America’s Most Well-Read Cities

(Photo: Chris)

Amazon has just released its third annual list of the Most Well-Read Cities of America — a ranking based on per-capita “sales data of all book, magazine and newspaper sales in both print and Kindle format.”  Here are the top 5:

  1. Alexandria, Va.
  2. Knoxville, Tenn.
  3. Miami, Fla.
  4. Cambridge, Mass.
  5. Orlando, Fla.

What surprises you?

(HT: Infectious Greed)

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  1. Seminymous Coward says:

    Knoxville is obviously the surprise. Alexandria is full of people obsessed with every imaginable policy and the schools their kids attend. Florida has a high population of retirees, who have ample leisure time and are more like to read traditional media than younger generations. Cambridge has Harvard and MIT plus some other universities and numerous businesses founded by that crowd. All of those have large populations of people who would not just a lot of traditional media but be able to afford to buy a lot of it. I don’t have anything against Knoxville, but it stands out.

    I object somewhat to determining well-read based purely on book and periodical sales. I do a huge fraction of my reading on the internet, and, when I read traditional media in bulk as a child, it was borrowed from the library.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 1
  2. Libby says:

    What surprises me is that Freaonomics is posting this. Perhaps I am wrong, but as best as I can tell, this is Amazon’s data. So these are the cities with the highest per-capita sales on Amazon. That doesn’t really make them well-read, just more inclined to purchase from Amazon (as opposed to other online sources, the library or brick-and-mortar stores). I really don’t find that information to be Freakonomics worthy.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 43 Thumb down 10
    • Jennifer says:

      Yes and yes, that is exactly what I concluded from their report. Other cities may choose to frequent public libraries or local book stores.

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    • mike says:

      well, if they’re not all reading the economist this is per-capita sales of printed media is pretty accurate. That doesn’t surprise me Orlando has the 2nd largest university by enrollment in the Country.

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  3. Dan says:

    I object somewhat to determining well-read based on sales of 50 Shades of Grey.

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  4. Joe says:

    Ironically, the only bookstore in Old Town Alexandria (effectively, their downtown), closed over a year ago.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1
    • Donald Alexander says:

      No, my used bookstore (Book Bank) continues to thrive in Old Town Alexandria, as does the well-regarded children’s bookstore Hooray for Books.

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  5. James says:

    That they could simply equate sales with being well read. Lots of us have access to decent library systems (both public and university). I probably buy less than 10% of the books I read.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0
    • Alexandrian says:

      Given that Alexandria is only a few miles from the Library of Congress (and three decent university libraries) and has a network of municipal libraries, I think it has the “access to decent library systems” thing covered.

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  6. Lee says:

    It might be that this just measures the places where people buy books from Amazon instead of using bookstores or libraries, but then again, it might not. For example, in the case of Cambridge, their high ranking can’t be the result of poor library access (the Cambridge and Boston libraries are excellent), or a lack of high-quality local bookstores.

    I do wonder if the results change if one excludes textbooks, though.

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  7. Peggy says:

    These are not America’s most well read cities. These are the cities where people buy lots from Amazon. Library bloggers have been ranting about this mis named list for a couple of days now. To determine Well Read cities one should take into account things like periodical and newspaper subscriptions, library circulation, chain and independent book store sales, academic institutions etc. etc. and so forth.

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  8. Jay Croft says:

    In defense of Knoxville:

    The University of Tennessee is located in downtown and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (think atom bombs) is a western suburb.

    I wasn’t as surprised at this as I was Orlando.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0
    • Conor says:

      I don’t know how the data is tabulated (based on Credit card info or on location where the reading is done) but if it’s based on location Orlando, as a vacation hotspot likely has a lot of poolside book buying and reading.

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      • Andrea says:

        Moved to Orlando area a few years ago. The ranking you list must be in reference to the tourists down here. I assure you, unless the natives have found a way to smoke them, float them, or simply turn the pages into ammo- they aren’t buying them.

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    • Mike says:

      The University of Central Florida is the 2nd largest university in the United States and is located in Orlando. Doesn’t surprise me one bit.

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