Arlington Moves Up on ‘Most Well-Read Cities’ List

by Katie Pyzyk May 16, 2012 at 9:45 am 3,620 31 Comments

Arlington is again on the Amazon.com list of The Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities, but this year it moved up.

Arlington was listed as #7 on the list, moving up 3 spots from last year’s #10 position. Alexandria also moved up the list from its spot at #2 last year. It has overtaken Cambridge, Mass. to become the #1 most well-read city in America.

Alexandria also has the distinction of liking spicy books. According to the press release, “Virginia is for lovers – Alexandria, Va., that is, which tops the charts in the Romance book category.”

Localities had to have at least 100,000 residents to be considered for inclusion on the list. Amazon.com compiled the data of all book, magazine and newspaper sales in both print and e-reader formats since June 1, 2011.

Here is the full list:

  1.  Alexandria, Va.
  2. Cambridge, Mass.
  3. Berkeley, Ca.
  4. Ann Arbor, Mich.
  5. Boulder, Colo.
  6. Miami
  7. Arlington, Va.
  8. Gainesville, Fla.
  9. Washington, D.C.
  10. Salt Lake City
  11. Pittsburgh
  12. Knoxville, Tenn.
  13. Seattle
  14. Orlando, Fla.
  15. Columbia, S.C.
  16. Bellevue, Wash.
  17. Cincinnati
  18. St. Louis
  19. Atlanta
  20. Richmond, Va.

  • Juanita de Talmas

    Miami is ahead of Arlington? As a former resident of that city, I find that difficult to believe.

    • vc

      Size matters

      • Justin Russo

        Miami reads more but smaller books.

    • Ricardo

      Are we sure this isn’t Miami, Ohio — a college town?

  • novasteve

    It’s a shame the people who track this aren’t well read enough to realize Arlington isn’t a city.

    • yequalsy

      Ehh. In many contexts the county versus municipality distinction isn’t important. For instance, when I purchase a book on Amazon I put “Arlington” under city. That said, I’m willing to wager that Alexandria’s numbers conflate the city with the part of Fairfax county that has an Alexandria mailing address.

    • drax

      Arlington is a city. Legally, it’s a county, but so what? A city is any place with lots of people living close together. Stop being such a lawyer.

    • WeiQiang

      Dang that post office … always delivering my mail to Arlington, VA.

  • Ben

    A little bias as some states charge sales tax to Amazon and thus they will have lower book sales to those states.

    • Dan

      And Virginia will soon join that list of states that charge sales tax on Amazon purchases…….sigh.

      • Buy Local, Eat Local

        It’s about time…

        What about supporting the local businesses that provice the same goods and services?

        A number of good bookstores exist in this area that would love to have your business.

        Just check the Washington Antiquitarian Booksellers Association website at http://www.wababooks.com . Phone numbers, addresses, and websites can be found on the site.

        Plus, when you buy something from a local business, almost 70% of the money stays local, when you buy something from a corporate chain, only 15% of the money stays local, and when you buy something from Amazon, ZERO % of the money stays local!

    • Buy Local, Eat Local

      What some people know and forget, and what some people don’t know… sales tax in the form of use tax must be paid on goods bought out of state online.

      A good example of this is when someone buys a car in Maryland and brings it home to Virginia. When the person goes to register the car, he/she has to pay the sales tax before getting the plates and registration.

      If Virginia would enforce the law, then it and the counties/cities could recoup the taxes lost.

      It’s great that people take advantage of the Amazon loop hole. However, in September 2012, it is due to close, and Amazon will collect sales tax for Vriginia!

      If you may moan and groan about this, remember the next time someone complains about the lost of county/city and/or state services, think about all those Amazon purchases. Any time something right now is purchased from Amazon, the tax is NOT paid, nor is the use tax.

      For all the folks that seem to not care… hopefully, they won’t need something from the state when more and more services are cut….

  • SomeGuy

    The correct interpretation is that Arlington ranks high in per capita expenditures on “book, magazine and newspaper sales in both print and Kindle format.” That’s it. We spend lots of money on that stuff, but no telling if we actually read it.

    Kinda like we were among the most fashionable cities a month or two ago because of high per capita expenditures on clothing.

    Bottom line, folks: we spend a lot of disposable income, per capita. So of course we’ll rank high on most lists that use per capita spending as their only/primary metric.

    By that logic, we’re also likely among the drunkest towns in the USA based on alcohol sales ($5+ for a Miller Lite in Clarendon?), and the most well-fed towns based solely on restaurant receipts.

    But Amazon got a great viral PR piece out of it!

    • drax

      Good point, except Amazon products cost the same everywhere, unlike Miller Lite. Measure beer consumption by volume instead of money spent and you actually would measure drunkeness.

      • Ben

        Yea but this ranking is only calculating money spent on books through Amazon (And with the kindle – which is a high end luxury).

        You have no idea if other areas that are lower ranking are getting their books elsewhere – such as at second hand stores, which would be significantly cheaper. Or even at local B&M’s because they don’t have a kindle.

        • drax

          Very good point, Ben.

        • Buy Local, Eat Local

          Amazon is not the only source for books in this area… If you want to count the sales via Alibris, ABEbooks, Barnes & Noble online, Biblio, Half.com. Plus the membership of the Washington Antiquitarian Booksellers Association, and also the ones that aren’t memebers.

          It surprises me that people take the time to go to a thrift store or library sale. Yes, there are some great deals, but a used bookstore will take the time to aphabetize and arrange the books by genre.

        • Jim

          poor people don’t read books… that’s why they are poor. there is a direct correlation between reading and wealth.

    • Ben

      That about sums it up 100%. Nicely done.

    • Arlingtarian

      Not that I care that much how we rank in an Amazon marketing PR study, but if you want to know how well-read we are, and not how rich we are, you would want to include public library usage data.

      • demonfafa

        Seriously. We’ve got an amazing library system in this county and it’s well utilized.

    • Dude Where’s My Car

      Well, assume that x percentage of all purchased reading material never gets read. Should we assume that x is higher in Arlington than in other places?

      No, the problem with the study is that it conflates being “well-read” with “spending a lot of money on reading material.” The press release says Berkeley reads the most Travel books, Boulder reads the most Diet & Fitness books, and Alexandria reads the most Romance novels.

      It is sort of odd Amazon doesn’t mention which cities read the most nonfiction, or classics, or literary fiction (as opposed to commercial fiction). I am all for reading, but I’m not sure that “Phuket on Less Than $500/Day,” “The Fried Cheese Diet,” and “Vampire Lover 2” should really count towards being “well-read.” 😉

      • Richard Cranium

        What about Pr0n?

    • bred

      Your analysis is correct. Another example; DC is always at the top of the list for alcohol consumption-per-capita because of the relative small population (600,000) and all of the tourists (several million per year) who buy booze when they are in town.

  • sunflower

    here’s another study which includes library and internets: http://www.ccsu.edu/page.cfm?p=11107

  • JimPB

    More accurate lead: Top cities for Amazon.com sales of “reading” material: books, e-books and magazines.

    Should take population into account — resulting in a rate, $ sales/person by city.

  • uftroll

    Hard to believe Gainesville,FL, is 8th. Common joke is that half of UF grads can’t spell Gainesville

    • Gator

      Never heard that “joke”.

  • BooksBrah

    A significant percentage of bro’s shares their books with their brah’s

  • Ron Burgundy

    I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.


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