Yes. What could they possibly say that is worth that much money? Even Sagan, what could he possibly say that's worth $20,000? But of course it's not about what they say.

    I've paid lots of money to attend events where important people - including US presidents - make speeches. Most were charity events. They tell some jokes. They make the effort to sound inspirational. They thank all the regular folks who are "the real heroes." They encourage younger people to get educated, informed and involved. In other words, they say all the things you expect them to say.

    I've attended debates between important people, including a number of debates on science topics. A general complaint I have about debate formats is that they often don't allow enough time to get beyond talking points, and they often come down to each side saying the other side's facts are wrong. In other words, debates between important people look very much like debates between regular people. :-)

    On the other hand, I'd consider paying $20,000 to time travel and witness a famous speech from history. If I were given a choice between a free trip to the Moon or a free time travel trip to witness a famous speech, I'd pick the speech in a heartbeat. But I can't think of a single living person who is worth $20,000 for a speech. In fact, a hundred speeches in the hand aren't worth even one speech in the bush. Isn't that funny?

  20. Maybe people can check their local libraries to see if they have the book. I live in New Jersey USA County of Bergen and the library system has your book available. Just a thought.

  21. Sadly the ebook is not available in my country...

  22. Sabine

    I've bought the hardback of your book from Amazon UK and there is an audio version available.

    There is still no Kindle version on

    If there is another way for UK readers to obtain the Kindle version, maybe you could publicise it?


    David Millier

  23. Sabine
    I finished the book a couple of weeks back and loved it.
    Did you catch the Physics World podcast 2018 Book of the Year? List in Math was in the top 3 and the presenters had nothing but praise for you, the book and this blog.

  24. Steven,

    Any book about multiverses and supersymmetry and string theory for starters.

  25. David,

    Yes, find a publisher in the UK and tell them to contact my agent. I am sorry, but there is really nothing else I can do about the distribution rights. (Aside, maybe, from suggesting you use a proxy server located in the US.)

  26. Rob,

    No, I don't normally listen to podcasts. But I am happy to hear they liked it :)

  27. Oh, and I still don’t have a publisher in the UK.

    Sheesh, I almost wish I was back in that miserable racket. Have you tried Routledge?

  28. David,

    Another way to get the Kindle in the UK is create a login at e.g. and download it. Maybe then you also need 2 logins (.com/ for your local Kindle reader. I once did this with Audible and it worked.
    Just try it – nothing to lose, but a lot to gain.
    But hurry before they also cut the internet connection in the wake of Brexit ;-)

  29. Narad,

    I don't go around and sell my manuscript myself. My agent does that. Presumably he's tried whoever he knows in the UK and presumably no one was interested. He tells me it's a fairly common problem but I have no idea what's wrong with the British popular science market.

  30. to Steven Mason 3:04PM January 03, 2019:

    you might want to look at Robert Nozick's "Wilt Chamberlain argument' for an explanation of the justice behind earning inequality.

    of course, we theoretical physicists who find employment in our field of interest, generally feel extremely lucky that anyone pay us at all to do what we want to do and hang with other like-minded individuals.

    naive theorist

  31. Sabine, Narad

    I confess to knowing nothing about the book trade but because the hardback is available on Amazon UK, I assumed Lost in Math was widely available in the UK.

    But a quick search of WH Smith, Waterstones and Foyles (the places I would most likely expect to find a book) turns up nothing.

    That must be disappointing for your UK readers. Still, at least Amazon UK have it.

    I would guess from this, that publishers do not hawk their books to other overseas publishers routinely? I'd always assumed that when a book gets wide international sales, that was because the original publisher sold it on to other publishers. Shows what I know!

    It sounds like the author has a miserable amount of control in all of this - which seems pretty unreasonable given a book is its content...

    David Millier

  32. David,

    Yes, you can buy the US/Canadian version in the UK and indeed British bookstores can import it and so on. What I said is that I do not have a publisher in the UK which is why it may take ages to get a copy and it's probably also the reason you can't get the Kindle version on the .uk sites. Really I know very little about the whole thing myself, but I do know which contracts I signed and the UK has not been among them.

