As the official publication date draws nearer, the question is arising more frequently:
When will it actually be on the shelves in my local bookstore?
The short and apparently-contradictory answer is: 1) 1 January 2009 and 2) I don't know.1
The longer answer is that the official publication date is 1 January 2009. This is the date that the publisher promises the book will be available, on shelves, in all the bookstores which happened to purchase copies for retail sale. In order to fulfil this promise, it gets shipped to the bookstores ahead of this date. So when it appears on the shelves depends on whether your local bookstore has ordered any copies, and whether they've unpacked the box they received from the publisher yet.
I'm not expecting copies to be on shelves quite this soon (it's more likely to appear closer to Christmas Day), but if you want to know whether it will appear in your local bookstore, the quickest way to find out is to ask the staff at said local bookstore. They'll be able to tell you whether the store has ordered any copies, and when they expect it to arrive. If they haven't ordered any copies, and you want them to, that's your cue!
If you missed yesterday's post, there's books being given away