It’s always exciting when America starts planning to elect its next President. But this year, at least some of the action found its way onto the Kindle.
Two political science professors have teamed up to create a free ebook about the 2012 Presidential Election — and they’re publishing its first four chapters while the election is taking place! “We typically work far too slowly to capitalize on interest in the election among journalists, strategists, and citizens…” they write in the book’s first chapter. But for this book, the team will actually be writing at stops along the campaign trail while also crunching lots of data about everything from polls to the economy and even political ad spending. “The result promises to be the only book about the election that combines on-the-ground reporting, social science, and quantitative data,” according to the book’s description at Amazon, ” in order to look beyond the anecdote, folklore, and conventional wisdom that too often pass for analysis of presidential elections.”
But Amazon’s also getting in on the political action. In August they launched a “Political Heat Map” of the United States, which calculates whether a state should be displayed in blue (liberal) or red (conservative) based on which political books Amazon is selling there! “Customers can click on any state on the Amazon Election Heat Map to see the percentage of conservative and liberal books sold in that state,” Amazon explained in a press release, “as well as the top 5 best-selling conservative and liberal books per state.”
They’re using Kindle ebook sales (as well as print sales), and it’s currently showing a 45 states which are buying more conservative books than liberal books. “Book sales by geography always have interesting things to say about our states,” notes a senior book editor at Amazon, “and an election season is a particularly good time to use this data to help customers follow the changing political conversation across the country.”
It’s a fun way to start exploring the political books available at Amazon — and they’ve also added some interesting additional calculations. Which presidential candidate is selling more copies of their latest book? It’s Barack Obama, who’s selling six copies of The Audacity of Hope for every four copies that Mitt Romney sells of his own biography, The Case for American Greatness. But it’s exactly the opposite when you compare the book-sale figures for the vice presidential candidates. Democrat Joe Biden published Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics back in 2007, but his books still represent just 31% of the total figure for ebooks sold by all vice presidential candidates — while Amazon awards the remaining 69% to Paul Ryan for the book Young Guns (which he co-authored with Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy).
“Just remember, books aren’t votes,” Amazon warns at the corner of the web page, “so a map of book purchases may reflect curiosity as much as commitment.” But I’ll admit that it got me thinking about some ebooks for my Kindle that I otherwise wouldn’t have considered. Just two weeks, Stephen Colbert published a new funny political book called America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t — and it’s available in both the print and ebook format. That’s made it the #1 and the #2 best-selling liberal book on Amazon — while on the conservative list, the #1 and #3 best-selling books are also two versions of the same book. (Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever.) But ironically, the #2 best-selling book on the conservative list was written more than 50 years ago.
It’s Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand!