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)


How does this correlate with per capita student populations? That would be interesting to compare.

Eric M. Jones

I spent some Internet time trying to figure out why Knoxville was #2 on the list.

Conclusion: Knoxville is a very nice place. They read a lot.


Well, now that this means sales from Amazon, that changes everything. However, I would assume those people who DO read in Knoxville TN. and Orlando FL really HAVE to buy books...because they don't have any good libraries? Or any libraries at all? Because intellectuals and learning are things to be feared in Tennessee, obviously. I can see a lot of book sales in Orlando might be because the still-reading senior citizens find it easier to order books than find, or make their way to, a library. (by which I mean there might not BE many libraries to be found, and a town full of tourists makes finding a parking space difficult.)


Is it possible that cities with large universities are over-represented in these lists?


Good point, especially seeing Berkeley, CA but not L.A. or S.F., or Cambridge MA but not Boston making the list.

Also, the term "well-read" (implied to mean well-informed or smart) must be taken with a grain of salt. We don't know what was purchased, in terms of content or diversity, by these readers. More and more people, dare I say well-informed ones, get their news and info directly online from non-traditional sources. If anything this list tends to reinforce the generally known trend that print media are dying.


I'm assuming this includes multiple readings of the bible.


What surprises you?

That Cambridge is a city

Anthony Spence

Florida? ha ha I guess that's why my book shelf is stacked to the ceiling lol.


Orlando surprises me. I haven't been able to find hardly any bookstores there and was recently notified that several closed down.


Americans are five times more social than Brits*.

- Findings based soley on Facebook memberships per country, 2012.

John W.

Really, now. Did the survey takers find out how many of the books in Knoxville were eventually completely colored in full?

Stephen Philbrick

Having recently observed the apparent anomally that NH has the highest beer consunption per capita, which was fuly explained by the observation that they don't measure consumption, they measure sales, and Massachuesetts residents crossoiing the border to take advantage of better pricing explained the anomaly, I wonder if something similar could be happening here.

As a regular reader of Instapundit, and purchaser of books by using the Amazon link on his page, I wonder if my book purchases are "assigned" to Knoxville?

Stephen Philbrick

More pedantically, the literal answer to the question, "what surprised (me)", was the use of antiquated state abbreviations, phased out decades ago, rather than two digit codes.

SoCal Surfer

Long live local book stores like in Madison (MadTown) which I guarantee you is in the top 5 of book reading cities per capita but did not make this list because they fortunately still have dozens of thriving local book stores lowering Amazon purchases...I would guess if you include local book stores Berkeley, Madison, Ann Arbor and Boulder would be in the top 5...

No doubt this has less to do with the amount of reading than lack of local bookstores and other factors making online book buying more popular. Also how many books bought from Amazon are actually read versus books bought in person at a bookstore. I would venture to guess the ratio could be 2 to 1 or higher...I know a lot of books I buy online have go unread versus the ones I buy in person.


This is only based on my experience of living in NYC. Maybe the reason that NYC didn't make it to the list is because of so many book stores in the city including used book stores which offer books at great prices. Honestly, I never felt like buying books from Amazon and paying the shipping cost while I can go to Strand and buy the book at $1.