I just read a great post from Jen Robinson about her excitement for The Battle of the Labyrinth, the highly anticipated fourth Percy Jackson and the Olympians book. Jen, I hope you're not jealous that I've already handled the book. A whole box, in fact.
Publishers are very good about getting books to bookstores just before the release date. They want you to have enough time to process the book and get it in your computer system, but not enough time so that the booksellers can read the whole thing and post it on the internet. Also, they want to remove the temptation for the bookstore to sell it early.
What this means is that you get the book everyone is talking about a day before the book is released to the public. And, sometimes, even that one day can be tortuous.
A recent example is Mo Willems' new book, The Pigeon Wants A....
The object that the pigeon wanted was the subject of a huge publicity campaign. The book arrived at my store the day before the publication date, and I finally found out that the pigeon wanted a puppy. But I couldn't tell anyone. It was quite difficult to read speculation about it when I knew the answer. It was a relief when the next day arrived and I could put the book on the shelf, talk about it and write a blog post about it.
The worst of all was when Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was published. I was working at a large independent bookstore at the time. I helped carry boxes of the book into the store and couldn't read it. See this post for the rest of the story.
But, whatever discomfort it might cause me, it's very important not to sell books until the release date. For one thing, bookstores often sign affidavits. But, more than that, it's just not fair or ethical. As the sign on the Percy Jackson box said (or something to this effect): "Be a true Olympian! Don't sell until the release date."
The good thing, though, is that I only have to wait a day. The publishers have to keep those secrets far longer than I do.