You can call them the most "well-read" cities, or at least the cities that purchase the most books online.
Either way, Amazon has released its 2012 list of the most "well-read" cities in the United States. Using their data on online book orders -- they are the largest online retailer, after all -- the company ranked the top U.S. cities for all book, magazine, and newspaper sales in both Kindle and print format, since June 1, 2011.
Alexandria, Virginia tops the list, followed by Cambridge, Massachusetts; Berkeley, California; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Boulder, Colorado. Rounding out the top 10 are Miami, Arlington, Virginia; Gainesville, Florida; Washington, D.C.; and Salt Lake City.
Not much has changed since last year's list, except that the D.C. metro area has solidified itself as a pretty smart place, with three of its cities moving up and into the top 10. College towns have also held their ground and Seattle has moved outside the top 10.
Of course, Amazon has no way of knowing whether its customers actually read the books and magazines they purchase. While the most recent ranking of the "most literate" cities by John Miller at Central Connecticut State University concluded that D.C. was the most literate city under its metrics (newspaper circulation, magazine and journal circulation, online reading and book purchases, number of bookstores and public libraries) no other city in its top 10 made Amazon's top 10, and only Pittsburgh (11th), Cincinnati (17th), St. Louis (18th), and Atlanta (19th) made Amazon's top 20. (We should note that our own Richard Florida took issue with one of the conclusions of that particular ranking, on the connection between literacy and wealth).
And when we compare Amazon's top 10 book-buying cities to the 2011 Indie City Index, a list that ranks the vitality of independent, locally owned retail businesses (keeping in mind this means more than just bookstores), we find that only one of the cities on Amazon's top 20, Gainesville, made the top 10 on the Indie City Index.
Of course, a list of cities that spend a lot of money at local bookstores probably shouldn't match up with a list of cities that buy the most books from Amazon; the two concepts practically cancel each other out. Which buying habit is "smartest" is no doubt the subject for yet another list.
Top image: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque