Now read THIS: Columbia makes the top 20

Our new friends at Amazon — and I’ll have something to say about the compromise later (for starters, I think it’s good) — have checked to see which cities in the U.S. are the best-read.

And we made the top 20!

I must confess, I haven’t helped much lately. I mean, I do read at least a couple of papers a day, but as far as books are concerned, I’m mostly just been reading the same novels over and over, when I find the time for book-reading.

So congratulations to the rest of you, for making us look good.

Oh, and hey, Atlanta — not to mention Charleston or Greenville or Charlotte, which are nowhere to be seen — why don’t you pick up a book sometime? Sheesh!

23 thoughts on “Now read THIS: Columbia makes the top 20

  1. Doug Ross

    I did my part. One book a week since January 1. Only repeat was my current re-reading of Atlas Shrugged.

  2. Tony

    Is there any connection that a number of these cities may have a large number of university students?

    Buying books (including text books) may be cheaper on Amazon than a campus bookstore.

    Seeing the cities of Cambridge (Harvard), Berkeley (University of California – Berkeley), Gainesville (University of Florida) and Ann Arbor (Univ. of Michigan) had me wondering.

    If my premise is correct, then please give the credit to the college students who are using the internet.

    I would use a different indicator on “best read” than this Amazon ranking.
    – Books/capita in a public library?
    – Books checked out per patron from libraries?

    Just a thought.

  3. Brad

    Tony, I love … the IDEA of libraries…

    But I’m not a big user of them, for my own quirky reasons. I think we need to have them for others, though.

    I don’t use them for two reasons:
    — I don’t want to spend time reading a book unless I’m going to have that book in the future to refer to (and, if I like it, to reread time and again). While people like my wife are broadening their minds running through multiple books from the library every couple of years, I make do with the ones people give me for birthday, Christmas and Father’s Day (I keep a running list of suggestions for them), and read the ones I really like over and over, until they are in tatters. And then, sometimes, I replace them with new copies — which makes me sound a little like Mel Gibson in “Conspiracy Theory,” I know.
    — My allergies. The libraries in the Midlands are very clean and apparently control their humidity pretty well, but early in life I had a lot of sniffles and sinus headaches from spending time in musty libraries, and it just turned me off to places filled with thousands of used books. So I prefer to do my browsing in bookstores, where everything is new. With a cup of coffee. I seldom buy anything; I just like to browse.

    Also, the Web has reduced the need to use libraries for reference.

    But I think it’s important to have them.

  4. Brad

    … and I’m jealous of people who live in Richland County, because they have such an awesome one.

    It’s also the only one convenient for me. The ones in my county are way out of my way. So when I DO go to a library, I go to the awesome one at Assembly and Hampton. But they don’t let me check anything out…

  5. Tim

    Any connection with Amazon coming to South Carolina and needing to stroke the egos of some lawmakers? Not really an independent lens on this. Or maybe the locals in this area are voting with their pocketbooks by supporting Amazon. In any event, I would look a little sidelong at these numbers.

  6. Doug Ross

    The Richland County library system is one government entity that does an A+ job. Oh, but if all the county departments demonstrated the same level of customer service and innovation.

    If the library ran like the road repairs department, we’d have 11 librarians standing around watching another one check out a book.

  7. Steven Davis

    If Richland County would have just put in a sleeping room in the library, they wouldn’t have had to build a homeless shelter.

  8. Steven Davis

    Doug – And if you look at the DOT’s salary strucure, if one librarian got a raise, everyone else with that job title would get an equal title.

    That information can be found just by doing a department search and having it sorted by salary… you’ll see every Engineer IV, every Engineer III, etc, lumped together in nice little groups.

  9. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    @ Brad–I hear you–when I use the RCPL, I only get the newest books and smell them first. Nothing spoils a good read like a smoker’s residue!

  10. bud

    Kendal is the only way to go for reading books. Why would anyone ever read a paper book anymore.

  11. Nick Nielsen

    I’m lucky enough to live within (long) walking distance of the LCPL branch in Batesburg.

    I’m not lucky enough to have the time to go there any more. I love my work, but the job keeps me a little too busy, sometimes.

  12. Steven Davis

    “else with that job title would get an equal title.”

    That should be “equal raise”. I really need to start proofreading.

  13. Tim Carrier

    Thanks for the worry about my health. Since you are apparently able to take Amazon’s press release at its word, I guess you need look no further.

