The Kindle Index: What City Buys the Most E-Readers?

According to our data, Lexington, Kentucky is the most e-literate city in America. Congratulations, nerds!

615 lexington wikimedia.jpg
Lexington History Center; Wikimedia Commons


Recently, a new form of reading elitism has come about: judgement against people who haven't yet switched from paper books to digital ones. Even I will confess to patronizingly acting surprised when encountering someone who still reads using the "dead tree format."

If the self-appointed "elite" members of society avidly read, then the "elite of the elite" must avidly e-read, right? Who are these people and where do they live? That city must surely be the most elite and cultured city in America. As a company based in San Francisco, we naturally assumed that the most literate, cultured and forward-thinking people live here. Of course there are philistines who prefer less cerebral pastimes, but they probably live in unseemly places like the South, Midwest, and Portland.

It turns out all of our preconceived notions about e-reader adoption was wrong. When you dig into the data about where Kindles are actually bought and sold, the most "cosmopolitan" cities in America are soundly beaten by mid-sized cities in the Midwest and South. Moreover, our data suggests that dedicated e-readers aren't very popular devices anywhere. In the landscape of consumer electronics, e-readers barely register.

The Kindle Index: e-Literacy in America

To identify the most electronically literate places in America, we analyzed the Priceonomics database of eight million electronics for sale by city. We examined how prevalent the Amazon Kindle was by city to rank how popular e-reading was across the nation (we also examined Nook sales, which didn't change the results). To our surprise, the most populous and culturally-reputed cities in America did not rank among the most digitally literate.

Lexington, Kentucky is the most e-literate city in America. On its heels are Ann Arbor, Michigan and Anchorage, Alaska. Congratulations, nerds!

A few observations from the rankings:

  • Major metropolitan cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, Chicago and LA get crushed in these rankings.
  • College towns like Lexington, Madison and Ann Arbor fare the best in Kindle ownership.
  • Fresno, CA is the most digitally illiterate city in America. We are very disappointed in you. Same goes for Las Vegas and San Diego where a commitment to reading books on electronic devices is noticeably absent.

We couldn't help but notice that the Kindle was least popular in places with the best weather.

Is there any truth to the hypothesis that more educated people tend to use e-reading devices? Our data found only a very weak correlation between Kindle prevalence and the percent of the population that was college educated.

Presented by

Rohin Dhar is the co-founder of Priceonomics.

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