Amazon Reveals Most Well-Read Cities in America came out with an interesting press release today, touting the most “well-read” cities in the United States.

Just in time for the summer reading season, announced its list of the Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities in America. After compiling sales data of all book, magazine and newspaper sales in both print and Kindle format since Jan. 1, 2011, on a per capita basis in cities with more than 100,000 residents, the Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities are:

1. Cambridge, Massachusetts

2. Alexandria, Virginia

3. Berkeley, California

4. Ann Arbor, Michigan

5. Boulder, Colorado

6. Miami, Florida

7. Salt Lake City, Utah

8. Gainesville, Florida

9. Seattle, Washington

10. Arlington, Virginia

11. Knoxville, Tennessee

12. Orlando, Florida

13. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

14. Washington, D.C.

15. Bellevue, Washington

16. Columbia, South Carolina

17. St. Louis, Missouri

18. Cincinnati, Ohio

19. Portland, Oregon

20. Atlanta, Georgia

This is an interesting list. Most likely, Cambridge is number one on the list because of the dense concentration of universities in the area (Harvard and MIT). I am glad my hometown of Atlanta made the cut.

However, the list bothers me because it’s an indirect measure of reading, as the gauge here is sales of books rather than consumption (i.e., reading of books). I can imagine the statistics are skewed toward college towns where students are buying textbooks in bulk in preparation for the start of their semesters/quarters at college.

I myself purchase books on Amazon in bulk — typically five to ten at a time, once I’ve added these books to my shopping cart over a span of a few days (or weeks). However, if I purchase ten books today, when will I have actually read them? Perhaps well into next year. This confounding factor certainly plays a (major) role in interpreting this list.

Of course, I don’t know of a good way to measure actual reading of books (versus sales of books). What about you?

2 thoughts on “Amazon Reveals Most Well-Read Cities in America

  1. I don’t know of a good measure either.

    Hasn’t that been the academic question of the ages? The standardized tests try to measure something that includes ‘consumption’. But how do you know?

    Oh…That’s what you asked me.


    I wanted to immediately move from Atlanta until I saw she precariously made the list. But she made it. Whatever that means.

    Where are you?

    I bought in Snellville. I lived in the LA area for 25 years. Even if she’s not on the list she’s worthy with the free seminars at UCLA and USC.

    But I’ve become lost. I’m somewhere in China and no Chinese city is on the list.

    What gives?


  2. LA lost to Knoxville? Bummer ..
    Yes, I myself haven’t bought that many books in a while. The Caltech leisure reading collection is quite good, still going through that! Also, usually I don’t buy books from Amazon anyway w/ Borders’ 40% off coupons, used local bookstores, etc

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