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Where Do eBook Buyers Live? Alaska Tops Per Capita List

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Have you ever wondered where the most voracious ebook readers live?

I wondered, so I crunched Smashwords ebook sales data from Barnes & Noble for the three month period beginning December 2010 through March 2011. Some of the numbers are surprising (see the last section of the post for my methodology).

So here's the first set of data, where I look at which states generate the highest (and lowest) overall sales. Obviously, the states with the largest populations are likely to purchase the most ebooks.

US States, Ranked by Aggregate Ebook Purchases

Source: Smashwords data

Rank State Percentage of US Ebook Sales
1 TX 8.57%
2 CA 7.99%
3 NY 5.99%
4 FL 5.93%
5 PA 4.13%
6 IL 3.90%
7 VA 3.62%
8 NC 3.36%
9 OH 3.16%
10 MI 3.12%
11 GA 2.88%
12 WA 2.81%
13 NJ 2.77%
14 IN 2.46%
15 MO 2.40%
16 AZ 2.26%
17 CO 2.09%
18 MN 2.07%
19 MA 2.04%
20 WI 1.91%
21 MD 1.91%
22 SC 1.78%
23 TN 1.63%
24 LA 1.52%
25 AL 1.45%
26 UT 1.44%
27 OK 1.38%
28 OR 1.35%
29 IA 1.33%
30 KY 1.31%
31 CT 1.13%
32 KS 1.09%
33 AR 0.98%
34 NV 0.83%
35 MS 0.72%
36 AK 0.66%
37 NE 0.66%
38 ID 0.65%
39 NM 0.65%
40 NH 0.61%
41 ND 0.48%
42 WV 0.45%
43 MT 0.42%
44 RI 0.37%
45 HI 0.32%
46 ME 0.32%
46 SD 0.29%
48 DE 0.29%
49 WY 0.26%
50 VT 0.20%
51 DC 0.09%

Now here's where it gets really interesting. Let's look at per capita consumption. Take a look at the Ebook Per Capita Sales Ratio column. This is how each state stacks up against the others, adjusted for population. Alaska, which ranks #47 in terms of overall population, ranks #1 for per capita ebook purchases measured by dollar volume.

With a score of 2.92, this means they purchase 292% of the per capita than the average state, or almost triple the national average. A score of 100% means average, 200% means double the average, etc. So as you see, Alaska, North Dakota and Utah round out the top three, and Mississippi, California and the District of Columbia round out the bottom three.

