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Amazon Announces the Most Well-Read Cities in the USA

2563632122_3de25f543c[1]Ask any doomsayer decrying the rise of video games and they’ll tell you that reading is dead. Ask any publisher bemoaning the rise of piracy and they’ll tell you that the book market is dead. And as Steve Jobs is well-known for proclaiming, no one reads any more.

That’s why I was surprised to learn today that Amazon has just released the 2013 list of the best-read cities in the US.

Amazon has pulled together all the book, magazine, and newspaper sales data¬† for the past 9 months and created a list of the US cities with that bought the most content on a per capita basis. The top 20 cities include a suburb of DC, 5 cities in Florida, and a sprinkling of cities from the other 49 states. Amazon’s home town of Seattle made the list:

  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.

image by Don Hankins

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Scott April 24, 2013 um 11:07 am

Go Salt Lake!

Claire McKinney April 24, 2013 um 4:05 pm

How disappointing to see that my hometown NYC is not on the list. Here’s to making it next year!

butlerblog April 24, 2013 um 5:01 pm

What defines well-read? Buying a lot of books, or actually reading them?

Nate Hoffelder April 24, 2013 um 6:14 pm

That I do not know. Also, don’t you wonder if Amazon counted units sold or the dollar value?

butlerblog April 25, 2013 um 1:23 pm

I guess I meant that rhetorically since buying a lot of books doesn’t automatically equate to being well-read.

But you raise a great point, Nate. Dollar value would make a big difference in what the result really means and I hadn’t actually thought of that.

Also, what really is "well-read?" Certainly, if Alexandria, VA topped the list because they purchased a lot of high dollar travel books but not much public domain Shakespeare, that is a lot different than if they were reading all the books on Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf.

David Rothman April 24, 2013 um 6:36 pm

I live in Alexandria, not exactly the most bookstore-rich city if you’re talking about new trade books of general interest—one chain store, Books-A-Million, has even closed in this location. Maybe Amazon instead is getting the business. Furthermore, most high school students here qualify for free or discounted lunches, according to newly elected Alexandria Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg, and I doubt they come from homes teeming with books.

Simply put, while thing are going swimmingly here for Amazon, this is hardly the complete picture. Amazon’s good fortune mustn’t be used as excuse to reduce public library funding or cut back on literacy programs. I know you didn’t say that, Nate, but I want to discourage others from saying so.

As for household spending on nontextbook books ($115 in one recent year) vs. spending on entertainment ($2,572), including presumably video games, see the FAQ for LibraryCity’s proposal for a national digital library endowment:

The new Digital Library of America, despite many positives, is hardly much of a solution even by beta standards, as explained at

David Rothman

Mark Kuprych April 25, 2013 um 4:32 pm

Most cities shown look like they may have higher concentrations of elderly–and you have to question if volume of purchases equates to being "well read". If those cities are reading The Enquirer and Glenn Beck-type fare, I am sorry, they may very well not be "well read."

Greg Richter April 29, 2013 um 2:27 pm

The copy editor in me can’t find Pittsburgh, Penn. on a map.

Nate Hoffelder April 29, 2013 um 2:39 pm

Are you objecting to the abbreviation of Pennsylvania? Sorry to burst your bubble but that is technically correct.

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