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Amazon looks at book purchases to size up presidential race

E-tailer launches an "Election Heat Map" showing what sort of books people in all 50 states are buying related to the upcoming election season.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read
Amazon's Election Heat Map 2012
Amazon's Election Heat Map 2012 Amazon

Amazon is culling sales data to determine what the election season conversation might be about in each of the 50 U.S. states.

The e-retail giant yesterday launched the Amazon Election Heat Map 2012. The map lists all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, and assigns either a red or blue color to each, depending on the number of conservative- or liberal-minded books purchased by citizens. If a state has purchased more liberal books, it'll be shaded blue. States with more conservative book purchases will be shaded red.

Judging by the current map, the U.S. is enthralled with conservative titles. Just a handful of states, including New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts, are shaded blue right now. All others, including California -- which is surprising -- are on the conservative side.

Nationwide, 56 percent of all purchases are "red," or conservative-leaning, books, while the remaining 44 percent are liberal. As of this writing, "The Amateur" by Edward Klein and "Killing Lincoln" by Martin Dugard and Bill O'Reilly are the top choices on the conservative side. On the liberal side, "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn and "The New Jim Crow" from Michelle Alexander and Cornel West are leading the way.

Whether book purchases are enough to actually predict a presidential choice, however, remains to be seen. Just because people are reading a title, doesn't mean they'll vote in the way the author might like. However, as Amazon points out, the map might provide some insight into what people are thinking at any given moment.

"Book sales by geography always have interesting things to say about our states, and an election season is a particularly good time to use this data to help customers follow the changing political conversation across the country," Chris Schluep, senior editor at Amazon Books, said yesterday in a statement. "But books aren't votes, so a map of book purchases may reflect curiosity as much as agreement."

Amazon will be updating its heat map on a daily basis. It should be interesting to see how it changes as the presidential election nears.