The 20 ‘Most Well-Read Cities’ in America, According to Amazon.com

Where in U.S. can you find the the biggest bibliophiles?

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Where in the U.S. can you find the the biggest bibliophiles? Online e-tailer Amazon just reached into its mammoth pool of purchasing data to pull out its third annual list of cities in the U.S. where the “most well-read” among us apparently reside.

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Here are the top 20, in order:

1. Alexandria, Va.
2. Knoxville, Tenn.
3. Miami, Fla.
4. Cambridge, Mass.
5. Orlando, Fla.
6. Ann Arbor, Mich.
7. Berkeley, Calif.
8. Cincinnati, Ohio
9. Columbia, S.C.
10. Pittsburgh, Penn.
11. St. Louis, Mo.
12. Salt Lake City, Utah
13. Seattle, Wash.
14. Vancouver, Wash.
15. Gainesville, Fla.
16. Atlanta, Ga.
17. Dayton, Ohio
18. Richmond, Va.
19. Clearwater, Fla.
20. Tallahassee, Fla.

The company says the rankings were determined “by compiling sales data of all book, magazine and newspaper sales in both print and Kindle format since June 1, 2012, on a per capita basis in cities with more than 100,000 residents.” This is Alexandria, Va.’s second consecutive year in the top spot, according to the company; newcomers to the list include Vancouver, Wash., Dayton, Ohio, Clearwater, Fla. and Tallahassee, Fla.

The most romance-oriented city? Knoxville, Tenn., says Amazon, which purchased the most books in the “Romance” category, top among them E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey and Abby Gaines’ Married by Mistake. For business, Amazon says Cambridge, Mass. topped the charts, spending most heavily in the “Business & Investing” category on titles like Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most and StrengthsFinder 2.0.

Amazon’s definition of “well-read” leaves plenty to be desired, of course, since it’s based on sales alone. British physicist Stephen Hawking’s acclaimed popular science explainer, A Brief History of Time, was a major bestseller, moving more than 10 million copies since it first appeared in 1988, but it’s also often referred to as one of the “most bought, least read” books around.

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13 comments
jupiterthunder
jupiterthunder

There is no flaw in what is presented here.  Amazon says exactly what it's data represents.  It's all the same as Time Magazine awarding it's Person of the Year and other organizations awarding their Person of the Year based on the criteria that are significant to each.  Amazon is telling you what cities ordered the most books from them (per capita).  That's it.  It's not a study.  It's nothing more than an analysis of their sales data.

StefanieBeach
StefanieBeach

Nobody has commented on the prevalence of large universities in the cities.  UCF in Orlando has over 50,000 students; that is a lot of textbooks!

TimmElrod
TimmElrod

Two key points seem to scream for attention:

 1) what truly defines "well-read" today? I look at what teh various age groups of readers consume and it would seem the measure is only of books that are published through traditional means. Seems to completely miss the current events and other key categories consumed by the "well read"

2) I do nto have the data handy (yet) but it seems these cites might appear in the lower half on the online readership. Leaving the online conent from the "well read" measure I think is an another flaw in this study. 

Let's not toss out the study but describe it more accurataly and use it the data to increase our awareness of the changes in content consumption.

mikeschr
mikeschr

Amazon stats may not tell the whole story.  Here's some info about Portland's Multnomah County Library from Wikipedia:

"According to the Public Library Association, it ranks second among U.S. libraries, based on circulation of books and materials, and ranks first among libraries serving fewer than one million residents. In this respect, it is the busiest in the nation."

We also have Powell's, the largest used and new bookstore in the world, which takes up an entire block and has several other branches.

I'd match up PDX against any other city when it comes to reading.

aalbc
aalbc

Here is the African American version: http://aalbc.it/12TmcNY

Miami also ranks high, but there is only one other city that overlaps.  Another bias in the Amazon numbers (and folks keep in mind Amazon's ranking should not be confused with a scientific study) is that locations without bookstores my rank higher than another city with the same level of readership but with more purchasing options

medmike
medmike

I suspect the numbers for Miami are artificially elevated. Many households in Latin America receive mail in Miami due to the large number of global mail forwarding services in this region. Many Amazon orders with a shipping address to Miami do not actually have Miami as the final destination.

bettybarcode
bettybarcode

A serious flaw in the study is the omission of library statistics.  A city with gangbuster public library circulation stats and a wealth of college/academic libraries will obviously have lower book sales stats, yet their readership is probably higher than places where disposable income determines literary consumption. 

pendragon05
pendragon05

Of the 5 cities in Florida listed - how much non-fiction is being read? Or are they just trashy romance novels and the like? This study is flawed.

John_C_Lindsay
John_C_Lindsay

@jupiterthunder: There is no flaw in what is presented here.


JL: Oh, yes....there is a FLAW.

"Number of books"....does not equate to being well-read.
The ONLY accurate title for this article is:

"Amazon.com's Top 20 Cities in Sales."

Sales...is different...from being well-read.
End of story.


dnis
dnis

@medmike Not really, people use forwarding services for merchandise that Amazon doesn't ship outside US, but Amazon does ship books, CDs and DVDs directly to almost any country in the world. Moreover, most people in Latin America can find a better selection of books at better prices in their local markets.

GenePizzo
GenePizzo

@pendragon05 The major flaw I would agree is the one you describe, however its still interesting in as much as it touches on readership and there you have to wonder about cities like St. Louis even more, the florida cities are probably reflecting a retiree demographic

dnis
dnis

@GenePizzo @pendragon05 There might be a little more to it. A large portion of the immigrant population in Miami has college degrees. The financial industry and commerce attracts many highly educated ex-pat workers. Most people in Miami (both american and immigrants) are bilingual which, in itself, is a higher level of literacy. 2nd generation immigrants have a higher percentage of college degrees than the American average. And, like @grey_prince said, we have some major colleges around. In addition to the regular student population, many new immigrants spend their first one or two years learning English or re-validating their foreign titles.

grey_prince
grey_prince

@GenePizzo @pendragon05 It could be a huge retiree population, but 4 of the 5 Florida cities listed have major colleges. Miami has more than one major college within city limits. Retirees tend to stay away from the huge cities and usually end up in places like Hollywood, which is close enough to Miami to be convenient, but far enough away that they don't have to deal with city congestion.

Also, not everyone in Florida reads trashy novellas.