    What Reimond says above may actually explain why some people do see the Kindle version and others don't. I do have accounts for amazon dot com, dot uk, and dot de (and, I believe, also for dot es, but I only used this once) and those are indeed separate accounts. (It's terribly confusing because the websites look so similar that I sometimes accidentally try to buy things in the wrong country and only notice on checkout).So next time someone reports they can't see it, I'll ask them if they have a dot com account, maybe that's what's going on. Thanks, Reimond!

  33. Dear Sabine,

    Thank you for your book. It was very informative and at the same time entertaining. I have enjoyed it a lot. By the way, I have read it by Google Play where the number of copies should be unlimited.

    I am a former computational chemist. Now I am working for simulation company and in parallel play a week-end natural philosopher.

    You have mentioned once in the book Haag's theorem. I would appreciate if you describe in more detail its meaning for the physics in your blog.


  34. A good basis for futher growth and promotion of more books to come :-)

  35. Given the comments about the lack of a UK Kindle version I decided to bite the bullet and try to buy a copy from I used my wife's account as it's not been used before for e-book purchases (all our e-books are shared on my account) and this seemed "safer". It turned out to be very easy: I just changed the location for her kindle purchases to the USA giving my younger son's WV location as her USA address (using Manage Your Content and Devices/Preferences/Region Settings) and bought the Kindle version, though I've no idea what - if any - tax was charged. Then it was just a matter of reversing the location change and restoring the household sharing so I could read it on my devices.

    For anyone trying this I should mention that I got to the page by searching on "Lost in Math kindle" and it is possible that this approach may be necessary if one cannot normally see the kindle version when looking at the .com site.

    Sabine, you say you have multiple Amazon accounts and this may be true (in the sense that you could have different IDs and passwords for each) but I've found that my one account works - other than for e-book purchases - on the .uk, .com, .au, .de and some other stores. My confusion mostly comes from each store having separate order history records and wish lists, though the auto-translate does its best to hide the fact that I'm on a non English speaking site.

    As for the visibility of Kindle versions on the .com site I think this is just one of the mysteries that science cannot solve. Some e-books are always visible to me, others - including yours - are never shown and it does not matter which Amazon site I happen to be logged in on when I look. Even when I was pretending to be my wife and was logged into .com, with the account set up to allow me to buy e-books there, "Lost in Math" was still not shown, though this did not stop me buying it!

  36. I have solved a small mystery which might be useful to one or two people.

    I have only made a couple of comments on this blog so far but I was puzzled why the poster name for my comment was "Whispering Cat Photography" which certainly isn't my name although it is the name of my personal website.

    The answer turns out to be that 10 years ago I created an experimental Blogger blog with that name (and had long forgotten about it). It appears that if you post with an email address that the Blogger platform maps to a Blogger blog, it picks up the display name of your blogger account and uses that for comments on other people's blogs.

    I logged into my ancient blogger account and changed the display name in my blogger profile to my actual name. Hopefully, if I am correct, this post will go out under my real name and henceforth I will no longer be know as Whispering Cat.

    This might help anyone else finding they have a strange posting name they didn't intend.



  37. Mike Hall,

    So, in the future, we'll need to take hacking classes in order to be able to pull off e-book purchases?


    R. Taylor

  38. naïve theorist wrote: an explanation of the justice behind earning inequality

    I read books on economics as much as books on science. I understand why, say, Bill Clinton gets $200K for a speech. That's what I meant when I said it hasn't got anything to do with what he *says* in the speech, per se.

    I understand why an Olympic athlete who wins a gold medal because he was a hundredth of a second faster gets all the fame and fortune, why kids pay a couple of hundred dollars for basketball shoes, why women pay a few thousand dollars for a handbag, and why men pay $100,000 for a car.

    So I understand it. I'm just having fun pretending that I don't understand it. :-)

  39. Congratulations with the first 5000 ! On Twitter I also see lesser accomplishments, such as baking cakes and holding cats. This is not irrelevant for us lesser mortals. As people read your blog and twitter, read your book, watch your video's, they become acquainted with your ideas. Being able to empathize with the woman who has those ideas, on a day to day level, facilitates this process. " She's someone like us, she bakes cakes, strokes cats, has trouble with the car..." . It puts some flesh on the bones, so to speak. :-)

    A few ten thousand copies would be nice !



