At the top of the list is Alexandria, Va., followed by Cambridge, Mass., and Berkeley, Calif.
Richmond, Va., comes in last place, right after Atlanta. Other cities to make the list included college towns Gainesville, Fla., and Ann Arbor, Mich., as well as Pittsburgh.
The list is based on Amazon.com's book, magazine and newspaper sale data since June 2011. The data reflect print and Kindle format sales per capita in cities with more than 100,000 residents. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It's great to see that we are truly a nation of readers, with representation on this list from every region of the country, Amazon.com senior editor of books Chris Schluep said in a statement.
Since the list is compiled strictly from Amazon sales data, it may not be an accurate reflection of American literary habits and media consumption. Library use, for example, is not taken into account. Also, several of these cities, such as Cambridge, Ann Arbor and Gainesville, are known for having a large college-age population, which is more likely to order books online. Conversely, cities like Boston, New York, and San Francisco -- which did not make the list -- are known for having numerous bookstores that are popular with the reading public. (The huge Strand bookstore in New York City, for example, is heavily trafficked with shoppers seeking discounted used and new books.)
Amazon found that some genres saw more orders in certain cities. Data show that Berkeley residents, for example, order the most travel books, while those in Cambridge order heavily from Amazon's Business & Investing category.
Residents in outdoorsy Boulder, Colo., order the most books from the website's Health, Fitness & Dieting category.
Stephanie Schindhelm, the marketing and promotions manager for Boulder Book Store, can see why the city would come out on top for this particular topic.
Boulder is a very healthy, fit town, so it totally makes sense that Amazon would find that people in Boulder buy a lot of health and fitness books, Schindhelm wrote in an email. There's definitely a culture in Boulder of being active and healthy. People are very conscious about what they're putting into their bodies and about staying active and outdoors, so any book that focuses on these subjects tends to do well.
That said, books that focus on weight loss are not as popular in the area, according to Schindhelm.
For Boulderites, it's about lifestyle -- so books that are actually focused on losing weight don't do nearly as well as books on how to be vegan or how to switch to eating a raw diet, she wrote. Likewise, books on weight-lifting don't do nearly as well as books on training to run marathons. And if you can add a spiritual tone to your book on top of that, it sells even better. For example, one of our current bestsellers is 'Running with the Mind of Mediation' from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.
Alexandria, next to Washington, D.C., not only topped the Amazon list, it also ranked highest in romance novel sales, according to the statement.
Whitney Kate Sullivan, the website content coordinator and web editor for RT Book Reviews, a magazine devoted mainly to the romance genre, said it totally made sense that Alexandria would take the top spot in this particular genre, as many chapters of the Romance Writers of America are based in and around the Washington area. Sullivan also pointed out that many popular romance authors, including Nora Roberts and Mary Jo Putney, reside in the vicinity.
That said, the genre's popularity is not necessarily limited to any specific city, state, or country, for that matter. Sullivan cited the Pacific Northwest as another major hub for the romance genre: Romance readers are all over and you can't walk into a small town or a big city without being able to find one easily.
Here are the 20 most well-read cities in the U.S., according to Amazon.com sales:
1. Alexandria, Va.
2. Cambridge, Mass.
3. Berkeley, Calif.
4. Ann Arbor, Mich.
5. Boulder, Colo.
7. Arlington, Va.
8. Gainesville, Fla.
9. Washington, D.C.
10. Salt Lake City
12. Knoxville, Tenn.
14. Orlando, Fla.
15. Columbia, S.C.
16. Bellevue, Wash.
18. St. Louis
20. Richmond, Va.