Per Capita Ebook Consumption

Source: Smashwords data

Rank State Ebook Per Capita Sales Ratio % of US Ebook Sales State Pop US Pop % US Pop
1 AK 2.92 0.66% 698,473 307,006,550 0.23%
2 ND 2.29 0.48% 646,844 307,006,550 0.21%
3 UT 1.58 1.44% 2,784,572 307,006,550 0.91%
4 WY 1.44 0.26% 544,270 307,006,550 0.18%
5 VA 1.41 3.62% 7,882,590 307,006,550 2.57%
6 NH 1.41 0.61% 1,324,575 307,006,550 0.43%
7 IA 1.36 1.33% 3,007,856 307,006,550 0.98%
8 MT 1.32 0.42% 974,989 307,006,550 0.32%
9 ID 1.30 0.65% 1,545,801 307,006,550 0.50%
10 WA 1.29 2.81% 6,664,195 307,006,550 2.17%
11 CO 1.28 2.09% 5,024,748 307,006,550 1.64%
12 MO 1.23 2.40% 5,987,580 307,006,550 1.95%
13 MN 1.20 2.07% 5,266,214 307,006,550 1.72%
14 SC 1.20 1.78% 4,561,242 307,006,550 1.49%
15 KS 1.18 1.09% 2,818,747 307,006,550 0.92%
16 IN 1.18 2.46% 6,423,113 307,006,550 2.09%
17 OK 1.15 1.38% 3,687,050 307,006,550 1.20%
18 NE 1.12 0.66% 1,796,619 307,006,550 0.59%
19 SD 1.10 0.29% 812,383 307,006,550 0.26%
20 NC 1.10 3.36% 9,380,884 307,006,550 3.06%
21 OR 1.08 1.35% 3,825,657 307,006,550 1.25%
22 RI 1.07 0.37% 1,053,209 307,006,550 0.34%
23 TX 1.06 8.57% 24,782,302 307,006,550 8.07%
24 AZ 1.05 2.26% 6,595,778 307,006,550 2.15%
25 AR 1.04 0.98% 2,889,450 307,006,550 0.94%
26 WI 1.04 1.91% 5,654,774 307,006,550 1.84%
27 LA 1.04 1.52% 4,492,076 307,006,550 1.46%
28 MD 1.03 1.91% 5,699,478 307,006,550 1.86%
29 PA 1.01 4.13% 12,604,767 307,006,550 4.11%
30 VT 1.00 0.20% 621,760 307,006,550 0.20%
31 DE 0.99 0.29% 885,122 307,006,550 0.29%
32 CT 0.99 1.13% 3,518,288 307,006,550 1.15%
33 NM 0.99 0.65% 2,009,671 307,006,550 0.65%
34 FL 0.98 5.93% 18,537,969 307,006,550 6.04%
35 NJ 0.98 2.77% 8,707,739 307,006,550 2.84%
36 NV 0.96 0.83% 2,643,085 307,006,550 0.86%
37 MI 0.96 3.12% 9,969,727 307,006,550 3.25%
38 MA 0.95 2.04% 6,593,587 307,006,550 2.15%
39 AL 0.94 1.45% 4,708,708 307,006,550 1.53%
40 NY 0.94 5.99% 19,541,453 307,006,550 6.37%
41 KY 0.93 1.31% 4,314,113 307,006,550 1.41%
42 IL 0.93 3.90% 12,910,409 307,006,550 4.21%
43 GA 0.90 2.88% 9,829,211 307,006,550 3.20%
44 OH 0.84 3.16% 11,542,645 307,006,550 3.76%
45 TN 0.80 1.63% 6,296,254 307,006,550 2.05%
46 HI 0.77 0.32% 1,295,178 307,006,550 0.42%
46 WV 0.76 0.45% 1,819,777 307,006,550 0.59%
48 ME 0.75 0.32% 1,318,301 307,006,550 0.43%
49 MS 0.75 0.72% 2,951,996 307,006,550 0.96%
50 CA 0.66 7.99% 36,961,664 307,006,550 12.04%
51 DC 0.46 0.09% 599,657 307,006,550 0.20%

Methodology: Here's how I pulled together the numbers above. My company Smashwords is an ebook distributor. We distribute over 20,000 titles to Barnes & Noble. They report to us a breakdown of sales by state. I summed up all Smashwords sales, broken down by state, from Barnes & Noble for the three month period of December, 2010 through February, 2011. Next, I divided each state's sales by the sum of the total to determine the percentage of all ebooks sales from each state. Then I added US population data from the latest US census. Next, I determined what percent of the US population lives in each state. Finally, to determine the how states rank against each other on ebook sales, I normalized the data on a per capita basis. I did this by dividing each state's percentage of overall sales they represent by the percentage of the US population they represent. Dizzy yet? This gave me the final, coolest numbers of them all, the normalized measure of per capita ebook consumption for each state that you see above.

Poking holes in my data: This data only looks at sales through Barnes & Noble. It doesn't take into account the geographic distribution of B&N's physical stores (this might impact where they've sold nooks, which would then impact customer counts). It doesn't take into consideration B&N's market share in each state. It doesn't take into consideration the age, sex, per capita income levels or language breakdowns of each state's population, or the penetration of broadband or dial-up access. I don't disclose the unit sales represented by these three months of sales, or the aggregate sales value (though I can tell you it's a statistically significant number). Since the average price of a Smashwords ebook is under $4.99, this data may not accurately represent the geographic sales behavior of higher priced books.

I published my raw data online over at Slideshare, where you can access it as as spreadsheet. I invite the true statisticians among you to download my numbers as a starting point for further number crunching. For example, the US Census Data page, where I gathered the population data, has other interesting data sets you can throw against my data, such as median household income, age of population (under 18, over 65), college education, home ownership rates, etc., so I encourage others to mine the data for more meaning. All I ask is that you reference Smashwords as the source of the data and link back to this post at HuffPost. Add links to your findings in the comments below so others can benefit from your findings.

Any idea why Alaska, North Dakota and Utah are more into ebooks than Washington, DC, California and Mississippi? Share your thoughts below.

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