Laurie Hertzel is senior editor for books at the Star Tribune, where she has worked since 1996. She is the author of "News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist," winner of a Minnesota Book Award.

Amazon ranks ‘readingest’ cities, and leaves out Mpls./St. Paul?

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Book news Updated: May 27, 2011 - 3:32 PM

 

The online powerhouse Amazon.com has released its list of what it calls the top-twenty most well -read cities in America. Noticeably absent: Minneapolis and St. Paul--or any city in Minnesota. How can this be? Aren't we well-read? Don't we visit libraries at a furious clip, and don't we have more bookstores per capita than just about anywhere else, and aren't we avid readers of newspapers and magazines?

Minneapolis and St. Paul have, for years, ranked in the top 10 of Central Connecticut State University's "most literate cities" list, so who can explain our absence on the Amazon list?

As I look at it, not being on Amazon's list might actually be a good thing. Amazon bases its "best-read" status purely on orders from Amazon--and, even then, a fairly limited number of orders. "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 Amazon press release reads, "the Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities are..."

It seems the height of arrogance to equate buying stuff from Amazon with being "best read." What about library use? What about indie bookstores? What, even about their main competitor, Barnes & Noble?

The Amazon list certainly includes some readerly cities: Cambridge, Mass., tops the list, followed by Alexandria, Va., Berkeley, Calif., Ann Arbor, Mich., and Boulder, Colo. But I'm thinking the vibrancy of our libraries and independent bookstores might be evidence that the Amazon list is a good list not to be on.

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