From the blog September 15, 2010 Nathan

Official Release Date for Modernist Cuisine

We’ve been working diligently to get our book done in time for the 2010 holiday season, but have been overtaken by events. Proofreading and correcting 2,400 pages is, as you can imagine, a very big job, and it has been taking longer than we expected to complete that work. Although we are optimistic that we will be able to turn around the remaining galley proofs in less time than the first few volumes required, we are realistically still looking at a few weeks of work ahead of us.

Another source of delay arose when the external packaging for the book—the shipping box and the shock-absorbing pieces inside it that protect the heavy volumes and their slipcase during transit­­—failed a rigorous series of drop tests. The book is sold as a box set, and we have designed a very impressive slipcase for the volumes that we haven’t yet discussed publicly because we need to be certain that we can deliver the sets to customers in mint condition. The best approach is to package the sets in their slipcases and shipping boxes right at the printer, in much the same way that computers and other consumer electronic products are boxed by their manufacturers.

At more than 40 pounds (18 kilograms), our six-volume set is well beyond the usual experience of printers, so we had them create a custom-designed box-within-a-box arrangement to serve as the shipping container. Amazon.com offered to put this package, with mock-ups of our volumes inside, through a series of torture tests at their lab. It was a good thing the tests were done because the prototype failed! Two new packaging options are now being built. They were supposed to arrive awhile ago, but these, too, are taking longer than expected.

In starting our own publishing company, we’ve learned a lot about the subtleties of this business. Publishing dates, for example, are not as straightforward as you might think. I initially assumed that the publishing date was simply the first day that customers who preordered the book saw it arrive at their doors. In fact, that exact date varies, depending on how long it takes for the books to clear customs, where the customer lives, what mode of shipping was selected, and so on.

Nevertheless, the whole publishing world expects a publishing date that is a single specific day. I laughed out loud when we were looking at the calendar to choose the official release date, and an old hand in publishing told me, “You’ll want to pick a Tuesday.” Why? I was told the various reasons, and frankly none of them added up. It’s one of these old practices that may have made sense once upon a time, but continues today mainly due to tradition.

For most books, the official publishing date is chosen to be late enough so that the books have already been distributed to stores, inventoried, and put out for sale on the shelves. It is thus common for the official publishing date to occur as long as one month after books have started shipping to the customers who preordered.

All of this information is a preamble to announcing that we at last have an official publishing date: March 14, 2011. That date is more precise, but obviously a bit later than the December 2010 target that we originally posted. It isn’t a Tuesday, because for the life of me I don’t see why it has to be. But with continued hard work— and some luck—the book may actually be available sooner.

The biggest concern with the delay is that we will miss the 2010 holiday season, which is a traditional time to give gifts. Of course, the rejoinder is that the holidays come every year, so rather than being just in time for 2010, we will be quite early for 2011. Nevertheless, I personally apologize to everybody who had their heart set on giving the gift of Modernist Cuisine this holiday season.

Sincerely,

Nathan

Discussion

  1. Peter Nassar September 16, 2010 Reply

    I think you mean “March 14, 2011″ as your publishing date, right? Not “March 14, 2010″ as written above.

    Just wanted to say that I am a big fan! (and trained as a dinosaur vertebrate paleontologist – so a fan of your sauropod tail work as well)

    • Matt September 17, 2010 Reply

      Thanks for the love and for catching the typeo!

    • Scott September 17, 2010 Reply

      I expect sauropod tail needs at least 48 hours at 60C to tenderize it?

  2. Drew September 17, 2010 Reply

    Books don’t actually ‘publish’ on a Tuesday, that’s when everyone starts their media (TV, radio, print interviews, etc). They do that to give them the most days of the week to do press before the weekend arrives and a new news cycle starts, skipping Monday because Monday’s are usually reserved for catching up from the weekend, getting the work week in order (and of course Monday Night Football ;-) . Also, Tuesday is historically the day in which the least amount of mail is delivered (and one might extrapolate that to several other factors which might interupt your attention span on that day) and I’ve heard, but can’t point to any empirical evidence, that Tuesday is the day in which the most of anything is sold (with the obvious exception of Halloween costumes and beer). However, if you’re publishing a book on cuisine, you might be better suited to start your media closer to the weekend and over the weekend when people are thinking more about cooking and cuisine, but where the viewership is going to be less for that exact reason.

    Best of luck,
    Drew

  3. Duckburg September 26, 2010 Reply

    Thanks for this great, insightful interview. It really got me thinking.

  4. TomDArch January 5, 2011 Reply

    “Proofreading and correcting 2,400 pages is, as you can imagine, a very big job, and it has been taking longer than we expected to complete that work.”

    I don’t mean to imply that your team is doing anything but being very, very careful about proofreading, but we’re all human… Once the “code” is out, and we’re “compiling” and “running” it, issues will be uncovered that the original team couldn’t possibly have found. A “second edition” or “V1.1″ is inevitable.

    Will it be difficult to produce revised editions? From the discussion of inks and paper, it wasn’t clear (at least to me) how much time/expense would be involved in making changes – the traditional issue of the cost of offset plates, for instance. Also, will the print runs be more or less “on demand”, or closer to the traditional approach of fewer, less frequent, larger print runs?

  5. Mitchell Delee April 7, 2011 Reply

    I’ve been here a few times and it appears like your articles get more informative each time. Maintain it up I appreciate reading them.

  6. Stephen Monkarsh January 4, 2012 Reply

    How can a retailer order to sell? My store, just fabulous, is the official bookseller and will have the Palm Springs Modernism Week pop up headquarters in my store from Feb 16 to 26 and I would like to order for the Modernism Show.
    Thank you.
    Stephen Monkarsh, CEO

    • Judy January 5, 2012 Reply

      Hi Stephen,

      Please email info@modernistcuisine.com for more information about ordering for your book store.

      • Somesh February 21, 2012 Reply

        I’m a cionokg enthusiast (foodie), but since my culinary education, I haven’t really gotten back in touch with cionokg the way I want to. I was recently thinking that I would like to focus on molecular gastronomy to really have knowledge of an aspect of cionokg that many chefs do not. These suggestions are great!!! Thanks and Happy Holidays!!!

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