    However, forgive me. I did strain my neck a little.

    Central Connecticut University publishes an annual ranking of the most literate cities, and has done so since 2005.

    Guess, what? This year, we don’t even show in the top 75 cities. In fact, we never have in any year. I guess we in the last 5 months have been quite the busy readers.

    Interested, I looked a little further. Seems that Amazon only measured it sales since January of 2011. Wouldn’t you do an annual sales, including the lucrative Christmas Season? Oh, I guess we could look at their previous years rankings in other news releases. Hmmm. This, apparently, is the first time they have done that ever, since 1996. Odd, for a company that built its business model on book sales. But they apparently have been doing their rankings of most romantic cities for several years. I bet Columbia just missed out on that this year. I like to think of us as the Paris of the Midlands.

    One obvious effect of the Amazon press release, from a scientific study I did of this blog post is to make people feel good about the literary world they inhabit.

    But I am just being cynical. Seriously, I have no position on Amazon coming to South Carolina. I submit my sales taxes to SC for my Amazon purchases now, so I don’t really care, and I would like to see the jobs. But this PR stroking is exactly what it is.

  14. Rose

    “the Web has reduced the need to use libraries for reference”
    There are many librarians who would be surprised to hear this. In fact, there are a lot of online newspapers, journals, other publications and other resources that can be accessed only through a library since the subscription rate is so high or due to restrictions put in place by the companies and copyright holders.

    Googling may return millions of hits but that doesn’t mean the one that would be the most useful to you is included in the top several pages. Librarians are trained to filter through the chaff AND assist you in determining which sources are the most trustworthy.
    Google DiHydrogen Monoxide.

    Libraries offer a lot of services as well, and there are still a lot of people who don’t have internet service in their homes.

    Finally, e-books suck. They will not last as long as a book; you don’t need a battery or software to be able to read a book; and if a book gets dropped or wet you can still read it – a Kindle? Nope.

  15. Brad

    Rose, the one thing I almost added to qualify my statement about libraries was what you mentioned about the online resources they subscribe to.

    Back when I was at the paper, I didn’t need help with that. Our own archives were freely available to me, and I had my own Lexis-Nexis account, as well as subscriptions to a number of other journals. (This was something I used to have to fight with a former publisher about annually — there was a theory someone put forth that he was mistaking the L-N service with a “Lexus,” and thought it sounded too expensive — but then some accountant somewhere decided to lump all Nexis accounts together into a line item that I did not control, so I flew under the radar with it right up until the day I got canned.)

    When readers came to us wanting access to our archives those last few years (as our own morgue dwindled down to zero people), we referred them to the library.

    As a civilian now, I make do with the Web (it’s harder and harder to find time to blog at all, much less take an hour out of my day to go to the library and ask someone to look something up for me) and that’s less and less of a sacrifice, as the Web gives millions of times as much info as I need.

    Yes, occasionally some esoteric fact or quote I’m trying to nail down eludes me. (For instance, it’s maddening to find some out-of-print book on Google Books, and then it lacks a “preview” feature — which generally means I have to wait until I’m at home to get the fact or quotation, since as I previously mentioned, I generally own any book I’m likely to quote.) But it’s almost always something that was unnecessary to support the point I was making.

    This approach would not be satisfactory for everyone. Say, an academic writing a thesis. But this is an opinion blog; what I do is interpret facts that are already widely available. If fact, my GREATEST challenge is simply keeping up with the most important items among the daily flow of easily-acquired information, and separating gold from dross. And considering the topics I deal with, as far as national and international are concerned, if it’s not in the NYT archive, it’s probably not worth searching for.

    South Carolina is more of a problem. The State’s archives are behind a pay wall (which is pretty maddening to a guy with a 7-day subscription — as I always advocated when I was at the paper, people paying for a full ride should have unlimited access to archives). The LIVE copy in The Greenville News is behind a pay wall. So it’s a little tougher to get some information easily. But since I’ve been developing sources in this state since 1987, if I get stuck I can generally make a phone call or send an email and find what I need in short order.

    Of course, sometimes there is a natural selection process at work. I have time for writing less than 10 percent of the blog posts I’d like to write, as things stand. If I come across a rock, I tend to flow around it — there are several other posts I could write, posts of equal value — in the time it would take to obsess over one missing piece of information. If that thought is good enough, and worth expressing, I can wait until another day when I have what I need. The opportunity will present itself. That’s one thing I learned from all those years of daily journalism.

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