Amazon Creates Heat Map Of Political Book Sales

16 comments
Amazon Creates Heat Map Of Political Book Sales

Amazon is quick to point out that "books aren't votes," but if they were, Obama wouldn't stand a chance in November according to the online retailer's new heat map of political book sales. Updated every day, today's map features five lonely blue spots (New York, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and DC) in a sea of red. Even liberal strongholds such as Washington and Maine have a rosy flush.

To generate the map, updated daily, Amazon simply puts books into one of three categories: neutral, conservative or liberal, then tallies up sales based on shipping address. It seems pretty straightforward, so why does the map look like Carrie after the prom?

I'm not sure, but could hazard a few hypotheses:

  1. The most obvious explanation is that conservatives simply read more partisan political books than their liberal counterparts.
     
  2. Another factor to consider is that Amazon's classifications of blue and red books seem a little fast and loose at times. They not only use the book's marketing to determine its color, but also user-generated tags. The number one red book, for example, is Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever. Granted, it was written by unfair and unbalanced Bill O'Reilly, but it is a book that could see decent sales among readers from both parties.
     
  3. Republicans are churning out sensationalistic books about Obama's ineptitude, much like the Dems did during the Bush era, and the red top twenty is filled with these books. They have a flair for the dramatic ("Obama will destroy the country!" See also, "The sky is falling!"), and the dramatic sells. The top blue books, because the party is currently in power, tend to have a broader scope: feminism, atheism, racism, the American school system, that sort of thing. Less thrilling to our Real Housewives and Shades Of Grey society.

Those are just my thoughts. You may disagree. Why do you think the map looks like it does?

Image of The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Author: Michelle Alexander
Price: $15.59
Publisher: The New Press (2012)
Binding: Paperback, 336 pages
Image of Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever
Manufacturer: Henry Holt and Co.
Part Number:
Price:
Kimberly Turner

News by Kimberly Turner

Kimberly Turner is an internet entrepreneur, DJ, editor, beekeeper, linguist, traveler, and writer. This either makes her exceptionally well-rounded or slightly crazy; it’s hard to say which. She spent a decade as a journalist and magazine editor in Australia and the U.S. and is now working (very, very slowly) on her first novel. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics and lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, two cats, ten fish, and roughly 60,000 bees.

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Comments

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this August 30, 2012 - 4:20pm

This is fascinating. If this is also an up-to-the-minute type thing, the RNC could be playing a role. That's where all the political attention is focused right now. Maybe there's just more books by Republicans and conservatives? At least we know it's not Tea Party influence, because I'm pretty sure they can't read. 

Larry Hill's picture
Larry Hill August 30, 2012 - 4:33pm

It's because American stupidity has no bounds.

JYH's picture
JYH from the place is reading the thing August 30, 2012 - 4:45pm

2 & 3 make sense to me. I'm not willing to take 1 on faith, but it might be true. In fact, 1 is sort of related to 2; 1 depends on similar classifications.  EDIT --- for that matter, so does 3. Are most books about racism "blue?" I have no idea about that one.

ldcallahan's picture
ldcallahan August 30, 2012 - 4:45pm

It's too bad you can't post a non-partisan interpretation of the book sales. That would've made this article far more interesting to read. Snarky = boring and lazy.

Tim's picture
Tim from Philadelphia is reading approximately eight different books. Most unsuccessfully. August 30, 2012 - 4:45pm

Probably all of the highly intelligent independent voters in the country are diligently researching the alternative to the current administration (of which they are already familiar due to it being the current administration) so as to make an informed and unbiased decision when they exercise their right to vote in November.

Instag8r's picture
Instag8r from Residing in Parker, CO but originally from WV is reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy August 30, 2012 - 5:31pm

Hey Rob, we can read, we can write, we can speak (without a teleprompter), and we can discern fact from fiction. Hell, we can even subtract and add - just not as fast as Obama can add to the national debt. Most of us can even multiply and divide - but not as fast as Obama has divided this country. But best of all, we can vote.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this August 30, 2012 - 6:00pm

Bush used a teleprompter. Reagan used a telepromter. Every president since the invention of the telepromter has used a teleprompter. What point, exactly, are you trying to make? 

