Election 2008: A Map of America's Reading


You may have already come across it on our site, but I wanted to call out a new Election 2008 page we launched today. The centerpiece is a snazzy, data-drenched map of the country (thanks Christel, John, Jana, and everyone else who knows things I don't and helped build it), with each state colored with varying shades of red or blue depending on the political book-buying habits of our customers there over the past 60 days (the map is updated every day). There's plenty to click around on there: for each state you can see the percentages of "red" and "blue" books purchased there and two "local favorites" (not the bestselling political books there, necessarily, but the ones that are selling relatively better there than in other places). And you can also go back in time to see how the map looked in previous two-month periods during this year and 2004. (The image above is how the map looked on September 9, 2008, but you'll have to go to the page itself to see it in action.)

I'll leave it up to you to interpret the map as you like (yep, it's pretty red right now), and to make your own discoveries. But I find clicking around to see the local favorites pretty fascinating (yes, Sarah is the favorite red book in Alaska and Joe Biden's memoir is the favorite blue one in Delaware--and, for that matter, "Fritz" Hollings apparently remains beloved in South Carolina). And going through the 2004 maps in order is rather stunning: it's blue, blue, blue (especially after Bill Clinton's My Life came out in June), but click on July-August and boy, everything suddenly turns to red (thanks, Swift Boaters). Things swing back a bit before the election, and then in November-December it's mostly blue again, as depressed Democrats turned to Tom Frank and George Lakoff to explain what happened (and keep it from happening again). We have no expectations that the maps reflect voting or will predict the election, but they do tell a story.

You can read an explanation of how the map works, and how we chose the red and blue books (as well as the long list of "purple" books that didn't fit either category), and there's plenty more to see on the page, including author interviews, which we'll be adding more of over the next two months, and meters comparing book sales for the presidential and vice presidential candidates. We know politics can make everybody crazy (I'm pretty sure the roller coasters of this endless election year are giving me an ulcer), but we thought this would be an entertaining and mildly enlightening way to give a new perspective on this serious ritual. Enjoy. --Tom

P.S. I'm sorry for not making this clearer: the image above is not the snazzy interactive map itself--you have to go to the Election 2008 page for that. I've linked the map now so that a click will send you there.

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Comments (2)

Your map will not work on Firefox 3. Click on any state and it goes right back to the map and if you try to click again it does nothing but freeze up.

Posted by: Sherry | Wednesday September 10, 2008 at 8:36 PM

What a fascinating idea! I see real brilliance in the concept, and I haven't even tried the thing yet!

Posted by: FredTownWard | Wednesday September 10, 2008 at 11:22 AM

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