  40. I'm in New Zealand and shop on (US store). It's never shown me the Kindle edition, but did when I connected via a US VPN. Alas, as soon as I logged-on, the Kindle edition vanished. So - despite them routinely sending me US-only offers, they really do know where I live! :-)

    Anyway, I used this month's Audible credit to get the spoken version. The narrator sounds good.

    1. I always wish the author would read their work.

  41. Hi Bee,

    I'm reading your book at the moment, great read, upto page 78.

    Cheers, Paul.

  42. bee:

    you and your readers (after they finish reading "Lost in Math") might be interested in the new book

    "The Second Kind of Impossible: The Extraordinary Quest for a New Form of Matter"

    scientific memoirs written by practicing scientists (as opposed to 'pop science' writers with few exceptions) are IMO the best way for individuals to understand both the way science works and scientists work.

    naive theorist

  43. naivetheorist wrote: scientific memoirs written by practicing scientists

    If you've read the book, could you write a few words on what these scientists are saying about current particle research and theories, in the context of Sabine's book?

  44. I don't understand - surely you do not need a publisher in the UK in order to sell your book? Indeed, I think I could order a hard copy from the UK Amazon website - but they still don't offer me the Kindle version. Are those two issues connected?

  45. David,

    The existing English Kindle version is that of my US publisher. Of course you can buy the book, but you'll have to either ship it from overseas, or buy it as a bookstore that already shipped it from overseas. As to how your location or account matters for the Kindle version, I don't know, sorry.

  46. David,

    If Sabine does not object I’d like to add a little to her reply. Please note that I have no inside knowledge: the only things I know about Sabine’s experience are those she has mentioned in this blog. So what I’m going to say is a generalisation which might not apply in all points to Sabine’s work.

    Sabine has chosen to traditionally publish her book using an agent to sell it to publishing houses. For English language works rights were typically sold separately by region, with the two main regions being North America (including Canada) and British Commonwealth (excluding Canada). As the big traditional publishers are now multinational and operate on both sides of the Atlantic one might expect that they would purchase world rights and then farm them out to their various subsidiary imprints but this does not seem to be the case. These days publishers try to grab as many rights as possible and, in particular, normally insist on e-book rights being included in the contract.

    “Lost in Math” is published in the USA by Basic Books (an imprint of Hachette) but the UK rights have not been picked up by a publisher. There is no problem in exporting copies of the physical books from America so they will turn up in bricks and mortar and online stores anywhere in the world where someone decides they can make money from selling them (not necessarily at the moment due to the printing problems – though as of today the hardback is in stock in Amazon’s UK store and promised for 16 January in the USA). However, in the normal situation that I’ve outlined above no-one will have bought the e-book rights for the UK so Amazon cannot sell the e-book on There may be ways that Sabine’s agent could arrange to sell a UK e-book but this might well involve giving up any hope of selling the UK print book rights and anyway may not be worth the effort, time and money to set it up.

    So, for the moment you cannot buy the e-book from Amazon’s UK store but the hardback is in stock at £18.64 with free delivery for Prime members, which seems pretty good value for money. If you really want a Kindle version (which I did as I’m taking it on holiday) you can buy from the USA store even if you are a UK resident (see my comment of 4th January) provided that you are willing to jump through the necessary hoops,


  47. I read the book and saw Sabine treat many innovations of physics. However one type she always ignores. These are the axiomatic models of physical reality. She talks about foundations, but that are never proper foundations like the axioms that completely define classical logic. So, she never touches the orthomodular lattice, which emerges into a separable Hilbert space. So the book restricts to string theory and field theory and touches LQG. New physics is larger than this book reaches. She is right about the traps in which many physicists have stumbled, but she is short-sighted about the directions for renewal that physics can take.
    Sabine does not draw the conclusion that dark objects can never be observed in isolation, but might become noticeable in large coherent ensembles. In this way, she ignores that known objects can be constituted by dark objects.

  48. I just realized I could have bought this for a relative who is a theoretical physicist.

  49. Ari wrote: I just realized I could have bought this for a relative who is a theoretical physicist.

    I'll say it if no one else will: You can still buy the book for your relative.

  50. Just ordered the hardcover on Amazon today, 1/12/19, with delivery for Monday.


COMMENTS ON THIS BLOG ARE PERMANENTLY CLOSED. You can join the discussion on Patreon.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.