Instag8r's picture
Instag8r from Residing in Parker, CO but originally from WV is reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy August 30, 2012 - 6:20pm

I don't think there is a president in history who has made as many gaffes when they decided to ad-lib and went off teleprompter. BTW, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush,Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Lyndon B. Johnson, even John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Harry S. Truman used teleprompters. Every president since the 50's except Nixon used teleprompters. But that aside, I find it curious that you chose to select just that one portion of my statement to use ... maybe it's the only one you think you have a chance of defending. I don't know. However, what I do know is the plethora of ignorant statements, like the one you posted, is the reason I didn't renew my Lit Reactor account.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this August 30, 2012 - 6:24pm

Yea. You and I could sit here and snipe at each other all day about the national debt and political divisions, or we could slam our heads in car doors, and we'd accomplish more. The reason I picked the telepromoter criticism is because it's the one that's most clearly without sense or logic.

By chance, do you have any thoughts on the map above, and the implications of it? 

Instag8r's picture
Instag8r from Residing in Parker, CO but originally from WV is reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy August 30, 2012 - 6:47pm

Personally, and just my opinion ... I think the map above shows the frustation of the American people (who are mostly conservative, libertarian, or independent) with the way the government has been growing out of control and the way our liberties have been deteriorating over the past several administrations - Republican and Democrat alike. I believe that conservatives, libertarians and independents do a lot more political research than liberals (or progressives) who, by all appearances, seem to be satisfied with whatever the MSM decides to feed them.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Lexington, Kentucky. is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated August 30, 2012 - 6:49pm

Conservatives, as a group, tend to distrust television and newspapers for having a liberal basis. Because of that, they would probably be more open to looking for details on a subject they might be more likely to 

Also, not all states are equal. Some of the states that do buy more Blue books have more population then several Red states put together, which if I am looking at this right Red books are only selling blue by 14% despite have 46 areas to 4 states lead. If I am reading this right with Cally being neutral. 

Jeff's picture
Jeff from Florida is reading Big Book of Pulps August 31, 2012 - 11:28am

Opinionated stuff with attitude sells -- as surely as sex does. With the election coming up and the Repubs on the outside looking in when it comes to the oval office, they are especially hungry for fiery rhetoric right now to get their movement fired up. The publishers are of course happy to supply pulp for this fire. As a bookseller I love it. It's like shoveling coal into a locomotive. Burn baby, burn!

Jeff's picture
Jeff from Florida is reading Big Book of Pulps August 31, 2012 - 11:30am

Opinionated stuff with attitude sells -- as surely as sex does. With the election coming up and the Repubs on the outside looking in when it comes to the oval office, they are especially hungry for fiery rhetoric right now to get their movement fired up. The publishers are of course happy to supply pulp for this fire. As a bookseller I love it. It's like shoveling coal into a locomotive. Burn baby, burn!

Jeff's picture
Jeff from Florida is reading Big Book of Pulps August 31, 2012 - 11:33am

Yep a twin post -- must be a Gemini or something.

ReneeAPickup's picture
ReneeAPickup from Joshua Tree, CA is reading A truckload of books. September 3, 2012 - 3:01pm

I do think the way they classify the books is flawed. In my experience, a lot of people see a "conservative" or "liberal" bias in things that don't necessarily have one. I could say a political book I disagree wth is conservative dribble all I'd like, but it may actually be fair and balanced, but my confirmation bias is still shouting that if I don't agree with it, it must be from "the other side."

I definitely see both liberals and conservatives doing this in situations that don't necessarily call for it.

ReneeAPickup's picture
ReneeAPickup from Joshua Tree, CA is reading A truckload of books. September 3, 2012 - 3:03pm

Some of the states that do buy more Blue books have more population then several Red states put together, which if I am looking at this right Red books are only selling blue by 14% despite have 46 areas to 4 states lead. If I am reading this right with Cally being neutral.

I noticed that, too.