On Wednesday, XKCD creator Randall Munroe announced that he's written a book. Within 24 hours, the book — scheduled for a September release — was a bestseller on Amazon. So, as of now, he's only two places behind Rush Limbaugh's children's book starring "Rush Revere" and America:
The book itself is based off of Munroe's "What If" column, something of a side project to the XKCD comic where he makes illustrated answers to user-submitted questions. Appropriately, the published volume is called What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. It'll contain a mix of previous "what if" columns and new comics. "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 explained in the book's announcement.
Recent What If? topics include whether Voyager 1 really is the human-made object that's travelled the furthest distance, whether we, as a human species, have produced enough paint in total to cover the entire Earth, and whether it's possible to fire a bullet from a gun in a way that would allow someone to safely grab that bullet out of the air by hand.
It's always hard to tell what advance interest like this will translate into when the release date comes — call it Snakes on a Plane syndrome, if you will. A blogger at "Beyond Black Friday," which first noticed Munroe's early bestseller status, speculated that the book's high position on Amazon's physical "books" bestseller, coupled with its absence from the Kindle e-books list, means "it’s much easier to get to the top of Amazon’s list of print best-sellers" because not that many people buy print books anymore. Although there's some truth to the idea that e-book sales have overtaken print sales, the highly visual nature of Munroe's upcoming book makes that assumption that its current bestseller status is misleading seems a bit premature. But whatever happens with "What If?" there's a precedent for beloved webcomic creators selling new books briskly out of the gate, thanks in part to their rabid Internet fanbase. Last fall, "Hyperbole and a Half's" Allie Brosh published her long-anticipated book, which quickly became a bestseller. The only issue is whether these Internet sensations can sustain their sales momentum once their biggest fans already stepped up.